Spirit Cat (Part 1)

27 May

 

Buster

 

 

 

His name was Buster and he didn’t know what was wrong. He was sitting on a street corner, under a lamppost, and he’d just watched his master get in the car and drive away.

His master had taken him into the park and thrown his ball for him, so he’d run off helter skelter after the ball, chasing it down just as he always had. But when he’d brought the ball back for his master, just like a good dog should, his master hadn’t been there to collect it. He had been over by the car, closing the door and starting up the engine.

That didn’t make sense to Buster. He was supposed to be in the car when the engine started.

He expected his master would come back and collect him of course, that was beyond question, but he hoped it would happen soon because it had been raining all day and Buster was getting very wet and very hungry. It was also getting dark and he was getting scared.

There were very few people around by now and the lamppost cast a glistening pool of yellowish light on the wet pavement for Buster to sit in. It was a lot less comfortable than his usual place in front of the fire.

He really didn’t know what was wrong. He loved his master and he had always just assumed, as dogs do, that his master loved him.

Buster didn’t know that he was no longer a cute little puppy, and he didn’t know that while he was busy taking care of all that important doggy business that he liked to keep on top of, he wasn’t doing what his master wanted.

He was a clever dog, nonetheless, and he could recognise quite a few words when he heard them. Words like his name and ‘sit’, ‘come’, ‘heel’ and ‘stop that you fucking bastard’, but he didn’t know exactly what they meant. They had never been used consistently enough for him to make connections between the words and what was meant by them.

To Buster, his master was a God and to him the ways of his God were inscrutable. He had no idea why his God sometimes beat him and shouted at him, he simply had to take it on trust that there was a purpose somewhere behind it all. No one had taught him any better.

So it was getting dark and Buster was getting wet and very hungry and wondering when his master was finally going to come and collect him. The thought that his master was sick and tired of him and never wanted to see him again never occurred to Buster. He was a dog, after all, and thoughts like that don’t come easily to dogs.

When it was as dark as it was going to get and Buster was lying with his nose on his paws, he became aware of a cat.

She was a white cat. Her nose was pink and her eyes were a curious shade, somewhere almost exactly between yellow and green. She sat with her front paws neatly placed side by side in front of her, looking at Buster with her cat’s eyes, clearly unafraid, and inscrutable.

Buster closed his eyes and looked away for a moment, and when he looked back the cat was gone.

Buster wasn’t sure how he felt about that. He had always thought that cats were only good for chasing, but he was very lonely and even a cat was more company than none at all.

Then he smelled something. It smelled a lot like the food his master used to eat. The kind he always wanted to eat himself, although what he usually got when he asked for it was a smack across the face.

He looked around to see where the smell was coming from and he saw the cat. She was sitting with her neat little feet in front of her, looking at him again with her curious coloured eyes. She had some food in her mouth and she dropped it on the ground in front of her.

Buster didn’t quite understand that because she didn’t start to eat the food, she simply walked away and left it. That made no sense at all to him. But he was hungry and the food smelled good. There wasn’t much of it, but he ate what there was and when it was gone, he licked the ground where it had been to get the last of the taste. When the last trace of food was gone, and it didn’t last long, Buster went back to where he had been before, lying at the foot of the lamppost with his nose on his paws. He felt a little better. Not much, just a little. But that was enough for the moment.

He was still waiting for his master, however, and he was still hoping that it wouldn’t take much longer for him to come.

The cat curled herself up next to Buster. She started to lick him clean as though he was a kitten and she purred. Buster accepted this attention without protest. He was very lonely and afraid and although she wasn’t really a God, her attention was better than none at all.

 

Buster slept fitfully, waking from time to time during the night. Sometimes when he woke the cat was beside him, sometimes she wasn’t. She would come and go as cats do, on silent, soft paws, going about her business with a preoccupied air.

Each time she left, Buster thought she was gone for good. Each time she came back, she had another morsel of food in her mouth and she left it lying on the ground. Each time she left food on the ground Buster ate it and felt a little better for a while.

At some point in the cold grey, half dead hours of the early morning Buster decided that wherever the cat was going, there had to be food, and that if he went with her, he would find the food for himself. Then he’d be able to eat as much as he wanted and not just as much as she was able to bring back to him. She couldn’t carry much in her mouth; she was only a cat, after all.

The cat picked herself up off the ground, stretched her back legs one at a time and then stalked off, with her tail held high and a little curled at the end.

Buster got to his feet and padded after her. He wouldn’t be gone for long, he told himself. Just long enough to get something to eat. Then he’d come back and do some more waiting under the lamppost. After all, his master was sure to come back sooner or later. Wasn’t he?

So the cat walked the streets and Buster followed her. She sniffed at this and that, and he sniffed too. But she had a sense of purpose about her and he didn’t. He was lost, while she definitely had somewhere to go.

She took him past some huddled bodies wrapped in newspapers, or sheltering in cardboard boxes covered with whatever plastic sheeting could be scrounged from somewhere.

