Those are the names of our cats.
I said are, and that’s true. They are the names of our cats, it’s just that one of them isn’t our cat anymore.
I look outside and Ella’s cleaning her whiskers after dinner, and Ringo’s keeping out of her way, because she’s moody as hell, especially when she’s awake.
But something’s not right because she looks even grumpier than usual.
“When you came and took me away from where I was living, you didn’t know I was sick. I know that. But I wasn’t feeling so great, you understand? No one’s ever discussed it with me. Ever.”
“We had no idea… We only knew when we saw the cat litter sticking to you” I reply
“Listen I don’t want to talk about that right now. In fact not ever! I’ve hardly thought about it for 13 years and you have to remind me now? What’s your problem?”
I’d better leave her to it. She’s very touchy as you can see.
Her brother, Oscar went missing several weeks ago, and I’ve been fairly upset about it since then.. well as distraught as a middle-aged man can afford to be nowadays. After all these cats need bacon, and I bring it home for them. Everyday. Not that I’m a butcher.
“Well you’d get us decent meat if you were.” says Ella.
“All right, that’s enough!” I tell her.
I’m not really superstitious but I can never help but take the opportunity to hope it works for me. For instance I don’t believe that seeing a couple of magpies is going to bring me some joy, but if it does, then I’m not going to turn it down. And when I see said magpies I automatically think, maybe Oscar will have come home because I saw those dratted birds. When I get home, and Oscar isn’t there, it brings me down. So perhaps it doesn’t pay to recall these childhood incantations.
Ringo has a white ring around his tail. So although we could have called him Zafod or Odil, we called him Ringo. He drifted in to our lives one summer roughly 13 years ago when he discovered we’d got 2 small kittens he could play with.
“OK so I did ’em both a favour. Well, especially her!”
“Did he say what I thought he said?” says Ella menacingly.
“No” I lie.
Oscar was the boy kitten and Ella the girl. Oscar was white and black, with a black beard and moustache and what looked like sunglasses on his head. He was a cool cat. Ella was black and white with a white face and black beauty spot. We thought they were a handsome pair.
It was unlucky for Ella that Ringo turned up, because I found Ringo in the kitchen, doing what tomcat’s do best.
”Well she was asking for it” says Mr Clever. She was on heat and making a real display of herself. It was embarrassing. Afterwards she realised that she hadn’t wanted that to happen at all. For the next 13 years she has taken it out of Ringo every single day. Not a day goes by that she doesn’t give him a right-hook whenever he’s within reach. Kissing cousins they aren’t.
It was soon after this that I found Ringo at home with half an ear hanging down and blood dripping from the wound. The local vet patched him up, and on my instruction took away his reason to believe, if you know what I mean. He’s bothered no more lady cats since.
But he takes it philosophically because he knows he deserves it. “It’s okay. I deserved it. You didn’t know you were destroying my reason for existence, did you? After all what’s it to you? No one ever castrated you. Did they?”
“That’s my business. Besides, God gives and he takes away” I have to tell him.
Oscar, Ringo and Ella were sitting on the road in our cul-de-sac , when we took my son and my granddaughter, to the local park.
“See you later!” we called to the cats as usual. Ella still wails when we go, but I suppose nowadays they’d say she’s ‘needy’. Oscar and Ringo maintained their cool devil-may-care-if-you-leave-us, we-don’t-give a-damn, male cat personas. We fully expected them all to be knocking around when we got back home. Just as they’d done for the last 11 years.
Oscar would probably be lying around on the garden table like the king of the jungle, and Ella somewhere along the short approach to our house, and Ringo a little way further up the road. As we arrive home they’d always step out to meet us one by one, like the Magnificent Seven when the other 4 are busy somewhere else.
But Oscar didn’t come home that night. At all. The next day my wife looked on the road for evidence of a violent feline-meets-metal-object-on-wheels-travelling-very-fast kind of incident. But nothing, thankfully.
He’d turn up. Soon. But he didn’t. A couple of weeks later we went on the holiday we’d booked 6 months previously. All neighbours were asked to keep an eye out for Oscar and phone our friendly cattery lady to come and pick him up to bunk once more with his old mate Ringo, while Ella would purr away with her brother back within her sphere of influence. Cat lady should ring us when she’d picked him up. But no call came.
When we got home, I could see the cloud of his hair haloed in the sunshine below the fake grass we have covering our wrought iron gate, just above the space we’ve left for the cats to enter and leave the garden. Ella ran to it and sniffed it and came back looking appealingly at me.
“OK, joke over. Give me back my brother” but when I couldn’t produce him, she sat down and moaned and moaned for him. And it carried on for a week after that. Ringo keeps his feelings well hidden, but I know he’d be pleased to roll around the garden with Oscar again, if he could.
“That great big mutt! Whaddya done with him?”
I’d often complained about the amount of hair Oscar moulted and which was dynamically attracted to whatever I was wearing. He shed at least one large cat coat a season, I was convinced. But I’d have all that hair back, just to see his intelligent eyes, his big pink hairy ears and his beard and moustache lying on top of our tower fridge again.
Oscar’s sitting on an old lady’s lap. “Waste of space, the lot of ’em. glad to leave ’em behind. This old dear feeds me raw chicken and salmon every day. There was never any question where I’d end up. Stay with those losers? Give me a break!”
No. He’s lying on his side on a leather armchair on he bridge of a space ship. “Now set the engines on maximum warp for Gamma 5. There are new planets to see and civilisations to conquer. Ella and Ringo will remain on Earth and complete the processing of these stupid humans.”
Then again, he may be alone in a dark and desolate place. “I remember some kindly humans who kept me warm in the cold winter months, and fed me as much food as I wanted. What happened to them? I only jumped in the back of a truck just to see what was in it. The next thing we’re moving fast. Too fast to get out again. now I don’t recognise anywhere.”
Will the real Oscar Wilson please stand up? We don’t know which of those entities he was, and we don’t really care…
But we’ve posted pictures on a lot of lamp posts, we’ve contacted every rescue centre, animal care and lost and found cat site in the area but the silence has been deafening.
We’ve all got a hole in our hearts. We have no idea why he deserted us, or maybe who stole him. But if he can come home again we’ll all be healed.
You never know what you’ve got until you’ve lost it. If you’re listening Lady Luck, shine a little love our way.
“You bet buddy. Big mutt never knew when he was well off if you ask me,” says Ringo.
“Well I wasn’t.” I tell him.
“Easy tiger.” says Ringo.