Oh shit! Not dogs again! To our slight relief we saw that they were Labradors, not as bad as German Shepherds but frightening enough to sleepy cats.
“Wake up, kitties!” they barked loudly.
“Yeah, we smelled you all the way here! We could have found you with our eyes closed!”
There was a human behind them who must have been a good friend of theirs, or still believed he could own dogs. He came up to us and said, in a rather annoyed voice,
“You two! The park’s not open until eight o’clock! How the hell did you get in here?”
What the heck did “eight o’clock” even mean? Must be something to do with human time; it makes no sense to me. Since when was there a “cat o’clock”?
“Just squeezed through the fence. How did you notice us anyway?”
“It stinks of cat shit and cat piss from a mile away-yours. I only walked by here to run some stupid o’clock errand for my missus.”
Tabby inquired, “Missus? Is that supposed to mean your lover?”
“Yes I do, my wife, hence the term ‘Mrs’. Mrs-missus. Get it?”
“Who are you anyway?” I purred, a bit loudly but not too loudly. I was still a little tired.
He went into a bored, dreary rant. “I’m the park keeper, and the gardener of this park to boot. I’m also sick of cats and small dogs squeezing through the fence to make a mess of this park; idiots keep breaking the bars of this fence, either for kicks or because they’re stone drunk. It costs us £5000 a year just to repair the broken fence and to clear up all the mess you make every time you get in here. We hardly ever catch them hoodlums in the act of bending the fence bars or stealing them either, so we never get any money back from them. It all falls on me because the local council won’t give me more money for an assistant or for stronger fences and there’s no way they’ll put cameras up that close to the fence because the residents don’t want cameras constantly looking at children playing in the park in case some sex pest gets hold of the surveillance photos. I could have quit five years ago and run my own business, done something useful for once but my missus didn’t want me risking our money on any ventures. There are no good jobs around here and haven’t been fer years so here I am stuck looking after this stupid fucking park and having the council and all those families always on my back. I wish we could put all the cats and dogs back in cages by law-”
I yawned, “If you’re going to yack on and on we’re just going to leave.”
“Yeah, seriously, shut up, will you?”
“Well, do that then. No one’s stopping ya.”
We just wanted to be left alone and we were running scared of those dogs anyway, so we ran from his stupid rant as fast as we could-only to discover twenty paces to our right an even worse sight-a harlequin cat just lying there in the stone cold ground, clearly dead.
“Shit! It looks like that legend Felix to me.”
“Bollocks, Puss, Felix’s just a legend. The cat just looks like him. His picture may be famous but none of us have ever seen him in person, and why would he hang around scrubland like this anyway?”
“He could hang around anywhere. We cats go anywhere we please, as long as we can avoid getting run over or eaten by dogs.”
“Well, you’re staying with me for now, Puss, and not just in the way you want to.” Tabby stared directly into my eyes to make it clear she meant it.
I went towards the cat, taking a closer look to make sure it wasn’t Thelonius either. Thelonius didn’t have the same fur colouring as this cat anyway, although his fur was mostly black. I wondered how exactly that cat died, ’cause they hadn’t been scratched or bitten or anything like that. The cat’s fur was starting to sag, and the cat didn’t twitch at all, so I was only sure the cat was dead.
There was a small box next to him which had been ripped half-open; on its side its lettering read “Bramhall”. Were that the place we needed to go? Outside the box was a mouse-shaped thing, and it looked inviting. It was a strange white in colour, and looked like a nice snack, despite its lack of a tail. I prefer food with tails so I can swing it around before eating it.
“Remember, Puss,” Tabby called out, “white mice are not real mice; don’t eat them.”
“I’m not going to, Tabby; it’s clear that they killed this cat. And that mouse doesn’t have a fucking tail anyway.”
“I’m still watching you anyway just to make sure.”
We just walked away from that cat, knowing that dead is dead and we could do no more. Them humans still talk about heaven or passing away. It don’t mean nothing to us cats, especially when a lot of dead things end up through our mouths and passing out the other end anyway. It would be a while before crows would circle around the dead cat, not that I’d seen any dead cats before outside.
How I wish I’d been able to eat some crow chicks six nights ago after escaping from that little dog-ravens guard their nests so fiercely and loudly.
As it happened, I was in luck-further out in the field, I spotted a pair of crows pecking away at the carcass of a deer, and wondered how the deer ever got into that park. Deer live in forests, that’s something that we cats, them dogs, and them big arrogant apes all know. It had clearly been chewed by an angry dog, given the gash in its leg, and subsequently bled to death.
