WRITTEN BY J B COOPER
Perhaps there are hidden depths to the mischievous feline visitor Mog…
Once a year, for two insufferable weeks, during my sister’s annual break, I care for Mog. Today my sufferance begins.
Mog and Naomi live in a small Cheshire village where, according to my sister, Mog is adored by cat-lovers one and all.
Now, I also adore cats – I love all animals – but Mog, adored? This I find hard to understand.
For a start, he’s spiteful. A scar on my arm from last year’s scratchings is still visible.
And he’s destructive. Bulbs planted by my garden-loving husband never recovered from being unearthed.
But Naomi, speaking as she finds, has only words of praise.
“He loves children, you know,” she reminds us on every visit. “He plays football with them in the park. Of course he doesn’t actually kick the ball, he just sort of nudges it with his head.”
“Well, it’s certainly big enough,” my teenage daughter inevitably retorts, but not before her aunt is out of earshot.
Mog’s been with us for a week now and I can hardly believe there have been no unpleasant incidences.
Well, maybe one. Yesterday he placed on daughter-with-attitude’s bed a dead mouse, but apart from this minor mishap his behaviour has been somewhat subdued.
I put this down to his confusion over Charlie next door.
Usually during his annual visit, Mog spends time with my friend and neighbour’s toddler son. Jess, Charlie’s mum, calls it playing. I think teasing, but this year things are different.
A fortnight ago Charlie fell off his swing.
At the hospital Jess was assured that her son’s head injury was nothing serious. His apathy, doctors explained, was delayed shock.
But it’s been two weeks and still there’s no sign of improvement, so understandably Jess is worried. And, strangely for a self-absorbed cat, Mog also seems concerned.
When Charlie was a baby, and the weather was fine, Jess would let him lie on a rug in her garden. On first acquaintance Mog merely sat on our adjoining fence looking bored, but the following year he showed more interest. Eventually, he joined the wriggling, giggling one-year-old.
At first I was uneasy. But Jess was thrilled that Charlie had a playmate.
“Mog’s very gentle with him,” Jess assured me. “You mustn’t worry. Charlie would scream if he was scared.”
Naturally, on being told, Naomi said it was because her adored cat loved children. Perhaps she’s right – for he certainly seems to love Charlie.
Thursday arrived, and with only two days to go before Mog returns to his adoring Cheshire villagers, I can hardly believe there’s been so little disruption. Apart, that is, from this morning’s upset.
I’m about to write a note of apology to an elderly neighbour who dropped her shopping when Mog jumped out from behind a bush – when I hear Charlie scream.
At first I think I’ve imagined it. Then I hear him scream again, only louder.
I glance around for Mog, but he’s nowhere in sight.
Hurrying into the garden I silently pray he’s not involved.
At the fence I take a deep breath, dreading what I might see.
At first all I see is Jess. She’s staring across at Charlie, her hand over her mouth, her eyes bright with tears.
Then I see Mog. He’s nudging an old beach ball onto Charlie’s rug.
Lastly I see Charlie, his fat little legs, still unsteady from his accident, trying to kick the ball. With relief I realise his screams were screams of laughter.
Jess catches my eye and we exchange smiles. There’s no need for words, we both know this is the first time Charlie has laughed since his fall.
Later, dreaming perhaps of his Cheshire fan club, Mog dozes on the kitchen windowsill. I smile as the late afternoon sun forms an unlikely halo around his head.
He stirs and faces me.
“You did well this afternoon, Mog,” I say. “You made Charlie laugh again.”
For several seconds he holds my gaze.
Then something strange happens. His eyes crease and the corners of his mouth curve into a smile. Well, maybe not a smile exactly, but definitely a grin.
You don’t believe me? Why not? He IS a Cheshire cat after all.