We both know that it’s a tacit instruction, not a statement at all. In any case, the boy hurumphs back out of the door and takes a few steps out onto the crunchy graveled driveway.
After a few more steps he stops. Hands on hips. They’re probably at around five paces now and there’s a bit of a stare out happening. I hang back at the doorway, hovering on the threshold between languid curiosity and downright laziness.
The boy squats down a little, his breath rasping wispy white plumes that drift over his left shoulder and fizzle away.
The cat knows his game might be up: that his opportunistic dash into the dark ink of the night wasn’t exactly planned with precision. Even so, his little black legs slowly tense, ready to spring , as the boy shuffles – inches – forward. The boy’s arms raise slowly to form a conciliatory outstretched V, as if to smile through gritted teeth.
It’s been a long day. But Sooty’s just limbering up now.
I’m quite sure the cat knows this will probably end in him being scooped up and carried back into the house like a bundle of laundry odds and ends. Still, this is how we do it. Every single time.
If I were just a little less lazy, I’d have the boy’s car guarded well before the cat’s inevitable dart underneath it. The familiarity of this dance, though, seems to compound my lethargy. The cat will spring from car to lawn; from lawn to tree; and from tree back to lawn as he runs out of ideas. We’ve waltzed this waltz a hundred times in our little garden ballroom, the steps a little slicker each time.
I turn into the house. Shut the door behind me. Flick on the outside light as the token thought that counts.
Cat number two gazes up from the empty food bowl, flashing eyes up at me that convey that fine balance of adorable and incriminating. OK: this I can do. Against the backdrop of muffled shouts and scuffles from the garden, I reach into” magic cupboard” and scatter a stream of greasy-crumbed pellets around the two baby blue bowls. There’s a face tilted horizontal between bag and bowl, with tiny china teeth crunching snortily between purrs. I’m reassured that the spillage will be taken care of in no time.
I feel the puff of the door-slam in time with its thud: a curl of icy air rushes in, as if to mirror the cat a few minutes earlier.
The boy trails two boot tracks of lawn mud across the hallway with a disgruntled sooty tucked, lamb-like, under one arm. I can tell he’s as smug as the cat is resentful: his triumphant grin an exact counterpoint to the cat’s upturned glare.
The cat spills out of the crook of the arm, twists and flails momentarily before landing with a defiant boof on the laminate. He’ll always land on all fours, but seems to like to keep us guessing with each dramatic dive.
We seem to cast a mutual glance at the paw-print legacy of a defiant strut to the kitchen.
I shrug off my coat and the boy does the same – an emphatic “whatever” in weekday-speak.