Story by ~ and photograph of Sandshoe (with Mum and Sister)
My sister ran up the back steps and through the open kitchen door. She makes so much noise at Christmas could be all I need to say. Christmas 2013 I told you she found out one year the turkey laid an egg?
Remember she sobbed and elucidated and screamed at Dad who was the designated executioner?
So many big words. It wouldn’t have fitted into the oven anyway like it was.
She found the cat’s tail this year.
That much of the cat was known of.
She turned and ran back out the kitchen door and down the steps. We all ran out the door and down the steps. We followed her round the house to the front fence. A bony end of a tail and some length of it was hanging from a rusty barb of fence wire where it looped through a post.
My sister wailed and wailed. She was so good at it. I felt faint.
“Dead,” she whimpered, “Cat’s dead.”
My mother and her mother too (of course, never mind my vulnerable years exposed to my ear splitting older sister’s capacity for empathy) whirled towards her. I supposed a gesture of reconciliation of life and death.
My sister screamed and sobbed, “Dead.”
Dad said (he was a scientist remember), “No reason to imagine the cat is deceased.” The ‘r’ of reason as rich as a Scotch plum pudding rolled into the spaces between us all and they were filled. We were a Christmas table scene, stock still, you know like the Wise Men and everybody standing round looking at a holy remnant of baby Jesus with their mouths open.
My sister howled.
All of us were shocked. About the tail I mean. Our two parents, two big brothers (honest they were big), and my sister and me. I was 6.
“Dad, she’s upset,” Mum said.
My sister’s howl pierced my eardrums, as uzh-u-al, memorable for sure, maybe for the neighbours. “Where’s the CAAAAT!!?
I wished she would calm down a bit.
“Leave it there,” said Dad as Mum reached forward.
Mum thought better move it. A bird would peck at it or something. What about snakes. Dad said the cat would come back to its tail. I think Dad didn’t know a lot about cats.
“Yes, yes,” screamed my sister, “Leave it alone. It’s the CAT’S!”
She stalked off across the yard and down the side yard of the house where we had run to see. I followed anyway. The others were running after my sister.
What happened next speaks to me of a post-traumatic group stress disorder pre-condition. The noise that came out of the back yard (the rest of them I was following were only rounding the rain water tank) was blood curdling. She (my sister) was standing looking at the cat on the prowl towards her in the way cats do intent on rubbing themselves on a familiar leg. What was left of the cat’s tail stuck out pretty well behind it. The end was ragged, tipsy. My sister looked terrible I’ll be the first to say.
“She’s not DEAD!”
The assertion seemed factual enough comparing the evidence and weight of probability.
I was happy. I wanted to know if the cat remembered its tail. Would it go back and find it? I got a mop handle and broom and set up an observation tent with an old blanket tied to the fence and a hessian sugar bag for a tent flap. It never.