We know – trust me, we do – that there’s just been the one mouse living in the big gap in the slabs at the top of the garden steps. I mean, these last few months. And Steps, by the way, is his name. By which I should say ‘was’. On Monday afternoon, after weeks and more latterly long, long days of her waiting and watching, the cat got the mouse. Got Steps. I saw this happen. One of those strangest of timings things where I’d just happened to have called myself a spontaneous break and come down from the studio to make a coffee – this being unusual in itself because I all to often ignore my own internal ‘take a break’ klaxons and push on hunched until the idea has passed. Monday, and with the all-new working set-up up there, I hopped up right away and came downstairs. Catface was there in her usual place. Yes, we call the cat Catface. Actually, B. tends to spell it with a ‘y’ – Catfayce – which gives it a mystical medieval air, appealing perhaps to her Potter-esque leanings (B.’s, I mean) – on the odd occasions when she’s moved to message me about this cat which isn’t ours, but one of (more correctly our favourite of) the many neighbourhood types who like to hang out round our mad little enclave of jumbly houses and chaotic gardens. And I should add at this point that B. doesn’t know (and must never know) that Catface and Steps are now as one. So, yes, Catface is in her usual place and I’m making this coffee. The doors are all locked up, which is significant because the few seconds it took between my noticing the all-new tensing of her body, the angling of her ears and the giveaway flicks of the rose stems, and the actual pounce – would not have covered my locating the keys and flying out to intervene. To save, effectively, Steps’s tragedy. Instead, slack-jawed, I watched Catface emerge from the roses and descend the steps with her tiny russet quarry; a perceptible wink in my direction, and off to a neighbouring yard to seal the deal. Oh, bloody hell, I thought. And I thought about the coincidence – that this should all play out in the moment I took this little break – that more logically I should never have witnessed this, the pay-off, the money-shot, from the weeks and weeks of waiting. I thought how she’s a good mouser (it’s not the first catch I’ve seen her make), and how perhaps Steps could’ve been a little smarter, rustling away like he was in broad daylight. And I also thought a little bit, hey, shouldn’t Catface be bringing me Steps as a present, like cats are reputed to do? And then she did. Double-backed from across the way, and mewed at our back door in the cat-faced equivalent of a ‘ta-da!’ moment. What happened next was surprisingly crunchy, but of no importance.
In the evening I finally nailed (I think) the ‘branding’ for this year’s also surprisingly crunchy sauerkraut batch. Branding in quotes because it’s just an internal affair – although small pots are being distributed amongst a mad little enclave of jumbly gourmands and chaotic europhiles. And here is assembled the three legs of the old milking stool that is electric-bang wizz-cats and foodish adventures and my now-jobbing love of character-full design. Because sauerkraut is mad enough to be as mad as this.
The next day, Catface is back in position, again watching, waiting. Over my coffee I tell her, for godssakes you caught the bugger yesterday, remember? And then think how this has simply always been the part she loved, and loves, and loves to re-live, the most. I can’t completely tease out the analogy; the zen-like lesson – and besides, I’m busy drawing little labels. But I at least commit the observation to a haiku in progress – which probably says all that needed to be said, after all, about eating one of… It. Some of which B. must never know.
The cat, there again
– still, crouched, watching for the mouse
she ate yesterday