WARNING: Features one instance of bad language and a suspected moggy murder.
‘Oh, crap.’ I peered down at the redish smear which had once been Number Forty-Two’s beloved Mr Puss. ‘I told you to stop pulling out so fast.’ I glanced up at the culprit, and it was a long way up. Men like Victor explained the myths about giants and trolls. None-too-pretty and built with the solid muscles of amateur hockey player with a gym obsession. It seemed unlikely the bookish Mr Beck of Number Forty-Two would be spurred into action. He’d have to look up almost as far as me.
‘Do you think it’d scrape off with a shovel?’ Victor asked, chewing his thumbnail thoughtfully.
‘I’m going to pretend you didn’t say a word.’
He shrugged those broad shoulders and looked nonplussed.
I didn’t want to imagine the reaction of the Beck children when we knocked on the door with Mr Puss hanging off the snow shovel. All bloody and dripping, laid out like a flapjack. The more I thought about it the more Mr Puss did look like the flapjacks I’d made for the annual Halloween party at the Beck’s. The Stepford Wives hadn’t insisted on me baking since.
This had to be a symptom of Vic and Mr Puss’ long standing feud. It had started on a hot day; or at least moderately warm, but hot sounded more dramatic. Vic had been vacuuming the boot of the car with garage door open to let in the breeze. It had let in Mr Puss too. Vic’s prized hockey stick was propped against the wall. He’d had that stick since he was twelve. It still had the yellow tape little Victor had wrapped around the handle when the grip had started to peel off. The cat snuck past him and went all slasher-movie on the hockey stick.
Too many treats had made the mangy beast stupid and slow. It only just avoided the handheld Hoover flung at it. It may have been the end of Mr Puss that day if I hadn’t shooed him out with a garden brush. It never comprehended that a few wooden barbs in its backside was the easy option. Escalation was an understatement for what had followed.
The hockey stick still leaned against the back wall, a maimed soldier fresh from the field. It almost seemed liked Karma. I had often wondered if Vic got warm fuzzies thinking of all the broken kneecaps and fractured shins they’d enjoyed together. Perhaps I exaggerated. I’d never play him.
Feigning an intense contemplation of the cat I swivelled my gaze in Victor’s direction.
There had been that time he ‘accidentally’ smacked the legs out from under an opponent so hard the guy had to be stretchered off and loaded into the back of the ambulance. I had forgotten the details but I had written the guy a sympathy card. Should I mention in the next such card: ‘Sorry my husband ran over your cat, twice?’ And the more I plied my mind to it the more it seemed like an attempt to ensure Mr Puss was dead. I didn’t stretch my mind as far as to think he purposefully committed an act of moggy murder. It was perhaps a case of well-I’ve-started-so-I’ll-finish. Either love or resignation made this thought less troubling than it ought be.
‘Okay, what are we going to do with it?’ I asked, finally. ‘We’re social lepers without a dead cat on the drive.’ I did try to be like the other wives. Our move into middle class suburbia had highlighted I wasn’t Stepford Wife material. I lacked the ‘aesthetic eye’, dinner parties bored me and my liaisons with milk and flour generally ended in goop.
He looked at me with an expression halfway between sympathy and amusement, if such a thing was possible. ‘I’ll take care of it.’ At any juncture in life’s journey those five words sound ominous. The increasing aroma of sun warmed meat made me yearn for a few gender stereotypical activities, like laundry.
So I hopped it.
There was an unidentifiable stain on one of Vic’s shirts. I leaned over the work surface to hold the shirt closer to the light. It wasn’t lipstick so I spritzed it with some Vanish and glanced out the window.
Victor crossed the street.
When he turned his side to me I almost banged on the window, though he was too far away to hear. The remains of Mr Puss hung limply from the snow shovel.
Slowly I sank into a crouch that was just high enough to see without being seen. The stale smelling shirt was clutched between my hands and the worktop. The collar tickled my nose, as I watched Vic stroll towards Mrs Beck’s new four-by-four. He glanced to either side. Then he deposited the cat cadaver under the chassis near the rear wheel.
I crumpled to the floor amidst the strewn clothes with my head in my hands. The heat of mortification warmed my face.
I don’t know how long I sat there but the sound of running water tempted me back into a crouch.
Victor was stood on the drive cleaning the car with the pressure washer. He paid close attention to a spot just behind the back wheels.
We were so fucked.
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