The House of Cats and Dogs

In relation to my Evolution novel, which features a cat and a Staffordshire bull terrier among the main characters, here’s one I wrote earlier:

Once in an abandoned house there lived a cat and a dog. They were a tabby cat named Harry and a Staffordshire bull terrier called Bonny. These two were an unusual pair since dogs and cats are not known for being the best of friends. Yet not only did Bonny and Harry get along (more or less) they in fact preferred each other’s company to that of members of their own species. For this reason they were content to live together, unconcerned with humans or other animals, save for the small creatures that Harry liked hunting.

One day they were in the garden enjoying the sun. Harry was, as usual, hunting small birds while Bonny lay in the sun ignoring him. Harry, despite not being particularly clever, was a skilled hunter. ‘Bonny!’ he called, leaping down off the garden wall. ‘Did you see that? I just caught a sparrow with one paw and swatted another with my tail. Don’t you think that’s amazing?’

Bonny, stretched out on the lawn, did not reply. Harry went up to her and poked her. ‘You weren’t looking, were you?’

‘I assure you I was enraptured by the display.’ replied Bonny, without opening her eyes. Harry sighed and climbed back up the wall. His face lit up and he cried, ‘I can see a big fat one over there!’ and leaped. Bonny pricked up her ears as a scream echoed from the neighbouring garden.

Harry returned in a great hurry with his tail all bottle brush. ‘Bonny!’ he said, joining her. ‘I think in future we should not live next door to humans whose heads look like sparrows. I just savaged Mr Jones.’

Bonny got up and together they peered over the wall. ‘Ouch,’ said Bonny. ‘He’s not going to be happy when he wakes up.’

‘You mean if he wakes up,’ replied Harry. ‘Can you tell if he’s breathing?’

‘I think he’s just in shock. Either way, let’s not hang about.’ They went inside together, doing their best to look innocent in case anyone should be watching. Harry and Bonny were not liked by their human neighbours, a feeling that was entirely mutual. But due to low cunning and a bit of luck on their part, they had so far managed to avoid being evicted from the house they shared.

Inside, Harry decided to play with his toy robot. This was a remote control contraption that fired foam discs at high speed. Harry liked to pretend the discs were birds flying towards him, and viewed the game as hunting practice. Bonny was in the kitchen when she heard a particularly loud noise from the living room. A moment later, Harry appeared around the corner. ‘Bonny,’ he said sheepishly. ‘The robot is dead.’

‘Oh dear,’ replied Bonny. ‘Does that mean we have to hold a funeral?’ They went to the living room, where the robot lay on the floor. Bonny asked, ‘Did you kill it?’

‘No, he was firing discs one moment and then he keeled over.’

Bonny went out and came back with a phone in her paw. ‘Hello, vicar?’ she said into it. ‘Yeah, I’d like to arrange a funeral. It’s for a robot.’ She paused and listened. ‘What do you mean you don’t do funerals for robots? Robots are people too. And don’t take that tone with me, little man who wears a collar when he’s not even a dog! I hope some idiot mistakes you for a pooch and puts you on a lead, you heartless fiend! Goodbye!’ She threw the phone to the floor. ‘I thought they were supposed to be caring.’

‘Maybe we could resurrect it.’ said Harry.

‘Don’t you mean resuscitate it?’

‘Do what now?’

Bonny stood over the robot. ‘I may be a dog, but I do know some first aid. The robot needs

mouth-to-mouth.’ She kissed the robot’s visor.

Harry stared at her. ‘What possible good will that do?’

‘I don’t know; I’ve only seen it on TV.’

‘I’ve got a good idea. We’ll restart his heart.’ He held up his paws together and brought them crashing down on the robot’s chest. Then he cried out and staggered away, clutching his paws to his side.

‘Congratulations Harry,’ said Bonny. ‘Not only is the robot still dead, but you’ve just ensured that you will never be invited to join the cast of Casualty.’

‘We could always try surgery,’ snapped Harry. ‘There’s a chainsaw in the cellar which I am just dying to use!’

‘Hold on, I’ve got an idea. I think the robot has some of those battery things that make stuff work. Go and get me a screwdriver.’

‘Not the chainsaw?’

‘Not the chainsaw.’

Once the screwdriver was located, Bonny turned the robot over and undid the screws in its back. Sure enough, there were two batteries there. ‘Maybe if we put new ones in it’ll work again,’ she said.

‘But where will we find new ones?’

They thought for a moment. ‘What about the remote control for the TV?’ suggested Bonny.

Harry looked crestfallen. ‘Not the TV!’

