My Hero

12 Feb

I used to know this cat called Ringo.

He was a grey and white stray who certainly walked like a gunslinger (as most tomcats do), but to me he always looked more like Robert Mitchum than a cowboy. He had that sleepy-eyed, world-weary, slightly hung over look that was always Mitchum’s stock in trade as an actor.

I never really knew where Ringo came from. He just seemed to drift into town one day, very much as though he was the hero of his very own private Western.

I suppose he had been a house cat at some point, most truly feral cats avoid people when they can, while one thing Ringo never lacked was confidence around people. He didn’t exactly crave company, you understand, but he was willing to share his space with you as long as you were properly grateful for the privilege.

Across the street from me lived a lady by the name of Mrs Hannigan. She was smallish and roundish and kind of pink with grey hair. She had that quality of warmth that you might associate with the smell of freshly baked bread in a clean and tidy kitchen.

I haven’t seen her for years, but whenever I think of her, I always see her with a smile. She certainly had her share of problems, not least her health, but she always seemed to be a cheerful sort of person. She was also a bit of a soft touch for waifs and strays, particularly if they had fur and whiskers.

Mrs Hannigan lived with an elegant lady called Smokey. She had the most sleek and elegant blue grey coat and she would watch you through her calm and knowing amber coloured eyes with a quietly reproachful air. She knew all our sins.

I used to think that Smokey got her name from the colour of her coat, but it was actually because of her fondness for smokey bacon flavoured crisps. She would apparently sit on the sofa munching on her crisps while Mrs Hannigan watched her TV.

Every day Smokey would take her constitutional around the neighbourhood, prim, refined and watchful, just to make sure that we were all behaving ourselves. Smokey’s companion on these excursions was always Ringo.

He wouldn’t walk with her, exactly, he just, sort of prowled along behind her at a respectful distance. Ringo was a cat who always had something of the prowl about him regardless of where he was or what he was doing.

On one particular day, having once again satisfied herself that nothing was amiss in our small community, Smokey was returning home, Ringo, as ever in her train, when a large dog decided to offer his compliments. He was an exuberant collie full of the impetuous energy of adolescence. He was also loud. Picture Lassie on amphetamines and you get the general idea.

Elegant and refined ladies are never hurried, of course, but the pace of Smokey’s departure should have informed the collie that his attentions were not welcome.

Ringo for his part did what only he would have done in such a situation.

He simply sat down in the middle of the road and waited for the collie to bring his face conveniently in range. When the dog was in exactly, precisely the correct position, Ringo swatted him down with a pawful of claws.

As I recall the impact was quite audible from across the street, but I’m sure that’s just because my memory has become exaggerated over the years. Nevertheless, it was rebuke that was delivered with admirable emphasis and precision.

Needless to say the dog decamped somewhat quicker than he had arrived.

Having resolved the potential unpleasantness to his satisfaction, Ringo then continued his progress with consummate cool, watched from her vantage point under a hedge by his lady friend with a suitably adoring gaze.

My Hero.

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