Mary Powell: “But For the Grace of My Cat”

“Are you sure that’s what you want to do?” my mate Les asked.

“Yeah.  I’m sure enough to give it a go.”

“Well it’s over to you.  I like her, don’t get me wrong but she doesn’t seem your type.  You need to be with someone like Amy.”

“Yes, well, Amy doesn’t want me. So we can forget about that.”

“Well obviously not Amy but someone like her – more easy going.  Someone who likes a laugh.”

“Just because Julie doesn’t laugh at your jokes doesn’t mean she doesn’t like a joke. She can be very funny sometimes.”

“Be it on your own head, then. But take it from me. It won’t work out. She’s not your type.”

Les being so against it made me keener. I’m not sure why but I wanted to prove him wrong.  Besides I fell for Julie the moment I saw her. She’s got blonde hair and blue eyes, rather like the girl arrested for smuggling drugs in Bogotá. When I saw that picture I thought for a moment it was Julie. Silly of course because I was with her the night before.

I decided I’d talk to her on Wednesday when we had dinner at our favourite place, Hanoi Hannah in Windsor.

I met her there and we managed to get a table outside where it isn’t so noisy although you’ve got the trams but nothing like the din you can get inside.  I wanted to be able to concentrate.

We were served our wine and Julie said for about the fiftieth time. “I wish they had proper wine glasses. I hate drinking wine out of these glasses. They’re for water.”

I let that pass as I always do and ordered our usual – pork belly sliders, lime and pepper squid, prawn spring rolls and vermicelli salad with crispy tofu.

‘Do you want to try something else to vary it a bit?” I asked ever hopeful.

“No that’s what we always have. We like it so why risk trying something else.”

Julie is always like that, once she’s found something she likes or doesn’t like for that matter, she sticks to it.

I was not sure how to get on to the subject of moving into together. I fussed about a bit then I just launched into it.

“Hey,” I said. “How about we move in together?”

“What?” said Julie. As she said it the food came and we had to shuffle around to make room for it on the table.

When we’re settled I said it again, “Why don’t we move in together. We get on well. We should give living together a try.”

“You mean you move into my room?” Julie shared a house with her friend, Helen.

“No. I was thinking you move in with me. Share my place. It’s big enough for two.”

She stared at me with her big blue eyes. “Have you never noticed that I try to avoid going to your place?”

“Do you? I hadn’t really noticed. Why?”

“You mean it never occurred to you that we are always at mine.”

“I suppose we are. It’s just worked out that way. I go home with you and stay there. What’s wrong with my place?”

“It’s not the place. It’s the cat.”


“That’s a really stupid name, you know.”

“It’s a sort of joke name.” I didn’t mention that Amy had thought of it and we’d laughed over it. “What’s wrong with him?”

“He’s a cat and not even a pure breed or anything. And ugly. Have you notice how ugly he is?  Black and white everywhere. But no pattern. Just sort of splashed around. Messy. Anyway I can’t live with a cat.”

My mouth dropped open. I was stunned. Then I said,

“Why didn’t you tell me you don’t like cats?” A picture of Tiddles coming to greet me when I opened my door filled my head. He always gave a stretch and a yawn, then rubbed around my legs.

“It never came up.” Julie said, “But we could try living together if you get rid of the cat. I’m getting a bit tired of Helen.” She said this quite calmly.

“What do you mean by ‘get rid of’?”

“Oh you could give him to someone. Les might want him or you could take him to an animal shelter.”

I had never noticed until that moment what a small mean mouth Julie had. It was always beautifully made up with a ruby coloured lipstick. Now some of the lipstick had come off.

“I’m not getting rid of Tiddles. Tiddles stays.”

“So you prefer Tiddles to me?” Her voice was cold.

I was beginning to feel sick and the pork sliders seemed rich.

“Why didn’t you tell me you didn’t like Tiddles.” I said. Angry, now. “Why wait until now?”

“He’s just a cat. What’s the big deal? Cats leave their fur around and their dirt boxes stink. They yowl. I’m not living with one.”

Her face began to look sly and rat-like, and her eyes got rather hard and narrow. I’d seen the expression before but not thought about it.  Then I thought about Tiddles. I thought ‘you wonderful cat you would catch a rodent if you had a chance’. My loyalty to Tiddles made me want to protect him.

“Well.” I said, “I guess it is not going to work then.”

She got up, “So you prefer a moth-eaten cat to me. Well thanks very much. I know where I stand now.” She marched off with a parting shot.

“You can pay for this. Why don’t you take the rest of the food home for your wonderful cat.”

I paid the bill and rang Les,

“How about a beer?”

“Things not go well then?”

I almost heard him grinning.

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