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The King of Royal College Street

poetsHouse1

-Chapter Four –
The House of the Poets

Three doors down is The House of the Poets. Two French writers had lived there many, many people years ago. It was empty and sad. But all the cats would gather in the summer for the annual Pow Wow. Mum and I went along too. We watched as the street-cats strutted their stuff. It was a show of strength, get together, and mating ritual, all rolled into one.

Mum had met Dad there. She said Dad had escaped from the Veterinary Hospital. He was on the run so to speak. She fell for the dangerous look in his eyes, and the air of trouble that followed him like a cloud. But the problem with Dad was he never got further than the Poets House. He was captured, days after they met. Two great hair apes took him away.

Dad was a fabulist , Mum liked to say. He told tall tales. Made things-up when it suited him. It was part of his charm she said. I never told her about my fantasies. In one Dad would come back for a check-up at the hospital, and escape again. He would find us, and live in The House of the Poets. It was empty after all.

He would be sad about my brothers and sisters, but happy to have me. To show me the ropes. I longed to learn the tricks of the street-cats. They truly had nine lives: crossing Royal College Street like they owned the road. Some were so brazen they deliberately made cars swerve. But it was a dangerous game; some never made it to the other side.

Mum said they were all stupid, and Dad was nothing like that. But something told me, this was Mum trying to keep me safe. In  the end Dad was my superhero, he was indestructible. In my story he had markings like people tattoos. Pictures of  fish and birds, and mythical beasts like unicorns. And somewhere would my Mum’s name. Not the name the old man called her, but her real name. There are no English, French, Chinese, Japanese, Arabic or Hebrew words for our names. But some ancient peoples: the Native Americans, the Aboriginals, and those from deep in the Amazon Jungle, know our names, they just don’t write them down.

Old Felix named me Tiger, on account of my tortoiseshell stripes.  That I didn’t mind, because tigers are pretty cool cats. One of my stories has Mum, Dad and me crossing the road. We make our way to London Zoo; where the real tigers live.

At one Pow Wow, one of the street-cats had boasted about getting as far as the zoo. She claimed to have taken the Grand Union Canal, which crossed underneath our street. The canal ran all the way to the zoo, and beyond. She described a floating Chinese restaurant , and huge grand mansions. For miles and miles, there was the smell of lovely food.

Stories got passed around at Pow Wow, that’s where we learned about Old Felix. He’d not always been old and forgetful. When he was young there were many cats living in his house. But people are just like cats when they get old, they get slow. They can’t cope with a ton of hungry cats. Before that Pow Wow was over, a big cat with the people name Butch, took us aside:

Have you considered your future, he said. And even Mum wasn’t sure what he was talking about. Street-cats can sense things though. They have to be on-the-ball. He then became more direct:

Have you thought about what’s going to happen when the old man goes.

Go where I first thought. Well I was young and didn’t understand the ways of the world. He could see by our expressions that the answer was no.

My advice to the both of you is to make friends with new people. Sorry to be brutal but the old guys on his way out. Find a family close by and be extra nice to them. It’s you’re only chance. You don’t want to end up like me, truly you don’t.

I remember he sized us both up and shook his head. He didn’t need to say any more. We knew the score. After Pow Wow, Mum tried to reassure me:

Don’t listen to him, he’s just trying to frighten us. Some street-toms tell tales to impress their girlfriends. They have lots and lots of girlfriends, its just the way they are.

But I knew deep down everything he said was true. And I was also kind of impressed by all those girlfriends. He was trying to help us in his rough and tough way.


The King of Royal College Street

storm1

-Chapter Three-

The Great Storm

Soon it was my birthday. I was one year old. The two kittens next door continued to grow. And the Yuppies hair grew even larger. I was snoozing when the storm hit. First the windows shook so hard I thought the glass would break. Then the garden furniture began to fly in the air. There was a terrible crash when it collided with the garden wall.

In our garden, the old shed fell down. Mum was so lucky; she’d had the snip. So there were no newborn kittens or her, inside when whole thing came crashing. The chickens were lucky though; they escaped with a few ruffled feathers, but their cage intact.

Felix seemed to become slower, after the hurricane. He never bothered rebuilding his shed. It just stood there: a pile of wood, paint and tools. And he was getting forgetful. Sometimes he forgot to put food down for Mum and I. When we cried he would shout :
Oh shut up cats !
Which was not like him at all.

So Mum taught me how to hunt. We got by. But the poor old chickens, they didn’t see Christmas. Old Felix spent more and more time in his room. He stopped cooking food; so there were no more tasty scraps to scrounge.


