CHAPTER 5: HEADING FOR HUDDERSFIELD
“Time to get up, Puss and Tabby. Now.” Charlie beckoned.
We were enjoying this basket, though, not to mention the pleasure from our lovemaking last night. It felt sweet like catnip, smelt great like a salmon.
“Cats, I have to get to Brighouse now. Emily’s coming back later today and even though I have a car it will still take some time. Get up now or you’ll have to make your own way to Emily.”
We moved, a little slowly, curious about Emily and anxious to get on our way to Cheshire. “A bit faster, please!” She seemed rather exasperated, although we do like our sleep. We realised in a short moment that we had to get going.
“Have you got any more food? We’re feeling tired.”
“You’ll get some when we reach Emily’s house in Brighouse. Hurry up, the both of you!”
We couldn’t exactly “hurry” in this state, but with a pressing need to meet Emily we did our best. We crawled with trepidation even though it should have been obvious that Schwarzie wasn’t waiting at the door ready to pounce as we got out. The car Charlie had looked strange, so straight and curve-less. She opened one of the doors at the back, and guided us inside.
The car made its way, smoothly, silently and speedily, along the roads out of Halifax, towards a small town that must have been some leagues from here. It looked remarkably like Halifax to us, though, and more pleasant-looking than Queensbury did to me.
“Is this Brighouse?” we asked Charlie as she was bringing the car to a halt.
“Yes it is. Doesn’t it look lovely?”
“A lot better than Bradford, Charlie!” I replied with a lick of my lips and a smirk.
Tabby wasn’t so kind. “It looks kind of grey. Much like the Bradford I know.”
“Bollocks, Tabby! It doesn’t look like Bradford at all!”
Moments later, Charlie helped us get out of the car and walked as we crawled to what must have been her sister’s cottage. It was made of old stone, much older than any ape I know, and the roof was made out of something I’d never seen in my life.
We entered the cottage to find about four humans already there in the living room. Apart from Charlie there were an old, fat woman with dark grey hair similar to Charlie, who I assumed to be Emily. Three younger versions of her, meaning one adult with brownish hair similar to my fur colour; one little monkey with blonde hair, and another little monkey with brown hair.
“This is Emily” Charlie pointed at the old woman on our right. Emily looked almost exactly like Charlie but had darker clothes than Charlie.
“Hello, Emily, I’m Puss. Charlie told me about you and so did Rob up your street.”
“I’m Tabby. I love Puss but his journey doesn’t interest me so much, mind.”
“The news I’d be in Brighouse this weekend obviously didn’t get through to Rob. Maybe he was busy with one of his projects again. I had him as my assistant years ago.”
“Tell me more, Emily. You seem over-curious about us for no reason.”
Emily almost instantly sat us down on her huge sofa and began to recite her long tale. “Well, I was born just a few roads from here; I’ve lived in Halifax most of my life despite teaching at Colne Valley University in Huddersfield for a few years although I spent a lot of my life on the other side of the River Calder when I used to be what’s called a zoopsychologist. That’s a human who studies how animals think, do and be, and I’m fascinated with cats. And dogs, but the talking dogs aggravate me a lot more. That black dog reminds me of another little black dog from my youth called Theron, which means hunter in a language called Ancient Greek. He was owned by a neighbourhood lout whose name I can no longer remember, and that lout kept annoying me with Theron, who was small but boy could he bite. I’ve still got those bite marks on my bum today, even though Theron’s long dead and buried. “
“What happened to the bloke who owned him, back in the days dogs were usually owned by humans?” I was tempted to say apes or chimps just then but dared not do so in Emily’s big, bossy presence in her huge if harmonious house.
“Don’t bother trying to find him. From what I heard, he left for Manchester about 40 years ago and I don’t even know if he’s still alive. I hope not.”
“Anyway, in my time, cats and dogs couldn’t talk human. Now you can, but I don’t know precisely why or how you learned it; it may have something to do with radiation leaks which accelerated evolution but which, combined with a global virus, killed much of the cat and dog population in the UK. I have my doubts. You still hiss and purr and miaow a lot when you speak to us, though. You’re still cats to me, and I know generally what you want. I should have a ball of string somewhere-play with that for a moment so you don’t end up scratching my sofa and leave all your fur everywhere.”
