An Unwelcome Visitor

Patches snarled, ears flat against his skull. While he could think of a number of individuals who would adore pounding angrily on his door, none immediately stood out from the others. A resigned sigh escaped his feline lips; he would have to investigate.

Slinking out the open window, he deftly balanced as he slipped along the gutter. Below stood  a caricature cloaked in black, the broad-brimmed hat shoved comically low over the face. It was clear that this fellow was an amateur, and Patches was sure that the situation would sort itself out if he ignored it. He sniffed in disdain, trotting back to bed. That disdain would very nearly prove his undoing. Looking up at the sound, the foolish figure happily shouted “Patches! It’s me!”

Patches, nearly once more abed, swore quietly to himself. The boy – he’d completely forgotten about the boy. It was surely more prudent to let him in than to leave the damned dandy on the doorstep, alerting all of Catford to his whereabouts. Reluctantly shifting back to a more presentable shape, he shrugged into the closest dressing-gown to hand and trudged sleepily towards the door. He was most put out.

Swinging wide the door, Patches bowed mockingly low, every elaborate flourish indicating his scorn. The lad gaped at the greeting, but stood in the narrow doorway. “My cat has a butler?”

“No, you dolt. Does it look like anyone who lives here keeps servants? Get inside!” As the erstwhile cat grew more agitated, his words took on a sharper hiss. Stumbling over the lintel, the oaf knocked the valise from its resting place, sending banknotes into flurries in the cramped hall. Patches swiftly slammed the door, and with no trace of sympathy for the sprawling young man, injured, prone, and mewling. He began shoving a year’s worth of wealth back where it belonged.

The boy rose, apologizing all the while; it was clear that he hadn’t learned to control his constant chatter. Patches glared as he firmly latched the bag shut. “Enough, Dustin. Why are you here? Were you followed? Who sent you?”

“How – how do you know my name, sir? Who are you? Do you happen to have a cat living here? Only my cat ran off quite some time ago, you see, and I’m quite certain I saw it on your eaves yesterday evening, and Patches isn’t just any cat, you see – he’s quite special. He can talk, sir, really and truly! And I would quite like him back.” With a happy little smile, Dustin seemed to hug himself with happiness, secure in the knowledge that his poor, poor, pussy might at last be coming home, and not at all afraid of the man before him, or his queer mannerisms.

Patches, unable to do anything beyond blink in the wake of this torrent of words, blinked. “Dustin,” he slowly began, “You surely remember that I’m not always a cat? And that I don’t very much care for you?”

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