Guy Fawkes’ Night – which will add some vague, visual and historical, romantic poetics to an otherwise quite commonplace tale – I discovered a cat, a tiny, shadow of a cat, on the front door mat. She mouthed a yellow miaow, which is cat chat for thank you (I picked up some cat, not to any great degree, back east. I get by:
Wake up. I’m hungry.
This mouse is broken.
When’s the next train to…
She ran between my legs and disappeared into the living room, where she took refuge beneath the bed that was kept there. Her arrival that night was heralded with exploding trumpets, a galaxy of Catherines, with snare drum tattoos and with hammered air. Stukas strafed the back yard revellers and Wellesley Road was shattered into (easily) one hundred pieces, revealing the commonplace to be even more diabolical than usual. The rhomboid houses, menacing; the yellow, rain filled belljars, trembling; the slow traffic of people and metal, bending; the rise and fall of voices, unholy, all took on a new nature, bowing like windblown glass, just enough, to allow a glimpse of a something other, before shrinking, shrieking back to mundanity again.
The following morning she came out from under there and taking in her new surroundings, jumped up onto the bed. She had three black paws and one white. She licked her white paw, drew it over her face, like this. She never gave her name, but came, on occasion, to Boots. She came and went as she pleased, sleeping away the winter on the clean, warm bed. The late morning light enlivening the room. She loved that. She sought the winter sun in the unkempt yard and beyond the fence of an afternoon. She loved the yellow crochet blanket adorning the bed. She said she loved it here.
It was a single, simple bed by the window, behind the sofa. It no longer seemed unusual. Luella and I moved it from the old bedroom and set it up in the living room for her mother’s return. But she never came. Luella says she dreams of her in black and white. She keeps her ashes in the cupboard underneath the stairs. “She says she likes it there.”
Christmas, Luella invited her dealer over. “He’s got nowhere else to go.” Dips had been thrown out of his basement due to his landlord kicking up a stink over four months unpaid rent and the issue of a small fire that had broken out in the greasy kitchen blackening the ceramic back splash and the ceiling above the hob. He stayed until late February, at least.
The winter sun barely rose and fell above the fence and the radiators groaned and the utility company wrote needy letters. We spent an extraordinary amount of time in the living room. Luella looking old hunching over the coffee table smoothing black foil, smoothing silver foil. She chews her nails and hair dye stains everything. Dips, stinking of take away, shaking throwaway lighters, cavalier with a candle, always nodding on the sofa, careless and cussing in Hindu. There are black smudges on his hands. Boots sleeps on the clean sheet, the blanket. She knows how to live.
I laid on the carpet, the couch being crowded and covered in crumbs. I listened to a cassette of The Man Who Sold The World all winter on a pair of yellow head phones.
Boots asks me one morning, how come I don’t go out more. “I loves the sun,” she says. “The winter sun’s a promise of what’s to come.” I think I get it. I like the sound of it anyway.
“When I was at primary school,” I say. “I won third prize in a daffodil competition. All the class grew a bulb under the stairs over winter. I won a black and white photo of my yellow runner-up. It made me feel good, made me dream in colour.” But she was asleep again.
I wrote a postcard soon after in a bright windowed cafe in Cardiff. I wanted to say hi, to say sorry. I wanted to explain. But didn’t. Couldn’t. Postcards. I filled the palm sized space with my shrinking black hand without getting that far, even snaking lines way back along the margins and finally (though not so successfully) onto the glossy image on the front, where I penned the horseman in his feathered hat and his raised and wind-torn torch, to be saying “I hope this finds you well, dear L” and his white horse to be saying with a big toothed smile ‘Hello Boots!’
…businessmen and old men and bent women in tweed wore daffodil emblems on their lapels; unembarrassed youths clutched bunches of blooms; children wore yellow, etc. So, I stopped at a stall on the concourse and bought a stem wrapped neatly with a band of foil and a small safety pin and I fixed it to my jumper – when in Rome, ha ha! After the interview (I’ll get to that!) explored the city and when the rain came I ducked into this cafe in King’s Cross and had a pot of tea. There was a local paper on the table and I went to the classifieds. Only realised, after several pages, that it was St. David’s!…’