by Gill James
a pint of mild
“Let me out, let me out,” she said, thundering on the backdoor. Usually, she said “Let me in, let me in.”
She’d arrived quite suddenly. Ian and Viv Thomas ran The Wheelwright’s Arms. One night when they’d finally finished washing the glasses, clearing the tables and bottling up for the next day they’d climbed wearily upstairs and found her sitting in the middle of the lounge, calmly washing herself. Yet all the doors and windows of the flat were locked and the Thomases had two Dobermans who normally absolutely hated cats. On that night though, the two big dogs just cowered in the corner.
She’d come to stay. There was no shifting her.
“Better get her checked out at the vet,” said Ian.
“She’s a fine animal,” said the vet. “Big, but not overweight. Young but adult.”
“We’d better keep her,” said Viv.
“What shall we call her?” asked Ian.
“Magic, I think, don’t you?” said Viv. “Seeing as how she got in upstairs when it was shut up and how she hypnotised Poppy and Edgar.”
She was gorgeous. She had silky black fur, that was neither long nor short, a little white patch on her chest and big owly eyes that made you think of the Owl and the Pussycat and that stared in wonder at absolutely everything including the two Dobermans.
She was a very articulate cat. She greeted them when they came upstairs, seemed to say please and thank you at meal times, commented on television programmes and was generally very talkative: you could always hear human language behind the cat noises.
She liked to sit in the window and chunter at the birds but ignored the little creatures when she was out on the roof terrace.
One day, the door to the roof garden broke and they couldn’t lock it. They needed to go shopping before opening time.
“I bet you won’t be much use,” said Ian stroking Poppy’s head.
Edgar barked half-heartedly.
Magic sauntered over to the door. She sat down facing the balcony.
“You’ll look after everything for us, won’t you, Magic?” said Viv.
When they got back, the cat was still sitting by the balcony door. The two dogs were still asleep.
On another occasion, Ian had had to abandon the accounts, which were being as awkward as usual, to go and open up. He’d left Magic sitting next to his computer. When he got back several hours later, everything seemed to make sense.
“I’d swear that cat did those accounts for me,” he said.
She even managed to make Poppy disappear one day for several hours. She’d been teasing the cat. Then Viv and Ian couldn’t find the hapless bitch for hours, even though all the doors and windows were shut and there was no way out of the flat. At suppertime, there she was again as if nothing had happened.
“It must have been Magic,” said Ian.
“I don’t think you’re a cat at all,” said Viv one day, after Magic had been particularly attentive and talkative. “I think you’re really a highly intelligent life form from another planet.”
The cat winked at her.
They learnt that there were more cats like her.
Rozana, Viv’s colour-and-style consultant, found Buster in her garden one day. The butcher on Caldwell Street found Blackie in his garage. The mechanic who looked after Ian’s old Beetle found Beauty in the back of one of the cars and the children of Beaumont County Junior were delighted when Velvet took up residence in Y5’s classroom. They were all the same size as Magic, with the same not-long-not-short-hair, the white patch on the chest, the owly eyes, and the bizarre behaviour. And all of them appeared around 15 June 2011.
“Well your Ma and Pa, put it about a bit didn’t they,” said Ian to Magic as she rubbed her head against his legs. The guy who worked at the petrol station had just told him about Moggy, whom he’d found in the kiosk when he’d opened up.
Suddenly that evening Magic jumped away from Ian, made a noise that sounded like a protest and stared at him.
“My, if looks could kill, you’d be dead,” said Viv.
Now, though, the animal was acting even more bizarrely than normal. She was really frantic to get out. “Let me out, let me out, let me out!” she was now screeching. Definitely, that was what she was shouting.
Something about the way she looked at Ian told him she meant business. She’d never ever shown any interest in going out anywhere but on to the roof garden. Today something was up.
Ian opened the door. Magic shot past him. She stopped suddenly, though, turned and looked at him. He could have sworn that she bowed her head slightly. She closed her eyes and opened them again. Somebody had told him that that was how cats smiled. She made a two syllable meow that almost sounded like “Thank you.” Then she disappeared into the blackness.
They looked for her for an hour after closing time. There was no sign, though they did think they’d spotted her a couple of times when a big black cat with white mark dashed in front of them. But they reckoned it must have been Buster, Blackie, Beauty, Velvet or Moggy. Magic would have come running up to them wouldn’t she?
“They’re even crazier than usual tonight,” said Ian. “Something funny’s going on.”
Viv and Ian were unable to sleep that night.
“I think you had a point, love,” said Ian. “When you accused her of coming form another planet.”
“She won’t be coming back, will she?” said Viv.
A light flashed outside and something bright sped across the dark sky. They both jumped.
Ian put an arm around Viv’s shoulders. “No, he said. “She was just visiting. They all were.”
About the author
Gill James used to have a cat called black cat called Magic who was extraordinary. Her son-in-law runs a pub. Ah, how we writer use ur surroundings.