“Hey, Tabby,” I whispered upon spotting the crows. “Look over there. An early breakfast!”
We crept towards the crows with grace and slickness, with them too busy pecking bits of the deer to notice us, despite our size. The crow were jackdaws, to our relief; ravens are vicious and smart. If I’d tried this tactic with the raven back near Brighouse I’d have had my eyes pecked out and been bitten senseless by that damned dog to boot.
I leapt towards the jackdaw, surprising it and catching it by the scruff of its wing. “Hey!” he cried back. “I’m just pecking-aaak! Aaaakk!” The jackdaw swished at me with his claws, but could only scratch me. He struggled mightily but my jaws were too quick, as were my claws, which tore into his breast. I pounced on him again, this time grabbing him by the neck. He choked, gave up just like that, and then with one sharp, strong bite to the neck I severed the jackdaw’s head, silencing him forever. To my annoyance I found that Tabby had got the better jackdaw.
“Haha, I got the bigger crow, Puss,” Tabby teased, dropping the other jackdaw, also dead, from her jaws as she teased me. “Prepare to eat small crow.”
“Breakfast is breakfast, Tabby.” I retorted.
We spent quite a while feasting on the pair of jackdaws. My jackdaw may have been smaller than Tabby’s but I still got a decent meal having stripped the jackdaw to feathers and bones, savouring my lips with every bite. Normally we had to be content with rats, mice, and the odd squirrel up a tree. Jackdaws were a rare treat indeed.
That good meal didn’t help us with our bigger problems though-like we still didn’t know where to go nor whether Cheshire Cat was in Marple or Bramhall. This was a big park too-which exit should we come out of?
We went right over to the south side of the park only to find a stream blocking it-one we couldn’t slosh through; cats can’t even paddle let alone swim. We also spotted a sign by the stream saying:
THIS PENNINE PARK STREAM IS FOR OLDHAM SWANS ONLY
TRESPASSERS WILL BE PROSECUTED
We couldn’t run in the open park all day, either, as a shrill voice overhead reminded us.
It sounded like a golden eagle-yikes! I fear the squawks of eagles as much as I hate dogs; I can’t soar like an eagle so I couldn’t get my own back on them either. I had to be eagle-eyed to dodge them.
“Tabby, let’s hide. I just heard an eagle squawk!”
“A golden eagle? They don’t live around here, they live in the Highlands!”
“Just get into the trees!” I said.
Wise move. Nothing flew down towards us; we were well fed and on the move so there were no point in us climbing any of the trees, even though a tempting squirrel’s tail lurked above. How I just wanted to chew it and string it along like a ball of wool.
Where was the way out of the park?
We both crawled west, after listening to check that there was no golden eagle flying overhead. Turns out the stream was longer than it looked-and it were even wider at that end. It looked more like a river!
“No exit there, either.”
“Ach!” That eagle must’ve still been flying over the park!
“Puss, hurry up and get us out of the park!”
“Which way do you think, then?”
“Just go north! Honestly!”
We treaded carefully north, again watching right and left to make sure that we would not see a golden eagle. We did see the deer carcass again-and this time it was surrounded by a whole flock of crows, each getting a bite out of the deer. We veered round right away-if they spotted us, we were going to end up like that deer for surely they’d avenge the death of that pair of jackdaws that to us were just breakfast. They were too busy to notice us walking on by, thank fuck for that deer carcass!
It still weren’t what they called “eight o’clock” as we could see the gates ahead were still closed. The sun had risen though so it must’ve been pretty close. We hurried quickly toward the fence again, looking for the gap, when-oh no-the golden eagle flew up above, and it spotted us. But amazingly it just flew on by.
“Puss, if you look up, the eagle’s gorra cygnet in his claws. We’ll get away if you move fast.”
I didn’t have time to check that, but I did have time to find the hole in the fence again. We crawled out, and found ourselves on the road that bloke dropped us off at last night. His car were long gone, though, and we had no way of finding him. We had no idea which road we were on, nor which way we were supposed to be going. We were lost in Saddleworth, with no one walking around, but lots of cars rushing around!
As we walked along the road, we could see the man who rudely woke us up from our beauty sleep had a point-the road was cracked and had at least as five potholes in ten paces. The pavement was marked by scrawls of chalk saying “Bring bak Oldham FC”, “ZANE”, along with a large “A” inside a circle so badly drawn it looked like a bird’s egg. We could have drawn better than that with our own claws, and whoever chalked that first one couldn’t spell, either. At the end of a fence was a sign saying “Save Southport Society” although it must’ve said something else as well because the middle bit had been ripped out for no apparent reason.