“That explains why I can’t see any cats on this floor.” Tabby mused.
“Yeah, they have to stay upstairs. No exceptions for you two, just so we’re clear. Once you’ve finished whatever you need to do for today, you come up those stairs on your right. Tonight I’ll show you which basket you’ll be sleeping in, and you stay there. This is not only for my sake but for yours. Dogs can’t jump or climb to the windows on the first floor, so you’ll be safer there.”
“We knowwww” we miaowed together.
“Just explaining to you why you’ve got to be upstairs not downstairs.”
“How big is your house?” I asked.
“There’s three floors plus the attic, but don’t you go climbing in there. There’s no mice or rats for you to find if you’re asking.”
“That’s not what we came here for, Emily.” I replied. “About this Rob fellow who told me about you last night-who is he?”
“Rob is my friend and we share a fondness for cats. He’s married with two daughters and like me has lived here virtually all his life. He’s got too many cats, though, I’ll tell you that. I told him not to take any more into his house; it’s full of cat hair.”
“He told us he wouldn’t take no more strays, yeah.” I said.
“He’s not the sharpest tool in the shed compared to me but he’s not stupid either. He understands your plight as talking cats, and he has no time for dogs or rats or snakes.”
Tabby said, “Yeah. He also said you could help us if a snake escaped from one of the houses here.”
Emily sniggered at this. “He was joking about that. I’ve only seen a snake escape from a bedroom once in my life on this street, just after I moved here about five years ago. It was a long python and we all wondered how it got there or where it went. Thankfully it was distracted by something underground; otherwise I’d have lost a cat. It was ravenous and probably escaped because whoever kept it or charmed it into their house forgot to feed it. You cats are a lot less expensive and tiresome to feed.”
“We do like our meals, Emily, don’t be so sure!” we chuckled. Turning our heads a little bit we asked, “By the way, who are those other three people?”
“This is Lily, my daughter, and my granddaughters, Kim and Kanyeigh.” Emily replied.
We were focused on Emily and showed no interest in those three, or Charlie for that matter.
“They’re right here in front of you two.”
“Hello, Lily, Kim, Kanyeigh.”
“Hi” they chorused in unison. They seemed delighted.
“Hey, mister, got any balls of wool on you?”
Lily wagged her finger, saying, “Kanyeigh, those cats aren’t our pets, we heard them talk human.”
Kanyeigh sighed. “Oh okay.”
“Why would I have any balls of wool on me?” I asked Kanyeigh, annoyed at this stupid frequently asked question. “Also, how did you get a name like Kan-yeigh?”
“Me and my sister were named after those singers who are now President and Vice President of the United States of America, Kim Kardashian West and Kanye West.”
I sniggered, licking my lips. “And people thought my name, Puss Inbrains, was funny. I think it’s daft.”
Kim, not impressed with Kanyeigh’s question either (I could tell by the way she was looking down even though neither me nor Tabby could see her face properly from ’ere), whispered, “We got lucky. We could have ended up being North and Saint.”
She then turned to Tabby. “What are you planning to do today?” she asked, clearly a smarter question than Kanyeigh’s.
“Get back on our way to Cheshire-“
“Not quite yet.” Emily interrupted. “My eldest sister Anne also has an interest in meeting talking cats. She’s down in Huddersfield where I used to lecture. I’ve been retired for five years and I needed to be closer to Lily, Kim, and Kanyeigh here since their dad’s long gone from the family scene. Branwell, his name was, or Bran for short. He only stayed with Lily for a few years, and he was always a bit lazy and indolent. I think he’s in Leeds at the mo, but he moves around so much Kim and Kanyeigh find it hard to keep up their monthly visit with him.”
At least I know where my dad is and what he’s doing. Forever asleep nowadays. Same with my mum since four seasons ago.
Tabby enquired, “Are you taking us to Huddersfield? We need to keep going south to Cheshire. Still don’t know whether it’s Marple or Bramall.” Turning to me she said, “Puss, you really need to get more useful info on where we need to be. Cheshire’s huge!”
“I can’t get hold of Thelonius from here.”
“Who’s Thelonius?” Emily asked, having overheard our little chat.
