FELIX

 

The cat meowed, yowled, wailed. He jumped in front of the jogging couple, so that they almost stumbled.

“That cat,” the man cursed.

The woman stopped and looked around, breathing deeply. “Something’s wrong.”

A blue and green bundle of feathers with metallic sheen plopped into the branches, opening a view. Bronze-green and lilac slowly welled across the harbour. A long smoky cloud rushed to eat the sun, leaving streaks of blood drenching the dark-blue sky. The city beyond the water put on a drab frown.

“He’s interested in that pigeon, Kathy. Let’s jog down again.”

The cat cried like a baby.

“Wait a minute, Richard, I feel the cat wants to show us something.”

The wood pigeon flapped off and branches whipped the panorama. The cat brushed Kathy’s legs and took a few jumps up the road.

“I’m going to have a look.”

Richard snickered. “OK, I won’t keep you. I’ll jog back. See you soon.”

Kathy nodded and quickly strode up the road. It narrowed. Trees drooped their leafy loads, almost creating a tunnel. An earthy smell hung in the shadows. Then there were only steps, rickety ones, well trodden, just soil held back by rotting boards. The cat jumped up the path, still meowing. Kathy couldn’t help feeling uneasy. Then she stopped abruptly. “Oh, my God,” she panted.

 

***

 

“The sun will soon come round to visit us, Felix,” the man muttered and stroked the cat’s fur. It was light grey with fuzzy fawn stripes and soft. Felix purred and stuck his head into the man’s wrinkly hand.

A wind gust flung twigs against a windowpane. The man peered out. “Ah yes, and the wind’s coming too,” he joked, brushing his grey hair with the fingers, “who else?”

Clouds were rocking and rolling in the sky, grabbing each other, twirling, parting, jostling teasingly. At times they spat fine spray over the seaside suburb below. Now and then they let sunlight stab at the city across the harbour; dots of glass and steel flared up.

“Who else, Felix?”

“Meow.”

“You’re right, nobody. Nice talking to you. Without you I’d talk to this musty wall, wouldn’t I? I’ve got to talk. I’ve got to hear my voice.”

The man shoved a bowl of milk under Felix’s nose. “That’s it for now. I’ll go and get us some more from the dairy. That’s a place to have a chat. ‘Good morning, Alf. How’re you today,’ the Indian guy will ask me. ‘I’m fine. I’ll just grab a bottle of milk.’ ‘Help yourself. What a day, not bad, is it?’ Great conversation, right Felix?”

“Meow.”

“Great aye?”

Alf sat up, listening. “Can you hear footsteps?”

It was quiet up here next to the hillside bush at the end of the road. Some noise from passing traffic drifted up. Wind gusts huffed at the house. Otherwise there was nothing.

“Felix, when I was working in the car factory, I used to enjoy the lack of noise after work. Now I miss it. I miss my mates too. Used to love talking politics over a few handles of beer in the pub. I was good at my work. Then the car assemblers closed down, one after the other, struck by the new economy, so-called progressive thinking, rationalisation. That left me stranded.”

Alf walked over to a sideboard and picked up a black and white photograph in a dark brown scratched frame.

“You don’t know what I’m talking about, but, at least, you’re listening. ‘Don’t talk so much and stop that cursing,’ my wife used to say. Now she’s gone. Found a new man. A decent feller, she says, perhaps more agreeable than me.”

He stared at the picture over his spectacles.

“She’s looking good here. That was a long time ago. Just looking at the kids, Felix! How young they are! That’s Linda and that’s John. Didn’t my wife and I get on when we left the UK to settle here? We were a happy family. Now everyone’s living their own lives. Linda and John turn up for help, occasionally. Is that good enough, Felix? Does this make up for the long patches of loneliness in between?”

“Meee-ow.”

“I think you understand, Felix, don’t you? Is this a life worth living? I eat, I drink, I potter around the house, I sleep. What else is there?”

He kicked at a book that had been lying next to his bed.

“Reading? I’m sick of it. I’d rather do something with my hands. I’ve been a good toolmaker. Could do anything somebody wanted. Could solve all the problems that came towards me.”

He shuffled into the adjoining room and opened a sideboard drawer. There lay, neatly arranged and polished, tools of his trade. He fondled them, touching them lightly, letting his fingers glide over them.

“I could still do the odd jobs, even ambitious ones - but they’ve thrown me on the scrap heap.”

He sighed. Suddenly, he felt unsteady and had to sit down. Felix jumped on his lap.

“Yeah, you’ve got a comfy life, Felix. I’m an old man. What if I should kick the bucket? What would happen to you?”

Felix had rested his head on his paws and gave off soft regular purrs. Alf brushed him off.

“You couldn’t care less. Go and sleep somewhere else.”

He proceeded to make himself a cup of tea and stopped abruptly. “Oh yes, I’ve got to get some milk first. Stay here, Felix. I’ll be back soon.”

He put on a jacket and took a nylon bag. A gust of wind slapped his face when he opened the door. He felt giddy.

“These weather changes are a bloody nuisance. I really feel them,” he mumbled.

He had to lean heavily against the creaking railing. Then his right side turned strangely numb. He saw his foot come forward, but there was no strength in it. He stumbled. A treetop circled around his upturned eyes. It seemed to move ever so slowly. Then he hit the stairs with a thump.

 

***

 

“Oh my God,” Kathy exclaimed, when she saw the body of the man slumped against the bank of the hill into which the stairs were cut. Blood had seeped from the grey hair patchily covering the head, had run in streaks across the face and dried. He stirred a little.

“What’s happened to you, for God’s sake,” Kathy cried.

Alf shook his head feebly.

“Can’t you move?”

Alf shook his head again.

“Is there a phone in your house?”

Alf nodded lightly and stared past Kathy. “Felix..,” he mumbled.

“Sorry, what did you say?”

Alf didn’t answer.

Kathy hurried up the last steps to the house and found a phone. She dialled 111.

“I’ve found somebody who’s had an accident. He may even be dying,” she shouted into the receiver. “Name and address? I’ve got to find out. No, there’s nobody around here. Just a cat...”

 

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