Ten paces later we found the road sign, and saw that it said “Faultless Road”.
A wide, ageing woman who looked like a King Charles spaniel the way she was dressed walking by the sign said with mirth, “That road’s had nothing but faults since they renamed it!”
“When did they rename it?” Tabby asked.
“Never you mind. What would you cats know about it?”
“Nothing much. What I wanted to ask was-”
“What?” she interrupted me. “Whether I have any food? I don’t, so jog on.”
“Actually we wanted to ask-”
“Don’t care. Ask someone else. I’m going to be late for work!”
She huffed off, leaving us standing by the misnamed sign. All we wanted were directions to Bramhall-or was it Marple? We couldn’t give a fuck about whether she’d be late for work or not when we were lost!
Luckily a few moments later, a tall, thin man walked by the road. He looked similar to the man who woke us up but didn’t have any dogs with him, so we leapt up and asked,
“Er, excuse me, could you tell me how to get to Marple or Bramhall?”
“Easiest way’s across Manchester.” he replied.
“How do we get there?”
He was annoyed at this simple question. “Fucking hell….you’re clearly not local cats, are you? Have you never been to Manchester? Have you even heard of Manchester?”
“No, not at all.”
“There’s a tram stop a few miles from here, in Oldham. Walk back along the fence, then turn left just after the end of that fence along the park, and there should be a sign telling you where the stop is.”
Drat! We’d gone completely the wrong way, again. We were going to miss the kittens at this rate. If only we had a way of getting in touch with Thelonius….
Failing that, we just had to trust the human’s directions, however light they were. We turned onto a road named “Lovelady Close”, which was if anything even more unloved as Faultless Road, given that the sign just lay in the pavement. At least the sign on Faultless Road was screwed on. A rather ragged grey cat, who looked like he hadn’t eaten for days, strayed along the road, looking for anything that had been dumped there, or a rat that was scavenging the remains of food. Despite his glassy eye, he noticed us walking right by him and hissed, “Hey! This is my road. What are you doing here?”
“Just passing through on the way to Oldham.” I replied nervously.
“Get a fucking move on then before I scratch you.”
He were no use to us, anyway, since he probably didn’t know where Marple or Bramhall were. Other cats are rarely helpful anyway. We prefer our personal space, thank you very much. We walked along the road, and it didn’t get any less unloved, nor did we see any queencats or ladies. Not that they’d ever tempt me from my Tabitha!
Next road after that was the pleasant sounding “Acacia Avenue” which didn’t contain a single tree in sight. Not any living trees in sight, that is-we saw a small twig like tree that had been chopped down. It certainly hadn’t been chewed through by a beaver, not had the shit pecked out of it by a woodpecker. That was human work. We did hear something interesting as we walked along the avenue…
“...in entertainment news, the last living member of the original cast of Star Trek, George Takei, passed away last night at the age of 112. Mr Takei, famous for his role as Mr Sulu in Star Trek: The Original Series….”
It was coming from some recording thing that had been just left on the ground, and which was not even the size of my left paw. What the fuck was Star Trek about, anyway? The last time I saw stars was when I fell down the stairs a few moons ago, well before I set off on this trip to find Thelonius and Molly.
As I wondered about this, Tabby told me, “Puss, are you sure this is the right direction? I can’t see any tram stop in sight.”
“He did say it’d be a few miles or summat to the tram stop around Oldham.”
“A few miles or summat? What’s that supposed to mean?”
“We’ll have to keep walking.”
“Fucking hell, Puss!”
“At least we’re at the end of Acacia Avenue now.”
“Yeah, but that doesn’t help.”
“Hang on, I can see something tall in the distance. Look to your left.”
“Is it a signpost?”
“Looks like it.”
Helpfully enough, as we turned onto yet another misnamed road- “Feathers Lane”-the sign became clear. I jumped up to see what it said, but couldn’t quite make it out. I briefly saw the words “tram stop” though, and past the sign I saw some long metal rails across the road. I walked across to wonder what they were for-but just then a big long yellow box with eight wheels and six doors-this must have been what they called a tram-whizzed towards me quickly but silently, and I only just jumped back in time.
“Puss, that way.” Tabby pointed further left.
