George“Er, excuse me.”

I looked at the rather rotund ginger cat that was parked on my worktop next to my kettle. He’d been popping round for a half dozen sachets of Felix several times a day for a few months now and he looked like a George to me, so that’s what I’d been calling him. George. He had answered straight away the first time I’d called him that so either I’d struck lucky and his name really was George or he just answered to anything. ‘For you lady, I’ll be George, or whoever you want!’

“Can I help you, George?” I now asked him.

“I’ve come about the vacancy,” he explained, still not moving from his spot next to the kettle, which was rather unfortunate as I wanted to make a drink.

“The vacancy?” I hadn’t been aware we had a vacancy but George seemed to think we had one so perhaps we did.

“Yes, I’d like to move in, if that’s OK with you,” he said, looking me straight in the eye daring me to back down or refuse him.

Suddenly I remembered a conversation we’d had a few weeks ago after one of his mammoth sachet swallowing sessions. I had perhaps, rather rashly, suggested in a moment of bon homie that he would be very welcome to move in, if he’d like to. He’d carried on eating at the time and then walked off through the cat flap without a backward glance. He hadn’t come back that evening for the rest of his carton of sachets and I wondered if I had offended him in some way. Perhaps he had a perfectly good home and he was just spending his waking hours visiting various homes on the street to see if anyone needed cheering up. That he was given a meal for his efforts was the way it went: he came and cheered up some unsuspecting soul in return for several sachets of food. It seemed a good bargain whichever way you looked at it.

He had a faded blue collar on and his coat was rough and dishevelled. Could he really have a perfectly good home and look so, I tried to find the right word, unkempt? Long past kittenhood, it was difficult to put an age to him, but I think he could be early teens or perhaps a smidge under ten. Life had obviously given him a tough exterior but when he purred, I knew he was a huge softie underneath all that gruffness. 

He’d stayed away for a couple of days, no doubt to keep me guessing or make me sweat, which in the unusually hot (for the UK) weather for July wasn’t hard to do. I kept making puddles wherever I went, and it was nothing to do with my age, let me set that record straight!

Finally, a few days later, when I got up one morning, he was sitting in his preferred spot next to the kettle on the worktop.

“At last!” He said, looking at the kitchen clock which showed the time at 7.45. “I thought I was going to have to open the sachets myself!” He looked slightly miffed at the thought of having to get his own food and I gave him a passing stroke on his forehead and spent a bit longer on Casey who was looking on with concern.

Casey seems to like George but he’s not quite sure if he should. George, is after all, a visiting feline and our house is Casey’s turf but having lost his two best friends within a very short space of six months, I had wondered if he was lonely. Seeing George ensconced on the worktop I mused that perhaps Casey had put some ads in the local newspaper, advertising a room to let in return for friendship and fun. You never know these days, what with the Internet and all the gadgets at their disposal.     

George tucking inI got two clean dishes and opened two sachets of Felix cat food and gave Casey his, while George made a great kerfuffle about leaving his worktop to come down to floor level to eat. He went to the usual spot near the cooker where he’d become accustomed to taking his meals and set about with great gusto the devouring of one sachet in record time. Casey ate his with some finesse but George had no such scruples. ‘Down in one or two slurps at the most’ seemed to be his motto and he sat by his empty bowl looking at me and giving the cupboard where the cat food is kept some pointed looks.

“I don’t suppose I could trouble you for a little more?” he asked.

I knew ‘a little’ was an understatement but I duly opened the cupboard and got another sachet ready. He rubbed his head around my legs and I could hear his purrs. I put the dish down on the placemat and he launched himself as if he hadn’t eaten for hours.

Once he’d eaten, he’d gone back out through the cat flap and up the garden path to who knows where. I hadn’t seen him before he’d started coming through our cat flap so I don’t know who he belonged to. On one occasion when he’d let me stroke him, he suddenly growled and snapped at me when my hand touched the side of his stomach. I wondered if he’d been kicked by someone and I was careful after that to not touch that area.

He was friendly and purred his thanks but he didn’t usually stick around for any conversation, although one evening he popped into the front room while I was watching television and Casey was upstairs on my bed. I’d patted my lap and without any hesitation he leapt up and began giving me gentle headbutts, rubbing his head all round my face. He sat on my lap for ages while I stroked his back, carefully avoiding his stomach, and telling him what a beautiful boy he is. He rewarded me with rumbling purrs.

I thought we were making headway but as if he was giving too much of himself away, he jumped down quickly and headed off to the kitchen where he sat by the food bowl which he’d earmarked for himself and waited for me to come. After he’d eaten three or four sachets without pausing for breath he just went through the cat flap without a goodbye or see you later.

And now, here we were, a few weeks later and he was asking about the vacancy. “What made you change your mind?” I asked him.

“Don’t take this the wrong way,” he replied, “I’m only staying on a temporary basis. I make the rules and if you’re happy to accept them, then we’ll get on just fine. Don’t try to change me or turn me into something else because I’m me. What you see is what you get.”

“You’re free to come and go as you please,” I said. “You are you and that’s why I like you, no, scrub that, that’s why I love you.”

“Steady on, we haven’t known each other that long. You can’t go bandying words like love around.” He said from his perch by the kettle.

“Ok, how about we take it one day at a time, George? Would that suit you better?” I asked. “That way, if you find somewhere else that you prefer to be then you’re free to leave whenever you want.”

“Hold your horses, lady, who said anything about leaving?”

“Well, I thought you just said that you were only staying on a temporary basis …” I mumbled almost incoherently.

“Look, this is how I do things,” George started to explain. He had shifted his position slightly but he still blocked my access to the kettle. “I come for breakfast and dinner, and if I’m not busy elsewhere with my travels, I might pop in for lunch. If I haven’t got any prior engagements then I might avail myself of the sofa or an armchair for one of my several naps. I don’t do slobbery sentiment and love is not a word in my vocabulary. If you play your cards right, and you’re not doing too badly at the moment, you might have me as a permanent guest but I never make any decisions on an empty stomach.”

Saying that, he gathered himself together and, nimbly for a rotund ginger cat, he jumped off the worktop and landed on the kitchen floor.

“All that rulemaking has made me extra hungry,” he said. “I’ll take my first course if you don’t mind.”

“Coming right up, George. And welcome to the ‘Lazypaws Guesthouse for Discerning Felines.’”

Pauline Dewberry 28th July 2014

   

 

 

A Morning Kiss

A morning kiss, a discreet touch of his nose landing somewhere on the middle of my face.
Because his long white whiskers tickled, I began every day laughing.

Janet F Faure

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