‘Well we don’t actually need the remote to make it work; it’s designed for people too lazy to get up and change the channel themselves.’

‘Fine, but I might just point out I am one of those lazy individuals who enjoys the convenience of a remote control.’

‘Your sacrifice is noted, now shut up and let’s get those batteries.’ In the other room they found the remote and started dismantling it. However, as they were digging out the batteries, the television turned on. Harry and Bonny looked up in surprise. The TV screen was showing blank white static and producing a strange humming noise. ‘Okay, which of us pressed the ‘on’ button?’ asked Bonny.

‘We didn’t,’ said Harry. ‘The TV just switched itself on.’

The white screen was then filled with a pale, staring face. ‘Seven days!’ it hissed.

‘Oh no,’ groaned Harry. ‘It’s one of those cursed video tapes that kill you a week after watching them.’

The pale face looked confused. ‘Oh sorry,’ it said. ‘Wrong story. I’m an evil spirit living inside your television, and I’m here to tell you to put those batteries back.’

‘Why?’ said Bonny.

Because they are mine!’

‘Well, somebody doesn’t like sharing.’ said Harry.

‘We need these batteries,’ said Bonny. ‘So we’re taking them, and there’s nothing you can do about it.’ The door slammed shut behind them and the lights dimmed. The ominous glow grew brighter and lightning flickered around the screen. ‘Put the batteries back,’ said the pale face. ‘Or you will be sucked inside the television and trapped here with me forever!’

‘Okay, this is terrifying in so many ways.’ said Harry.

‘What do we do?’ said Bonny. Harry grabbed the remote and flung it at the television. A lightning bolt shot out, struck the remote and then wrapped around Harry like a lasso. He screamed as the lightning pulled him into the television and disappeared.

‘Where’s he gone?’ demanded Bonny.

‘He is now lost somewhere in Gardener’s World, and you will join him unless you put those

batteries back!’

‘Actually I quite like Gardener’s World.’

The pale face paused. ‘Fine, then I’ll put you somewhere that will be your own private hell.

Somewhere like I’m a Celebrity, get me out of here!’

Bonny looked horrified. ‘You wouldn’t!’

‘I will, unless you put those batteries back!’ Just then the pale face flickered and died as a chainsaw burst through the screen in a shower of sparks. Harry climbed out of the television, wielding the chainsaw with a delighted grin. ‘The fool! It put me in the lumberjack special edition! All of my dreams have come true!’

‘Of course, now we’ll have to get a new TV,’ said Bonny.

‘Ah…’

‘Never mind, we can get one that isn’t inhabited by a demonic spirit. At least now we can fix the robot.’

They eventually succeeded in reviving the robot with the new pair of batteries, and the television did not trouble them again. Life soon returned to normal in Harry and Bonny’s house, though perhaps normal is not a good description.

Thought for the day

In Tibetan, the word ‘Yeti’ literally means ‘that thing over there’. I believe the English language would be much improved if we started calling things by what they actually are, rather than the names we invent for them. For example: ‘Small fluffy thing that goes baa’ (sheep), ‘noisy metal instrument of destruction’ (car), and ‘noisy orange instrument of destruction’ (Donald Trump).

Have a nice day 🙂

…so…

On this day as we stand on the brink of Trump-induced armageddon, plus it’s Remembrance Day and I woke up to learn Leonard Cohen has died… thought I’d just post this video, hope it helps:

No Face

I’ll be performing this on Monday 7th November as part of an evening celebrating the film ‘Spirited Away’:

Out in the dark I stand gazing at the light

No warmth out here

My pale skin bleached by moonlight

I am alone, the silent watcher

I can see you

I can hear you

You don’t know I’m here

 

Things were different then

I loved the night as much as any

Danced, sang, was alive as only a spirit can be

They took my face, my heart, my soul and left me empty

All I do now is watch and long to be part of that dance

 

She was an outsider like me

She didn’t know

She invited me in

And now I am here, no longer on the outside

I’ll extend a hand

Come to me, little thing

I have what you most desire

I may have no face but I know what you want

And now we are together

 

Here they come, pouring in

Took no notice when I was outside

They all want something

Well, I’ll give it to them

And then I’ll make them part of me and none of us will ever be alone ever again

Come to me

I can make you loved, needed, wanted

Take my hand

Give in to me

 

She came with sin

That’s how she did it

I could have made her part of me as well

But she reached inside and choked and poisoned

Until I was empty and alone as before

But I’ll keep watching because that’s who I am

Surprisingly easy to watch even when you have

No face.

