Saturday, 20 June 2015

Flad earns his keep

I wrote this on May 19th and never got round to posting it. I thought I had, but have just found it in Draft form. Here's what I wrote, over a month ago now. Hankies at the ready...

Last night, we had to get our beloved, adorable Flad put to sleep. This has been one of the worst days of my life. I keep looking for him in all his favourite spots in the garden. I think I see him under the table, but it's only my partner's slippers. In reality, he is buried in his favourite late afternoon sunning spot, next to the rose bush planted by my partner which bears the name of his late wife, who died of breast cancer the year before I met him.

An unkind person said to me that I had no right to be so upset because it was 'only a cat'. So I want to tell Flad's story and show how he won my heart.

I still have his fur on my clothes.

It's time I resumed normal service now. Things have been pretty shitty since Flad passed away. You know how grief goes. One minute you're OK, and have been for several days, then some little thing acts as a trigger and whoosh! You're overwhelmed by a tidal wave of misery, a seventh wave that swooshes over you from behind, breaking over your head, swamping you, leaving you gasping and spluttering, battered and shaken and trying to catch your breath and keep your balance.

A moth at the window was all it took. A large one, at dusk, beating its wings against the glass of the patio doors. My mind flashed back to when we first saw Flad, leaping at the glass, catching moths and eating them. He wasn't more than seven months old. Half-grown, pot-bellied with what I first thought were kittens, but when we noticed he was male (though minus his bits) we realised the distended belly was a mixture of starvation and worms. He had been living wild, under a hedge we think, sneaking out to steal the scraps we threw out for the foxes. Poor little thing.

He was terrified of humans but my partner gradually tamed him by crouching on the grass and holding out tempting morsels that a starving kitten couldn't resist. We started leaving out a saucer of cat food and within weeks of getting proper food, his belly slimmed and his coat grew glossy and he was a different cat entirely.

We already had two adult cats, also black and white, so Flad was an add-on. Originally, I christened him Felix but his brow was a peculiar shape, giving his face a flattened look as if he'd been squashed in the birth canal - you know how some babies are born with odd-shaped heads that soon go back to normal? As Flad filled out, his face became more rounded but by then it was too late. I had called him Flathead one day and my partner seized on this name with great glee, and it stuck, though it was gradually shortened to Flad.

"He's never coming in. He's an outdoor cat," decided my partner, Mr Grumpy, even though Flad had mastered the cat flap by now, after watching BC (Bastard Cat) and Trollop to see how they did it. (Bastard, Trollop and Flathead... yes, I know!) One morning, I was first up and saw a strange sight through the glass of the side door. "What on earth's that?" I asked Mr Grumpy. It looked like two furry ears and a tail. Flad was sitting nearby, looking pleased with himself.

He burst out laughing. "It's a squirrel's arsehole!" Indeed it was. Two back legs, a tail and an, er... well, you know. Flad had eaten the rest. That night we had a peaceful night's sleep as the squirrel that had got into the inaccessible part of the attic had ceased to disturb us. Flad must have been lying in wait as Mr Squirrel shimmied down the creeper for his breakfast, straight into an open feline mouth.

"He's earned his keep," said Mr G. "I think he can come in, now." And so suddenly, there were three black and white cats on the sofa at night and no room for us at all.

Flad on the left, always the clown, and neat, tidy little Trollop



Teresa Ashby said...

Ah, I am in tears here. I feel sorry for that person who said "only a cat" if they have never known what it is to love and be loved by a pet. They are our family and the pain when we lose them is immeasurable. And Flad clearly chose you. I love how he came about his name. What a beautiful and special boy he was xx

hydra said...

I think one reason why it hit me so badly, Teresa, is because I had 18 unbroken years with him. I knew him from a teenager to an old man cat. It was so poignant. We can see ourselves reflected in them, can't we? After Sandy, my childhood cat, died, aged only 10, following a fight with another cat which led to blood poisoning, my mother swore she would never get another cat. We had guinea pigs, but we never grew attached to them as all they did was eat and squeak! They weren't 'interactive' in the way cats and dogs are. One day my sister brought a little tabby cat home from the riding stables, cradled in her hard hat. My mother said it was to be Marian's cat, she wanted nothing to do with him. But four years later, Marian went off to Uni and Cloudy won Mum over. They were inseparable. She refused to go on holiday as she couldn't bear to leave him, her beloved pet. I think Dad was quite jealous! One morning, Dad came down and found Cloudy dead, half in and out of his litter tray. He was 14. Mum was inconsolable and what made it even worse was that Dad, not really thinking it through, wrapped him in a bin bag and put him out with the rubbish! (Maybe it was his act of revenge against the animal who had stolen his wife's heart.) I don't know how their marriage survived for the 30 years that followed this sacrilegious act! (Maybe she didn't know; perhaps he only told me.) They are all special, aren't they? And choosing the right name is so important. Bastard and Trollop were named Domino and Tilla by my partner's late wife. But the nicknames were the ones that stuck! Yes, animals break your heart, but life would be a poor, narrow, cold place without them.

Teresa Ashby said...

We found one of ours dead like that at age 14 - just lying on the floor as if he'd been switched off. Your poor parents. Your dad was probably in shock and not thinking straight. It's funny how they end up with nicknames that often stick isn't it - like the people they are xx