Friday, 17 May 2013

Reflections on Yorick

I had previously witnessed Yorick's brave attacks on a particularly vicious blade of grass and cheered him to a fine victory, but have recently observed a darker side to his character, although I suspect this is more about me than him.

He had disappeared, and as usual I was approaching the point where my pulse was picking up in apprehension of an awful event when I spotted him intent on something important under the hedge.

As I got closer he looked up as if to say – “Hey, guess what I’ve found!” And what he had found was a very small and very live mouse with a long sharp nose like a shrew – which on reflection it probably was. Yorick picked up the little beastie and walked to the middle of the drive and dropped it. The little fellow shook itself and headed with commendable courage back towards the hedge, with Yorick following giving a gentle pat, nudging it in the right direction - which I thought was very friendly. The little fellow was about to dive under a welcoming refuge of leaves and twigs when Yorick gently picked it up and carried it back to the middle of the drive – and the whole cycle started again – although I must admit that this time the mouse/shrew was a little unsteady on its legs.

" . .  the hunting instinct has to be honed". A Saturday
morning training session.

And so I left them to it and went shopping.

“And didn’t intervene?”

No I didn’t. It’s a cat thing you see. It’s a natural learning process; the hunting instinct has to be encouraged and honed. The mouse/shrew (if it ever survived) had got to learn to keep its head down when there's a cat is about. And anyway I will do anything - anything to ensure that Yorick doesn't start thinking like a goldfish.

" . . . do anything to ensure that Yorick doesn't start thinking
like a goldfish" A terrible alternative identity.


As an editorial note I have to add here that the following was first reviewed by Margaret who was at the time watching some awful saccharine cartoon on the Cartoon Channel. One full of bizarrely proportioned “humans” with gigantic eyes, and improbable maudlin animals talking in American accents. I watched expectantly as she finished reading my efforts and was moved beyond words to see tears streaming down her face. 

On finishing she pointed with shaking finger at the cartoon drama unfolding on the television and choked something to the effect that she felt she had just experienced the impossible. That she’d  read something worse than a Disney script. Beyond this comment I could get nothing more coherent other than gulping sounds and silent mouthing.

As I forced her head into a brown paper bag in an attempt to regulate her breathing it slowly dawned on me that she thought that this was basically crap. However unbowed and unabashed I reproduce it now almost in full. And it was after all only the very last bit over which she lost control.

It is dark and stormy at the closing end of another largely pointless Sunday. It is 6pm and the sun has set. The last vestiges of the day starkly outline the mountains. The foreground is pitch and the sky is a narrow band of steely, aquamarine, framed with battle-ship grey clouds. The air is absolutely still, pure and clear.

"The foreground is pitch and the sky is a narrow band of
steely aquamarine . . " Another one of those boring old
African skies!
Yorick is sitting on a bench on the stoep. Front legs curled in front and under him in the way that only cats can do. Haunches sticking up behind him. He looks compact, contained, almost dreamy. I swear that he is also looking West at the fading view.

I sit beside him, not too close; he dislikes a full frontal affection attack.

He looks at me, and I at him. I tap my fingers on the bench in front of him– a kind of “I’m here” message. It’s a sort of man thing.

He unfolds into a bone crunching elongating skeletal stretch. Standing on the tips of his pads his skin ripples from head to tail which seems to quiver in relief. He moves, stretchily, towards me and paw by careful paw steps onto my lap. He stands, he sits, he lies down. Head heavy in the crook of my arm. Head suddenly up again in response to one of the few discernible sounds in the early evening air – the dull thudding “plut” of a wet tennis ball on concrete as Hamlet pleads for yet another throw. Yorick looks disdainfully at the dog, who retreats, cowed by the acid serenity of the cats gaze .

I look down at Yorick and see that the oil stain round the back of his neck has still not come off. Testament to his experiments with car mechanics on the underside of the hearse (don’t ask).
"Front legs curled in front and under him . . ."
We listen, Yorick and I, to the few other sounds at the end of the day. Distantly a single dog barks, insistent and alone. As counter point, from a completely different quarter, comes frantic puppy yelping that suddenly and suspiciously stops. A lone car comes up the road from below and briefly illuminates the end of the garden with its headlights and then accelerates past us.

Close by a woman is singing. A strong vibrant voice – something with a religious theme, a maudlin melodramatic minor keyed devotional number. Closer still the front gate clatters as Zodwa returns from home or church. Suddenly a toad winds up into a rasping mating call, and in front of us again, the “plut” of a wet tennis ball on concrete. The closest sound of all is a purr of contentment.

Yorick stretches up and gives me a little nibble on the end of my nose, and my eyes mist over.

It’s a man thing you see.

"Its a man thing you see" Yorick and I in a private moment
of bonding.

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