The King of Royal College Street

royal_college_street_drawing

A short Shaggy Cat novel

-Chapter Two-

New Neighbours

Something had changed but I couldn’t figure out what. I shook my head, and went on my way. The next day, I looked again. That was the thing with these people, they were always out; so there was no danger of being shooed away (a hazard of the job).Later I learned that some people worked during the week and rested at weekends. But I was ten months old then, so I knew nothing. Anyway I look into the dining room first:

 

Table.
Chess Board.
Fancy Blue Curtains, all flowery and gathered-up at the ends. Very fancy.
A Computer that was never turned on.
Music System, that only came on a parties.
And a picture of something or other on the wall.

A big fat zero I hit there. So I look in the bedroom. It’s a small room, with only a bed and a chest of drawers. But the bed is mighty fancy: it’s all gleaming and gold, with fancy white covers. Then something emerges from beneath the covers, and I jump out of my skin. For some strange reason I think this thing is a dog; not that I’ve met one or seen once face to face. It’s instinct, don’t ask me why or how, it just happens.

But the moving thing makes no woof or barking sounds. Then I catch a whiff of it’s smell: cat, or rather kitten to be exact. I jump onto the side window ledge to get a better look. And while I’m becoming accustomed to my new neighbour, another little head, peeks from underneath. This new one is blue, and the first a browny cream.

I can see they are quite new to their Yuppie place,  quite frightened .  Although the bed looks lovely and soft, and I feel a little jealous. Old Felix keeps his bedroom locked, and I’m certain his bed is not as comfy or fancy.

 


The King of Royal College Street

 

A short Shaggy Cat novel

-Chapter One-

It’s My Birthday

It all begins in Camden Town, London. The year is 1986. A good year to be born. I call it the calm year, because on my birthday the following year we had a hurricane. But that’s jumping too far ahead.

I sometimes I find it hard to picture my first home. But I’m going to try. Imagine a tall rundown old building. Hundred of people years old. At the end of the street there’s a veterinary college and hospital. I recall the distant sound of cats and dogs, and other animals. Calling out in the night. Its no fun being in hospital, that’s what they were saying.

They called the street after the college: the Royal Veterinary College. Royal College Street. Two doors the other way was a huge hole owned by the Post Office. People are funny, they make holes and leave them empty.
I was born into a litter of five; at the end of the garden. In a shed full of tools and paint. Whenever I catch the smell of a freshly painted thing; I’m back there in the shed. Snuggling close to Mum, and my brothers and sisters. Chickens lived in a wire cage next to us. And apart from the soft purring of my family, it’s the sound of their clucking that follows the smell of new gloss finish.     I had no idea it was unusual to keep chickens in a city garden. But what did I know; at two weeks old, apart from the soft underbelly of my mother.

When I was three months old; Felix, the man who lived in the broken down house took my brothers and sisters. I never found out what happened to them. Mum whispered to me that night. Don’t worry son, he likes you, you’re safe. She knew what it was like to have her babies taken. Later I realised that she was happy for them to be going to better homes. Posh homes, some of them. But on the night they went, I cried all the same. Mum was the sweetest smell I’d ever smell; so I pushed my face into her. I breathed her in. It helped, it made me feel safe.

Not long after my sisters and brothers had gone, we moved into the house. Felix put food on the kitchen floor, and made a bed for us in the front room. He was old and wore old clothes. When I first learned the word eccentric I thought back to Felix. I got to see a world very different from the garden. Cars rushed by, and people were generally absent. On the other side of the street, houses a mirror image of ours, only cleaner, looked back.

A flap on the Kitchen door , allowed us to roam. Because all cats really need to roam. Nobody taught me to do this. I just wandered. Instinct I suppose. I just got to be free. Our territory was between the Post Office hole and The Royal College. An ally ran between two of the houses. But mostly they were joined together. Terraced the people call them. One garden led into another.

A couple of Yuppies lived next to the big hole. That was Felix’s word. One human looks very much like another. But lord they did smell different. The woman wore perfume, and the man, her wore it too. They had a long empty garden and kept no animals outside or in.

At ten months I was older and bolder. The winter was over and it was much more pleasant outside. I began peeking inside the Yuppie’s home. Curiosity I suppose. Instead of a Kitchen I saw a bedroom and dining room. At that time, I’d not seen the front of their house, so had no way of knowing their kitchen was part of the front room. Small, modern and never used I found out. Everything inside was neat, tidy and new. Including the people. Their skin was smooth, and glowed brown. Sometimes they held parties in their garden. Where lots of tidy looking people would talk and drink and eat.     One day I was taking a peek next door and noticed something had changed.