“Thelonius is our friend down in Cheshire. Him and Molly are having kittens soon.”
“Oh how sweet!” Emily remarked. “I’ve raised many kittens in my lifetime, and helped Lily with her two little girls, my granddaughters. I’d love to come and see them but I’ve got too many things to do in Yorkshire. Anne could help though.”
“When I’ve sorted a few things out-“
“Emily, I have to get going now.” Charlie pointed out in the middle of all this. “I have to take my car with me so please arrange your own transport for these two cats to Huddersfield, since cats still can’t drive.”
“I never said they could. Only that they could talk.”
“Not really relevant. The point is, I’m going now; please contact me this afternoon.”
“Yes I will, Charlie, once Lily, Kim, and Kanyeigh have gone home. Say bye to your great aunt Charlie, girls.”
“Bye!” Kim and Kanyeigh waved.
“Bye” Lily waved almost at the same time.
“See ya, Charlie” we waved with our paws. Our tongues flicked rapidly as we waved our goodbyes. We got the feeling we’d see her again along our journey, though.
“I’ve got to sort out those old cupboards upstairs. You two stay downstairs for now. Lily would like a word.” She pointed at us. She then waved her hand in the direction of the smaller two of the other three humans nearby. “Kim, Kanyeigh, help Nana clear those cupboards upstairs please.”
Kim and Kanyeigh looked disinterested to say the least.
“Oh, Nana, there’s nothing interesting in there.” Kim groaned. “And they take hours to clear.”
“There might be, Kim, if you look hard enough. And it’s not that difficult, just lend us a hand, there’s a dear.”
“Kanyeigh and I are playing this game-“
“Can you finish it, then, please, girls?”
“Kim, please just do what Nana says for a minute. You can return to your game later” Lily told her sharply.
At least Kim and Kanyeigh could clear the cupboards if they got off their bloody backsides. We cats couldn’t; we’d just knock all and sundry over and break everything even if we tried not to. Mind you, kittens can be even lazier than small humans or “children” as they’re usually called by them humans.
“Get up the stairs and help Nana, please. Now. I’m going to count to three. One, two…”
“Coming, Nana!” the little girls shouted before Lily could finish her sentence.
“So, Lily,” Tabby turned to her, “Emily said you wanted a word with us.”
“A short one, yes. Tabby, Puss, have you ever thought about going to a cat groomer?”
“No, not at all. We like our fur the way it is.”
“There’s clumps of cat hair on my mum’s sofa. In my experience that usually happens with long-haired cats like the-“
“I’m not long haired!” I hissed, annoyed.
“I’m not either!” Tabby concurred.
“Can you not make that nasty hissing noise, please, Puss? And your hair is getting long and your fur rather shaggy.”
“How should I know?”
“A mirror might help. I’ll ask Kim to show you using her hand mirror, and not using her tablet screen.”
“My fur’s fine the way it is.”
“It’s getting a little long, Puss.” Tabby surprisingly purred.
“Really? I mused.”It was okay last night, weren’t it?”
“Well, I didn’t notice last night, okay?”
“No need to have a hissy argument, kitties.” Lily reminded us, unhelpfully.
“Since when’s it your place to know, Lily? This is our chat, not yours.”
“For cats you’re getting pretty loud especially when you’re this close to me.”
“We’re not on your friggin’ lap, Lily.”
“Maybe not, but keep your voice down, you two.”
Whilst we were arguing amongst ourselves and Lily, Kim and Kanyeigh suddently rushed down with two balls of red and white string. What joy!
“Here-catch.” Kim shouted across the hallway. “Don’t wreck it; Nana’ll be needing that back.”
“We’re hardly going to rip it apart with our claws.” Tabby retorted.
“I’ll be watching you anyway, I know what you cats can get up to when we’re not around.” Lily told us firmly. Kim nodded in agreement, as did Kanyeigh just behind her.
“I call red!”
“I call white!”
String is string, really.
We sensed it’d be a while before Emily could get us to Huddersfield, so we started unrolling the balls of string to see what we could do other than just make a mess of string that doesn’t lead anywhere, never mind to Cheshire. As I was trying to make something them humans might consider “art”, whatever that is, Tabby whispered,
“Something’s up here, Puss.”
“I’ve got a bad feeling about all this.”
