Monday August 23, 2004
Picture it. Early morning, the house still quiet. Graham’s standing in the kitchen, looking out of the window through the steam rising from his first mug of tea. I’m in the study, pecking away at my keyboard, the window at my side thrown wide open to let the overnight air out of the house. Dolly, well, I’m not sure where she was. Asleep somewhere, probably. Harry Cat…
“What the blood and stomach pills was that?” I yelled, leaping from my chair at a crash from the dining room behind me.
I was just in time to catch Harry Cat, snapped suddenly out of his old gentleman cat act into a fizzing firebrand of a hunter-killer, leaping up at the window, snapping a swallow out of the air, and despatching it with one perfectly accomplished twist of his head.
And then he jumped down, and stood there, growling, the poor dead creature hanging from his jaws. It was as if time had clicked back two or three years to Harry in his prime, the supreme hunter, the agile gymnast, the fierce killer of things that ought not to be where he finds them. My eyes misted over a little bit. Not, I’m slightly sorry to say at the fate of the swallow, much as I love them. No, I was touched deeply to see Harry Cat, still there, inside the quiet little old cat sleeping his days away.
We had a hell of a job trying to prise the corpse from Harry’s jaws and in the end gave up and waited for him to drop it. Then we pounced and retrieved it before he could sink his remaining fangs into the luscious morsel before him. Graham got there first and grabbed up the hapless bird, its head hanging loose and disconnected like that of a game bird in one of those Dutch still life paintings.
Harry was furious, like something that’s very furious indeed. He glared at Graham. Graham gave him the ritual “There’s a clever boy, Harry,” and departed to place the poor dead bird under the hedge where nature could take care of it. Still growling, Harry sniffed all around the crime scene in case there was something else to kill. Graham came back in. Harry glared at him again and then gave himself over to being the pround hunter, home from the chase, strutting proudly, his chest puffed out, looking for appreciation.
He got it, too, in buckets, along with just a touch more of the misted eyes. His little body, somewhat shrunken in old age, seemed to fill out, his coat went firm and glossy, and his eyes sparkled. Then he gave himself a good shake, and set to the task of a good clean and groom. It’s ages since he did that. Elderly gentleman cats tend to leave grooming behind them, and Harry’s been no exception.
So, I’ve very sorry for the swallow of course. Must have flown in through my open window on silent wings. It was a fast, efficient kill and any suffering would have been over in a trice.
But Harry Cat, my Harry Cat, he got a moment of fierce glory in his quiet retirement, and I got a flash of my young Harry Cat, who would rescue me from invading rodents, sweep bats out of the air, and kill giant moles in the field. I’m sorry, but I’ve no mist in my eyes for the swallow. I really am sorry about that, but I’ve no mist left over. It’s all reserved for my Harry Cat.