Hamstergate (Part 5)
School in T-1
This morning, Towser had a running with some kind of buck-toothed woodland creature. He came into my bedroom at 7.10am with his tail as fat as a toilet brush and a little gouge near his rear end, perilously close to his nether regions. I told him not to worry as his nether regions have, in effect, been deactivated, and that consequently the injury wouldn’t affect his ability to live his life as a perfectly normal, barren eunuch-cat. He responded to this by looking at me with the judgement of a thousand martyrs. I’m always criticised for telling it as it is… even by the bloody cat.
It is now 9.16, and I roll over to ping off my Wallace & Gromit alarm clock. For superstitious reasons, I can only set my alarm clock for a time that’s a multiple of 2. I’ve tried to do 9.15, or 9.17, but then my mind races for the rest of the morning, and I have to do a load of stupid rituals to make it quiet again. So for efficiency’s sake, I just set it to a multiple of 2 and be done with it. Kill the superstition early on.
Towser hears me rustling the duvet and mopes over, hook-tailed, from his radiator shelf under the window to say hello. Amandine has bathed his wound, and he now smells mildly of hospitals. A little piece of fur on his rear leg is damp and drawn up into a little glossy point. His fluffy head burrows under my hand, as his lemony coloured eyes lock intelligently with mine. I don’t know who it was, but some famous dude once said that ‘no time spent with a cat is time wasted’. That’s why I’m here right now, tickling his under-chin so he cranes his head up in the air like a duck, when I should be completing my French holiday homework by looking up the past participle for the verb ‘voir’, and buying jotters, and pencil sharpeners, and Stabilo Boss highlighter pens. They say you have anxiety dreams about you A-Levels for the rest of your life, so I may as well enjoy the final few hours of uninterrupted freedom.
I look out the window. A cream petal from the magnolia tree in the garden severs from its branch and whirl-y-gigs past the window serenely. God damn it, why can’t I be a tree.
From upstairs there comes a giggle. A long, vibrating child-like giggle. The sort of giggle that makes me profoundly suspicious when I know, full well, that it is coming from a 66-year-old geriatric half-Slavic woman (aka. my aunt Amandine). She’s clearly on the phone. I listen hard, holding my breath to keep all ambient sound contamination to a bare minimum. Some lilting chatter continues, followed by another girlish guffaw. I imagine her up there. The living room is an opulent parlour, and there she is – the aunt – laying prostate along a decadent chaise longues, plucking grapes off a vine with one hand, and pinching a slim glass of Prosecco in the other, drawing circles in the air with the pointed toe of a cherry-red stiletto.
I claw my mind back. I want to hear this conversation. Something’s not right. I pluck the double-A battery out the back of the Wallace & Gromit alarm clock with my forefinger to stop the loud ticking. Eavesdropping is a skill and I do it exceptionally well. I clamber over the bed to close the window hatch. The air is now empty of sound. Only Towser’s faint bubbling purr crosses the air. I hold my breath once more and listen intensely.
“Oooo, I bet you did, I bet you did.”
“We should go there one day, just you and me. It’d be lovely.”
Okaay. Janet from her swim class perhaps?
“Oh, you naughty, naughty man!”
Ok, not Janet then.
“Oh stop it, stop it! You cheeky man…”
At this point I hear her shift on the armchair. A squirm of tensed muscles. There’s a plasticky clatter as the TV remote is knocked onto the floor. Towser’s ears twist back.
“Yes, seven o’clock, then. . . Yes, he’ll be here. No don’t worry you’ll love him.”
“Yes, see you later then. Bye, darling.”
By darling?! Right this is bad. She’s got a bloke. My 66-year-old aunt has a bloke and is giggling like a schoolgirl. This will change everything.