Of Landladies and Cats

Written from Neil Gaiman’s story starter for the Guardian.

Of Landladies and Cats

It wasn’t just the murder, he decided. Everything else seemed to have conspired to ruin his day as well. Even the cat. Of course it wasn’t really his fault you could say he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

It all started with the kettle, the flex by the plug had been chewed long ago by some errant rodent a pet of an ex and he had bound it in electrical tape and forgotten about it. But that morning it sparked and fizzed and sent up an acrid smoke into the kitchen. He, Jonathon was of course having his normal 6:30 am shower in tepid water so did not notice until the shrill sound of the fire alarm cut through his morbid musings on dying alone in some dilapidated bedsit.

He skidded out of the shower and grabbed a beige and balding towel, goose bumps immediately arose on his skin. He could smell the fried electric cable and as he was trying to find his little fire extinguisher when the electrics flipped and he was plunged into darkness with nothing other than the wailing screech of the alarm for company. He stubbed his tow and began to blaspheme in a way his mother would have beat him for, the memory of her pulsed in his minds eye and his gritted his teeth and continued swearing more voraciously.

He groping fingers found the cold metal cylinder and he dosed the pathetically small fire, the fumes were acrid though and he stumbled out of his little set of rooms. His eyes were streaming and that was when the cat struck, she was a little calico moggy he had felt sorry for and been feeding, she was flea riddled and had one and a half ears, he loved her. She tried to snug up to his leg in the way she always did but he didn’t see her. He flipped over the cat jarring his coccyx and loosing his towel in the process.

And that was how his landlady found him, laying spread eagle and buff naked being licked by a pet he wasn’t supposed to have and the twang of burnt electrics coming from the flat he had managed to lock himself out off. He sat up red faced and scrabbled for the towel but she was already putting her hands on her hips and saying, ‘Well,’ in that way that made him fear she would be extracting a large cain from somewhere to thrash him. His toe throbbed and he noticed with sinking dispair that it was bleeding, the nail was a mess of shards that had pulped his toe. He could see the line of blood leading to his door and wondered if she would accuse him of doing that on purpose too.

One hand holding up the too merger towel, Jonathan started at the floor as the woman’s voice washed over him, he wasn’t really listening anymore, he wanted her gone, he was late for work now and women always made him tremble when they raised their voices like that.

She unlocked the flat and switched the light switch, huffing when he explained the fire had tripped the RCD. She ordered him to get a torch, stammering he explained he didn’t have one but would unplug the kettle and reset the electrics. She made a gargled noise and he’d known then she was really angry.

Sighing, he flipped the switch and lights popped on through out the flat, her eyes narrowed at the litter tray in the corner of the lounge. Gulping, he excused himself to go and get dressed. He heard her clunking about and tutting, he tried to look after the place but it was falling down! There was mould on the ceiling!

His phone bleeped, work were phoning, hand shaking he answered it, ‘Where are you?’ came the demand. He tried to explain but the caustic, ‘oh really’ killed his voice. He stood there unable to speak in his own defence as they sacked him. He held the phone not quiet believing he wasn’t still asleep and in the clutches of a nightmare.

Coldness burned his stomach, ‘you will be paying for a refit of the kitchen and the cat will have to go..’ the words punched him, he turned red rimmed eyes to the land lady he had momentarily forgotten was there.

‘Not the cat,’ he said quietly.

‘I’m afraid so, it says quiet clearly in your tenancy agreement that no pets are allowed.’ She said treating him to a too big and toothy smile, it was a gash across her pasty face.

‘No,’ he said shaking his head. The cat was all he had really, it wasn’t really his but it needed him!

‘You do not have a choice, I think I shall take it away with me now – the cat rescue people will deal with it… appropriately I am sure,’ she wrinkled her nose in disgust at the poor thing. She wanted his cat dead! That was the only thought that occupied Jonathan’s mind, she wanted to kill the poor little stray. He blocked her way.

She barged past him and scooped the cat up in her arms.

‘No!’ he called raggedly, she just smiled and walked out of the apartment, he followed her in desperation. He wasn’t quiet sure what had happened but he had his cat and the woman lay on the floor an ugly expression of surprise fixed on her dough like features.

Shaking he checked for a pulse and realised he’d killed her. In shock he held the cat too tight and it scratched to escape. Numbly he phoned for an ambulance and wondered if his day could get any worse. The controller on the phone wanted him to do mouth to mouth, he shuddered and stared at his dead land lady.

‘What happened?’ the ambulance crew asked him, he shook his head and told them he didn’t know.

‘There was a fire…’ he said trying to think how to say he’d killed her.

‘The cat! It was trying to get into the house..’ he whispered, ‘my landlady…’

They patted him and fixed his toe, everyone was being very nice to him this worried him it couldn’t last – something really bad was obviously waiting to happen, he was a murderer in hospital. He sighed, he was going to catch a super bug and be sent to prison with it wasn’t he?’

He closed his eyes and hoped that tomorrow would be a better day, his sister had said she would come and look after the cat.

Posted: Thursday, June 27th, 2013 @ 9:49 am
Categories: Uncategorized.
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