“She’ll help us get to Cheshire, which is where we need to be right now.”
“Stop purring on about Cheshire for a moment, will you?”
Tabby was rather pissed off at this point, and I knew I just had to listen so we could stay together.
“Okay, then. Go on.”
“Puss, why’d Emily just take us in like that when she didn’t know us?”
Why indeed. What was going on here?
“And why her sister Charlie who didn’t have any cats in her house?”
“Something’s not quite pucker, Puss. I’m not sure this were a good idea.”
“How the fuck should I know, Tabby?”
“Think for a moment, Puss. She’s never met us before, we’ve never been here, and yet she just takes us in. She might have a secret cage somewhere in this house, like that couple did. She just went on and on without asking us anything. “
“Humans like to bleat on and on, though. We just get bored and wander away.”
“She’s got something to hide. I really don’t think we should go to Huddersfield with her.”
“She’s okay; she just talks too much. We’ll be fine.”
“Are you sure, Puss?”
“Yeah, course I am.”
“Are you absolutely sure, Puss?”
“Yes, Tabby!” I shouted, unable to control my voice. I instantly realised that Emily had overheard us, all the while as we were creating nice shapes with the ball of string.
At that moment, Emily came downstairs and was surprised at what we’d managed to come up with amidst those balls of string.
“My, my, a beautiful red and white triangle. Like a Tudor rose but triangular.”
“What’s up, Emily?”
“You can both come with me to Huddersfield now, once you’ve put the string to one side.”
I was delighted given how long we’d had to spend with the string.“Yes!” My whiskers twitched with delight.
Tabby still wasn’t sure. “Okay” she said with wariness.
“Wave goodbye to Puss and Tabby, kids.” Lily said in the background.
“Bye!” they chorused cheerfully.
We purred back at them, eager to get out of here.
We followed Emily outside, myself with delight, Tabby with boredom at being stuck inside the cottage. We both like to wander, but Tabby more so.
“My car’s over here.”
“Looks very sleek” I remarked. “Like us cats.”
“Except you, Puss.” Tabby retorted, “with all that long fur.”
“Come and lie down on the back seat. It’s one of the largest in its class.”
“What do you mean?” I queried.
“Well, it’s one of the biggest seats you can find in cars today. That’s what I mean.” Emily explained.
She ushered us inside the back, turned on the car via a panel with a screen in the middle, and the car drove away slowly from her cottage. There was a screen between us and her in the driver’s seat-but why?
Just moments later it became clear why she saw it as important. Emily was talking to someone through that panel and we could hear what she was saying since the screen had a gap in it somewhere
“….Professor Warburton, yes.”
“…I’ve got two curious talking cats with me who should be of interest to your project, which was my project before I retired and became an emeritus…”
“I’m only four minutes from your Huddersfield HQ now. I’ll coax the cats inside….”
Tabby scratched me gently to get my attention. “Puss, I’ve heard enough! What does she mean by project?”
“Well, Tabby, she said she was curious about how we learned to talk like humans did.”
“This sounds bad. We never fucking agreed to this shit, Puss!”
“It might be a different sort of project.”
“If she’s obsessed with cats it must be about us two. Where were those other cats?”
“Hmm….I didn’t hear any, or maybe they were keeping quiet.”
Moments later, a horn blared inside the car. “We’re here-time to come out!” Emily said.
We stopped outside a strange, huge building of design older than she, let alone us. A set of double doors were on the left, which Emily told us to come into.
“Emily, what’s going on here?”
“You’ll see when you come into this building nearby.”
“Do we have to?”
“Yes, come on. Anne’s waiting for you.”
“Your sister Anne.”
“Yes, and another Anne, Anne-Marie.”
Anne-clearly younger than either Charlie or Emily-greeted us at the steps of the double doors, and announced,
“Welcome to Kirklees University, celebrating its centenary this year. We’ve got a project for you to take part in so we humans and you cats can help each other.”
“So you can prepare for the project, here are some feeding bowls filled with meat and fish.”
We were getting hungry, so we leapt at the bowls almost as soon as we stepped inside.
“Try not to make a mess-eat a bit more slowly.”
Just as we were eating from the bowls we heard the huge double doors slam shut behind us.
We were trapped!