BOOKS by KATE BRIDGER
How That Cat Got Its Name
Matilda had long ago decided that living alone was her preference, not simply an unavoidable default state as many assumed. By ‘alone’, she meant without other humans sharing her space, but animals were exempt.
Clarence, her pet crow, had wooed her skillfully from the start. He would call to her from the garden, or tap on her gutters in the early morning. Sometimes, he’d just position himself on her front gate post and watch her house for hours on end. Eventually, if a day went by and she didn’t happen to see the crow, she’d be concerned.
Then, one day, she’d left her front door open and was nattering to herself in the kitchen about what to have for supper that night when Clarence sauntered in as though it was a perfectly normal thing for him to do. Matilda looked at him for a brief moment, smiled and simply said: ‘Oh, okay, why not!’ He tilted his head in a manner that seemed to suggest he’d expected nothing less and then took a perch on the back of one of the kitchen chairs. Clarence was the first name that came to Matilda’s mind … she’d always liked alliteration … so Clarence he became.
The black cat, however, was a very different story. Occasionally she’d see it in her garden or find it hovering by her doorstep, but it was a healthy looking cat, so Matilda assumed it came from a good home somewhere not far away. She tried not to encourage it but, oddly enough, it was Clarence who made efforts to entice it … he seemed to think of it as a playmate invited over just for his amusement. Sometimes he’d drop small twigs on the cat’s head from the roof above, or roll acorns along the path and watch the cat pounce on them and attempt to dribble them down the walk. As he grew bolder, he’d tossed them into the front hall and the cat couldn’t help but run inside and try to herd them. It was as if Clarence was deliberately luring it into Matilda’s house.
Matilda quite liked the cat but didn’t want to get too attached in case its owners came looking for it. Besides, a single mature woman living alone had to be careful about what the neighbours might say; she really didn’t want ‘crazy old cat lady’ added to the list of unflattering monikers she suspected they already used when referring to her out of earshot.
But, as the weeks passed, it was apparent that this lovely, affectionate, playful creature intended to remain. Perhaps the owners had moved away and forgotten their cat, or maybe the owner had died and the cat was left to find new lodgings. Matilda might never know the whole story, but she desperately wanted to know the cat’s name … she thought it would be most unsettling for the creature to have to adjust to a strange new house and begin answering to an unfamiliar name at the same time.
Joe was the local postman and knew just about everything about everyone in the area. When the cat first showed up, Matilda had asked him if he knew who it belonged to, but he said he had no idea.
‘I see you’ve still got that cat with you,’ Joe commented a couple of months later as Matilda’s furry housemate wove in and out between her ankles.
‘Oh, thank you Joe! Thank you so much for telling me.’
Joe wandered away somewhat baffled.
Matilda grinned and returned indoors with That Cat at her side, relieved at last to be able to call it by its proper name!