“Wait till you hear this.
“Zoe ‘cross the road there, she had this feral cat. Her husband found it stuffed inside a sack on council clean-up. Several years back, about oh nine. Mr Rudd, the speckly twerp, was still in parlament saying sorry. Anyway, this Zoe’s husband – bloke named Rod – he turns up with this cat no larger than my hand. Oh, the little sweetheart. You shoulda seen it. Timid as a mouse it was. Wouldn’t let no one get near it. But then twelve months later, it gets knocked up by some tom down the road. Five six kittens it had. Adorable little things.
“Now Zoe, she’s but half cat herself. She’d have kept the kittens there in bed with her. But Rod – fella did our back porch – he was having none of it. Laid ‘em out a towel beneath the laundry sink. I’d be having a Sat’dee cuppa with Zoe and her girlfriends, and there in the laundry just off the kitchen, those little fur-balls’d be suckling away. They broke your heart to look at them. Several families on the block were waiting till they grew a little so’s they could make ‘em pets.
“Well Rod, he shuts that laundry door each night. Ain’t nothin’ getting in or out – ‘cept the mother cat through the window. But that was up above the washing machine. Now picture this dear, cause it just so happens they went and got themselves caught up in a real life ex-files – you know that show used to be on channel ten? All them weird tales and stuff. You need to understand that apart from this window, there was no other way something could get outta the laundry. And all they got in there at the time was a big clothes dryer and washing machine down the right-side wall. On the left was a pair of shutter doors opened into a broom closet. Near the kitchen door was a wicker basket for dirty clothes. Then at the far end, near the washing machine and the window I said about, they had a big old sink, all industrial like. Rod said he seen a big snarly rat, poking its nose out the sink hole once. The mumma cat woulda seen to it those nasty little buggers didn’t get at the babies.
“Finally, next to the sink basin, there was the door outside. It had the slimmest crack of space between the bottom and the floor. Not wide enough for anything but a cockroach to get under without scraping its back off.
“So you get my point? Wasn’t nowhere but the open window where anything could enter that room. And so imagine Zoe’s shock when she went in one morning and saw that one of the kittens wasn’t there...
“Just straight up disappeared. Not a trace left!
“Course they searched all over. Turned the room just about inside out. Washing machine, dryer, clothes basket, closet. Not a spot of that room wasn’t checked. I heard all about it cause Zoe came round, all up in arms. Poor girl. She was certain it was stuck somewhere, inside a couch or a wardrobe maybe. Suffocating where no one could find it. Chances were it was already dead. You had kittens before? They get into all sorts of places. I tried my best to reassure her. Personally I hoped it was dozing behind some curtains or something. It’ll turn up somewhere, I told her. Just wait and it’ll turn up. Soon as it wants its feeding.
“Rod being all extra cautious now, he made sure he shut the door next night. Though Zoe had seen it closed herself that morning, she’d got to thinking Rod can’t have shut it. When something’s amiss, lass, don’t hesitate to blame the man. If it isn’t him - though it usually is - he’s surely done something else wrong anyway. But, poor Rod, he made like a good husband. He shut that door like he was told. Made sense enough. Wherever the missing cat went to, it certainly hadn’t gone through the door. But the window, as I said, was open the first night.
“Despite there being no way the kitten could have got up there, Rod shut the window also. Had it locked tight. After all, who knows? Not all mothers are perfect, are they? The only blameable culprit was, at that stage, the mother. She was too young after all. Anyone that’s seen an immature cat bear litter’s likely seen that sorry sight. The mum just ups and leaves when she pleases. Leaves her young ones mewling. To be honest, I wouldn’t blame any mother wantin’ to do that sometimes.
“And then there was the possibility of a bird. Didn’t sound unreasonable that a big dumb bird might get into the laundry through the window. Those minors are gettin’ bolder every bloody day. You can barely enjoy your fish n’ chips without getting mugged by the seagulls. Ducks assuming authority of the roads like the queen of bloody England. Still, considering it most likely that the cat itself had wandered off, Rod put them in the washing basket. There was no way they’d be getting out of that...
“Except a few days later, wouldn’t you know?
“They’re down to three.
“There’s the same old panic. The same hullaballoo across the house. Nothing ... not the slightest sign ... led Zoe to her missing cats. Well, understandably they were all a bit more worried this time. It seemed something was going on that shouldn’t be. What’s more, the other cats – especially the mother – they were clearly unsettled. The mum got testy if anyone tried to touch her. She was looking this way and that, like a junkie standing at a traffic light in the short hours of the morning. After the first disappearance, she was not too concerned. That second time, she acted like she was definitely frightened of something.
“But with both doors and the window shut - the cupboard doors and all - there wasn’t no other explanation than that the mother had been eating them. It has been known to happen. Except there wasn’t any sign suggesting that it was. You’d have thought there’d be at least some blood. The mother’s mouth and whiskers were clean. Maybe the kids were playing jokes – believe me, Zoe questioned them – but they assured her under pain of death they weren’t doing anything. Even if they had, they said, they’d now have stopped and come clean.
“Zoe, you will understand, was clueless. As was Rod. As was the rest of us.
“It was beginning to seem like they just simply flew away. Everyone was so desperate for a reason, they were beginning to approach the impossible.
“Whatever the reason, Zoe and Rod were at opposite ends for what should be done. Zoe wanted the cats to stay. Despite everything, she wouldn’t part with them. Rod made his position clear. Whatever was happening in that room - wherever the cats were disappearing off to - it was fair to assume it would keep on happening.
“Rod, as I said, had no ideas himself. But he is a practical man. Zoe, on the other hand, was starting to consider more alternatives. She’s thinking poltergeists might be snatching them off to gawd knows where. Or maybe they were slipping into another dimension. For her it was easier to blame something invisible. I don’t buy into that stuff as a general rule, but I’ll admit myself, girl ... these strange incidents got me thinking too.
“Next night, again, they shut the doors. Locked the window. Locked, yeah – not just closed. The closet stayed shut as usual. As a final precaution, and as a test, Rod put a blanket over the basket. This time there would be no doubt. If any more kittens disappeared, the mother was obviously the one doing it.