The “tram stop” looked tired and battered. I could immediately see another “Bring back Oldham FC” tag on the glass, although this time they’d bothered to spell it correctly and it was in black marker pen. Almost covering it was an awful scrawl saying “Addie Lawson is a big fat hoe” with each letter being the size of my head. The tram that had nearly sliced my paws off a moment ago glided to a halt at the stop, and Tabby and I rushed towards it.
However, as soon as it stopped, there was a cascade of feet coming out of it, making us judder a bit for our own safety. There was no way we could have sneaked onto that tram; we’d have been trampled by about a hundred apes and they’d have been rushing too quickly to stop for us. There were two humans waiting at the stop, a young man and an older man, but just as the men got on the tram doors closed leaving us in the cold.
We walked on past the tram stop along whichever road this was-we couldn’t see a street sign so we just walked on. Another tram stop eventually came into view-this one was cleaner and unmarked. Were it the right stop for Manchester, though?
We clambered on to what passed for a bench at this tram stop; the old man sitting on it surprisingly just ignored us both. Another yellow tram whizzed into view-and we weren’t going to miss our chance this time. Just as the door opened for the old man, we immediately jumped through another set of doors, which somehow alarmed the guy.
“Where are you two going?” he asked us. He certainly wasn’t pleasant looking by any means. As we clambered onto the seats, we saw he had thick grey eyebrows and a face like an old boar’s, with a moustache just like a boar’s tusks too.
“Uh, Bramhall.” I replied naturally.
“This tram doesn’t stop at Bramhall. You’ll have to get to Manchester first. And where’s yer owner?” he asked.
“We haven’t got one. Lots of cats like us are now free, remember?”
“When did that happen?”
“I don’t know.” Tabby replied gruffly. “I was born this way.”
The guy was clearly puzzled by our presence, as if it weren’t normal now to see cats walking and talking around the street. He knocked on the driver’s door of the tram at the end of it but found no-one was there. We couldn’t see anyone else on board either, apart from an old lady snoozing in the corner-so who was driving the tram? Or what?
We noticed a sign saying “Please keep your feet off our seats-penalty £100” at the back of the seats we’d climbed onto but we both decided that paws didn’t count as feet, since it meant ’uman feet. What did £100 mean to us anyway? We’d never even seen £100. A bigger, more obvious sign right by the window seat said, “STOP! Do you have a valid e-ticket or travel pass? You may be liable to a £100 penalty if you fail to show one on demand.” Meant nothing to us either.
The tram jerked on its way through what must have been Oldham, and what we could see out of the window was dull grey. Not a place we needed to be at, then. “How much further to Manchester?” Tabby wondered aloud, not that either person on the tram cared to respond. The old lady still didn’t know we existed even though we’d been on the tram for four stops before another man, this one younger-looking, boarded the tram. He wore bright yellow clothes with a badge. Who was he exactly?
He announced, “Tickets and passes please!”
We had neither, nor had we even seen what they looked like or what they were even for. We hid under the chair hoping not to be spotted, even though the floor was very dirt-streaked and scratched. The old woman finally awoke and told the man, “There are a couple of cats on board this tram who don’t have tickets or passes.”
What did it matter to her? And she were asleep until just then!
“Why would cats have tram tickets?” he replied, rather confused by the woman’s statement.
“They wouldn’t. They must have just jumped on the tram as they were walking by. Don’t know where they’re headed for. Come and have a look for them.”
He looked around, thankfully not noticing us under the seats. “I can’t see any cats here, madam. Where are they?”
“I’m not too sure. I definitely heard their mewing talk; it definitely came from a lady cat.”
“Let me have a look.”
Shit! He were going to find us soon and the tram had just moved off from whatever stop it was, so we had no means of getting away. He walked around the tram but couldn’t find us, even though we noticed his shoes. The old woman pointed out, “try looking under the seats. Cats are pretty short even compared to me, and I’m not even five foot.”
As bad luck would have it, he bent over that moment and noticed my head.
“Excuse me, where did you cats come from?”
“Why the fuck should I tell you that? I don’t know you and I don’t trust you.”
Ignoring my language he said, “Well, you clearly haven’t got tickets, so you’d better answer my questions.”
“We came from Yorkshire.” Tabby piped up.
“Which town in Yorkshire? Yorkshire’s huge, even when you look at Manchester and Lancashire.”
“Halifax.” I lied.
“Halifax?? How did you get from Halifax all the way to near Failsworth? Tell me.”
“It’s a long story….I’d rather not go through it.”
“So did you just wind up here and jump on the tram?”
“Pretty much, mate, yeah.”