A Halloween Story

Whenever I need to clear my head, I go for a walk on the canal. It runs like a vein through the county, twisting and turning in the fashion of a benevolent serpent. You can follow it for miles as it takes from one place to another, a thread that connects us.

On a cold autumn morning, I made my way along the path flanking the canal as I had done countless times over the years. As I was casually strolling on my way, I saw a large family coming from the opposite direction. Between them they filled the narrow path; two adults, four children and two dogs. Rather than attempt to negotiate a way through the mob, I stood to one side, keeping the gravel path between me and the water and waited for them to pass me by. The large group ambled past noisily and I resumed my journey, listening to their merry babble as it died away behind me. Then I heard the screaming.

I turned and saw the smallest child had slipped and fallen into the water. She bobbed there, head barely visible, her arms flailing helplessly. The man I presumed to be her father lay down on the bank on his front, stretching his arms towards her, but she had already floated too far. I ran to the panic stricken family, threw off my coat and dived into the water.

It was cold, far colder than I imagined. Filthy water entered my mouth as my head broke the surface. I am a strong swimmer and it did not take long to reach the child. Her thick coat had blown up like a balloon, keeping her afloat but I knew it was only seconds before she would start to sink. I grabbed her and told her to put her arms round my neck. With the girl clinging to me, I struck back for the shore.

It was not easy going, for my clothes and the terrified child weighed me down, but at last we reached the bank. Both adults were there, reaching towards us and I lifted the child to them. But as she was taken from me, I felt a sharp yank on my leg and was dragged beneath the surface.

In the darkness of that dirt brown, foetid water, I was distinctly aware of the touch of something slimy on my ankle. I looked down and saw in the gloom a single pair of eyes glaring back at me with an expression I can only describe as hungry. Then arms grabbed me from above and after a brief tug of war, the thing in the water released me and I was dragged back to fresh air and civilisation.

The girl and I were rushed to hospital and treated for all the germs and diseases that fester in the stagnant depths of that canal. The family visited often and fussed over me; I was their hero. But I could not fully enjoy the adulation. I cannot forget those clammy, webbed fingers on my skin or the malevolent eyes watching me in the darkness.

I no longer go walking on the canal. They think I am still traumatised from almost drowning, bu the truth is far worse. I dread to think what exists down there, some freak of nature, evolving over generations in that unnatural, man-made lair. I am convinced the creature I glimpsed was not the only specimen of its kind and if there is a whole race of them, how long before the canal becomes too small for them, and they seek a larger, more prosperous domain in other waters?

Bracken on the trials of fame.

Not so easy being a public figure. Soon as that video me and Fang did went viral, everyone wanted to talk to the talking dog and cat. We were hiding out in some forest and a news crew, to this day I have no idea how they tracked us down, they just roll up out of nowhere and want to talk to us. I was all for frying the lot of them with my breath but Angela persuaded me not to.

Then they start asking all these questions, you know the sort: What’s it like being a dog? How come you can talk? Show us the fire trick. Honestly, I preferred being attacked by super intelligent rats to getting interrogated by that lot.

Anyway, eventually we decided to get moving again, but I’m blowed if this news crew starts following us. In the end Angela did her wolf trick and chased them away while we took the opportunity to get as far away as possible. Like I said, that was by far the most stressful situation I have ever been in, and I’ve known a few. News. Yet another human obsession I shall never understand.

Bracken out.

Bracken on what it means to be an animal:

Animal. Even you lot invented that word. People never wonder what it’s like to speak a language created by a different species. Every word I use to describe myself: Dog, orange, grumpy, even my name were invented by humans. That’s the first thing that jars.

Then there’s the fact I don’t think like you. I don’t care about money, or territory, or culture. I remember there was some upset because a bunch of you had decided you didn’t want to be part of Europe, or some other stupid name. And I’m like, what do I care? I’m still living on the run, doesn’t affect me. You people will always use some excuse to fight or call one another names, what difference does it make if you’re independent or not?

Being an animal means you don’t care about borders. There are some places you stay away from because they’re bad places, but even us animals can get cocky. We only do what we need to survive, we don’t question the consequences or the morality. I’m not saying we always get it right. I often think I get it wrong. But that’s because I have the privilege of thinking that way. Privilege. Just another human word. You people do have an awful lot of words.

I suppose I shouldn’t complain because I do use those words, and some of them are quite nice. I’m gradually learning the concept of swear words and it’s surprising satisfying. Now I’m going to go off an learn some more, and I will come back and make your hair stand one end, so I will.

Bracken out.