Buster didn’t understand this. To him humans were Gods. They lived in houses, they had cars and they had an inexhaustible supply of food. They did strange things, of course. They insisted on washing you just when you’d managed to find something really nice and smelly to roll around in, but to see these Gods huddled up, just as cold and wet as Buster was himself, well that was a different kind of strange.

As the cat walked by, she seemed to pass the Gods with disdain. She wasn’t interested in them. To her, it seemed, they weren’t Gods at all. When one of them reached out a hand and tried to talk to her she stiffened, ears back, eyes narrowed and hissed at him, her wicked little fangs bared and ready.

He told her to fuck off.

This made things a little more familiar to Buster. It was a phrase that he knew well, although he had no idea what it meant. Maybe the cat did, though. She took a swipe at the man with her paw before moving along.

Buster hesitated before following her. They were Gods, to be sure, but they weren’t his God. The cat wasn’t even a God at all, but she did seem to know where there was food and for the moment, that was good enough for Buster.

 

The cat walked and Buster followed. Sometimes they found something to eat; sometimes they found something to sniff. Sometimes she’d take him to a bin that he could pull over with his reach and weight and then they could both forage through whatever spilled out. Buster was starting to feel that they were a team. A good team. He liked being part of a team. It made him feel more complete.

 

The morning wore on and there were more people around

“Look at that,” someone said. “It’s like that cat’s taking her dog for a walk.”

But most of them saw nothing. They were Gods, after all and far too busy with their God’s business to notice a cat and her dog.

The cat found a car to lie under and Buster crawled in after her. It was time for a rest, he thought, they’d walked quite a long way. Maybe they’d even walked a bit too far. Buster wasn’t sure he could find his lamppost again. But surely his God would find him when he chose to.

 

When Buster woke from his sleep, he found that the cat was gone. He had a sickening feeling of being alone again. He crawled out from under the car in the hope of finding the cat. Or maybe even his master.

What he found instead was that there were two Gods standing in the street. One big, one small. The small one was very young and she had to look up to see the big one, even though he was stooping a little to bring himself closer to her level.

Their words meant nothing to Buster, but their voices told him a story. The big one was speaking softly, coaxing, persuading, wanting something. The little one wasn’t sure. She didn’t know. She wanted to go away. Buster didn’t know why she didn’t just run if she wanted to go.

He didn’t know these Gods, neither of them was his God and he really didn’t like the big one. He didn’t like his voice and there was a faint smell about him that he found disturbing. It was something like fear and it was something like hunger. There was excitement in it too. It was a hunting smell. The big one was hunting, but Buster had no way of understanding what his prey was. It couldn’t be the little God. No one hunted the Gods; they weren’t rabbits, after all.

Then Buster saw the cat. She was sitting quite calmly on the roof of a car, watching the Gods with those eyes of hers.

The Gods were moving towards the car, they were looking at each other, still talking. Sometimes the big one looked away from the little one. He looked around, maybe looking for whatever he was hunting. Buster didn’t know. He couldn’t make sense of any of this. It wasn’t anything like the way he hunted. Maybe the cat understood it. Maybe this was the way cats hunted. Buster didn’t know.

When the Gods were next to the car, the bigger one seemed to notice the cat. He didn’t like it. She certainly didn’t like him. Her eyes narrowed and her ears turned back. Her mouth opened, showing those wicked little fangs and she hissed and spat.

The God waved his hand at her, maybe trying to hit her, or maybe to scare her away. She didn’t scare at all, though; she simply lunged at him, raking her claws across his hand as it flicked by.

“Fucking bitch!” the God yelled and the smaller God jerked back. The bigger one grabbed her by the arm and the cat growled low in her throat.

The fine red lines she’d traced across the back of the God’s hand burned bright in the morning sun. She’d drawn blood but she wanted more.

The little God was screaming now and struggling and that was too much for Buster. He started to bark. It was alarm and excitement and confusion that made him bark, but it wasn’t enough. He had to do something more.

He barked and snarled and growled. He darted in quick and then backed off, snapping his jaws at the big God, but not biting. He knew not to bite. He had been taught this, if nothing else, by his own God.

But the screaming and struggling went on and the cat was hissing and howling and it was driving Buster mad. He darted in again and again. Snapping and snarling and not knowing what to do.

Then the God lashed out and Buster’s teeth went into his flesh. It was an accident but Buster tasted blood and then the God kicked him in the face.

After that the rules were gone. Buster forgot what little of the law he’d ever learned from his God and he charged in. He sank his teeth into the big God’s flesh and this time he meant it. His teeth went in deep and he gripped hard, even as the God tried to pull him off. He felt his teeth tearing through the God’s flesh and it felt good.

More Gods were gathering. They were shouting and waving their arms about and someone was trying to force a stick between Buster’s jaws. Finally they dragged him away and got something tied around his muzzle to hold his jaws shut.

Buster realised he was in trouble again, but he really didn’t know why. The Gods were angry with him and the cat was gone. He wondered if his master would come and collect him now.

Or maybe the cat would reappear, the way she did and help him. Maybe she was some kind of God herself. Buster didn’t know. He only knew he was in trouble. Again.

 

 (To  be continued…)

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