He looked down at us for a moment. “You clearly haven’t been on a tram before, since in my four weeks on the job I’ve never seen any cats on board this tram. I’m going to ignore the fact you haven’t got any tickets or passes on you if you get right off at the next stop. Next time I’ll call the CCCU.”
“What the fuck is the CCCU?” I inquired suspiciously.
“Clever Cat Control Unit. Deals with smart-arse talking cats like you two.”
We heard a sudden scraping noise. “Get off here now.” the man in bright yellow told us, pointing at the double doors.
“Right away.” I sighed. “Tabby?”
The tram left us outside a stop called “East Failsworth.” Now here was a place that was rightly named-as we walked past the tram it looked like a failure, it sounded like a failure, and it smelt like one too. The only success surrounding this place was our knowledge that we were heading in the right direction.
Looking towards the trees as we walked further along, I noticed something interesting which really pricked my brain. “Is that what I think it is?” I mused. “It certainly feels like it.”
I got closer and closer to it, and I just had to have whatever it was. “Puss, wait for me!” Tabby cried out after me.
I quickly moved along the path, getting closer and closer to the scent, and Tabby called out, “Puss, where are you going?” We don’t know if this is safe.”
I hustled towards it, and immediately my eyes lit up, my tongue twisted and turned, my eyelashes flicked faster than a hummingbird’s wings flapped, and my ears felt a breeze that otherwise wasn’t there.
It was catnip-row after row of catnip plants! YES! YES! YES!
“Puss, you’re not going to-ohhh, this is such a wonderful sight, such a great feeling. I’ve just got to try it.”
I chewed on the top of the catnip plant, and even Tabby felt powerless to resist. I’d chewed straight through the plant, and immediately felt in paradise, where Posy must have gone to. Tabby and I just rolled over through the catnip plants, squashing them but just unable to get enough of that loving feeling. After this march of nights we had got this truly remarkable sensation, and we just couldn’t stop rolling around and rolling around and rolling around….
After rolling around at least 50 times in all in the patch of catnip plants, we each grabbed as many plants as we could fit in our claws, slicing through the stems given that we could not summon the strength needed to rip them out by the roots. We just wanted more and more but couldn’t find a way to fit the plants into our hands nor did we have pouches. We could still fit around 10 plants onto our front paws, though, although it was going to be stretch walking on our hind legs.
We were still feeling much in paradise with the catnip we’d already eaten, so I slipped a bit right into the grass, which had become a bit wet during that time. It was raining in fact-fuck! Dogs don’t like getting their fur wet but it’s even worse for us cats!
Tabby was struggling too, mind. She was only just able to get out of that state and on her paws; she was completely out of her mind with all the catnip we’d been chewing. This weren’t like Tabby at all; she was always going on at me for just wanting to act like the cat I was, only smarter than cats used to be.
We’d lost all sense of direction as well. Where the heck where we now? Were we still in Failsworth?
We just grabbed as many of the plants as we could, knowing we couldn’t resist. Whilst we were looking up at the clouds, one of which looked like a ginormous mouse with cat-sized ears, we drifted off into a little nap….
We awoke to find ourselves….in a net! Who fired that netgun on us both? Milo and Joshua must’ve tracked us all the way here! But how?
I shouted out loud. “What the fuck, Milo?”
“My name isn’t Milo.” said a firm but not too loud voice. That definitely wasn’t Milo.
“Then why am I in this net?”
“I’ll tell you why. At this moment and time, you’re both under arrest for possession of catnip with intent to supply, without a licence. You do not have to say anything, but it may harm your defence if you do not mention, when questioned, something on which you may later rely on in court. Anything you do say may be given in evidence. Do you understand?”
“Yeah, but why are you doing this? Catnip’s a perfectly good plant, and you’re arresting us just for having it?”
“Having too much of it. You have to have a licence to possess more than two catnip plants at a time, or to sell them. Come with me.”
“Who are you?” Tabby asked.
“I’m PC Cockcroft of the CCCU, and my colleague here is PC Fisher, also from the CCCU.” We quickly realised that this was the same CCCU the man in yellow was talking about!
The two “PCs” brought out two strange devices, which shot hooks towards the nets we were trapped in. The hooks grabbed the nets and dragged them towards whatever car they were driving, only it wasn’t a car. It was a dark blue van with the words “CCCU” written in big yellow letters on the left side, with “Greater Manchester Police” stencilled in white letters below. We were both dragged into the van by the nets, and the double doors of the van slammed shut. We heard the sound of wheels bouncing up and off a path.
But where were they taking us?