The Perils of Suzy.
A cat started appearing at the back door of my childhood home on a regular basis and my sisters began leaving out scraps of food for it. That was the thin edge of the wedge. Pretty soon in the manner of all cats, it had wormed its way into our affections and had the run of the house, but at our parent’s insistence it always got chucked out last thing at night.
Suzy, for that’s what the girls christened it, seemed to look forward to it, if only to escape the constant affection from them. Having finally bagged a pet on the sly, they were stroking lumps of fur off the poor creature.
One day, my father playing with Suzy and having turned her over to tickle her stomach, remarked that we really needed to rename her to Sam, but the coven of the sisterhood were having none of that. Suzy was their Suzy, so that was that – Suzy became the first transgender cat but more importantly since there were no kittens involved that we knew of or were ours to feed, the ruling elite quietly acquiesced to our having an on/off family pet who took after Schrödinger’s cat, in that he sometimes was here and at the same time, she wasn’t.
We eventually found out there were at least two other families in the area who firmly believed Suzy was their rambling free-range cat. Given the number of mouths to feed, we never bought a tin of cat food but all the scraps were always there for her and she could always hunt up her own protein. She brought back and deposited at our feet the occasional mangled field mouse just to show she was earning her keep, much to the squealing horror of the girls. I don’t think they got it really. It’s a bloke kind of thing.
On such occasions I ended up on mouse disposal duties. I’d pick it up by the tail, take it into the back garden and after a few twirls over my head, slingshot it into the undergrowth. Suzy would of course dive into the thicket, retrieve the corpse and drop it back at my feet with a – there, how’s that, sort of look? A bloody retriever cat.
There’s not actually much you can do with a cat who wants to play fetch with a dead mouse you’re trying to get rid of, except wear them down. We’d go around the swing, sling, fetch and return loop until she got bored with the whole damn business and would slink off with an over the shoulder sneer to patrol her territory. Humans, meh, no fun …
Suzy was a battle cat, and over the years collected a selection of nicks in her ears as wells as some deeper and more serious wounds as she defended her turf. To be realistic, I don’t think she was particularly good at it. When she was really hurt, she always came back to us. One time, she took some terrible damage. The length of her left flank had been razored clean open to red meat and ribs and my dad made a poultice for her. He was the sort of man who knew about mysterious folk stuff like that. He made a bed for her with a folded blanket in front of the fire and laid her down on it.
She lay in front of it without moving for two weeks.
We all fed her bits and pieces when she was in the mood to eat and tried not to step on her, which is actually very difficult in a house crowded with a stack of children that has only one heated room on a winter’s evening. Cats can really sprawl, believe you me, especially when they think they’re at death’s door. There was no way we could afford a vet – you’re on your own with this one Suzy.
Suzy roasted away nicely in the healing radiant heat of the fire and I had to work around her, since it was my job to clean out the grate every morning and set the new day’s fire for the evening. Working around the prone drama queen was absolute murder. The lazy bitch wouldn’t stir a paw. She eventually regained her strength for the return bout. I think Suzy was just laying there all the time plotting her revenge. Only us lot could be cursed with a Sicilian cat.
There was another cat out there somewhere who’d come to regret messing around with our Suzy.
Every evening, as the sun went down, she’d paw at the back door to be let out. She’d reappear, if we were going to see her that day, after breakfast and just in time for the fresh scraps. She’d down them, conceptually hitch up her trousers and with a shrug and two thumbs in her belt, swagger off like a gunfighter suitably fortified for the rest of the day.
After many years, she went out one evening and we never saw her again. Her exit from our lives was as enigmatic as her entrance, and perhaps slinking off into the sunset is the only way to go for a true ginger tomcat of the night.
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