Okay, so Shirley has run away. Shirley is one of our cats. Mags wanted cats and now she says she can't stand them. "They leave fur everywhere", she says. What does she expect? They're cats for Gods sake! Anyway, Shirl has gone. I think mad cat woman from across the road has her. She was always threatening to get the cats taken away. She is a right old busy body. Talk about a nosey neighbour! Her, the old bird from next door but one and her other friend. They could start a covern. Being a fly on the wall round there would be like watching a scene from MacBeth. Whinge, whinge, whinge! Havnt they got anything better to do? They called the police out last week. Opposite our house is a school. Some kids were hanging around there, like kids do and whallop, police called. A right bunch of curtain twitchers. I remember when our oldest cat, Pete, got stuck up one of the trees outside the school. I was asleep and I heard a banging on the front door. I pulled on my jeans and ran down, expecting world war three to be breaking out and its her, mad cat woman. A look of glee on her fat red face. "Oh, I thought you'd like to know, but your cat Peter has got himself in a predicament". Predicament! Why can't she just come out and say it. He was stuck up a tree! Okay I thought, thanks for telling me, he's a cat, he'll sort himself out. When he's hungry he'll come down. It was then that I looked outside and saw it. There were two fire engines and half the street stood round looking up at the tree. Jesus!
"I think you'd better go and have a word", she said. No shit Sherlock! So I lifted my head, put my shoulders back and mustered what dignity I could and marched through the tittering crowd to one of the firemen.
"Sorry, erm, that's my cat up there", I muttered.
"Oh dear" was the reply.
"Can you get him down?", I asked.
"What do you mean, no?", I said.
"He's too high and the tree isn't strong enough to take the weight of the ladder. Too dangerous", he said.
"So, you're just leaving him there?", I asked.
"Nah. We're sending for the rescue platform".
Rescue platform! What the hell! We already had half the fire brigade and their assorted vehicles and they were sending for back-up!
"What's the rescue platform", I finally dared to venture.
"Big ol' hydraulic platform", he said, "been looking for a chance to try her out". He smiled, rubbed his chin and then made the announcement. I didnt like the announcement.
"I hope you love your cat. He's costing you a pretty penny", he announced.
"What do you mean?", I asked.
"Well, for starters, you've got twenty two men here, two engines and a third on the way and...", he looked at his watch, "we're on time and a half right now". He smiled again.
I felt the blood drain from my face.
"I didn't ring you", I said.
"Doesnt matter. It's your cat. It's funny really, we don't go out for cat-in-tree calls anymore. They normally get routed to the RSPCA and they handle it, but somehow the call got put through to us. Bit of a boo-boo, must be a new operator or something.". He smiled again.
I'm in debt up to my eyeballs right now. Mostly from the wedding and honeymoon but also from the fiasco that was the business I tried to start. I'll mention that some other time, I'm too depressed to think about it now.
Anyway, the rescue platform arrived with the appropriate ceremony. A giant red wagon, sirens wailing and lights flashing, came zooming down the otherwise quiet (except for an ever growing crowd) road. It parked up and I watched and counted the next group of overtime ready firemen disembark. Six, seven, eight, brilliant! No doubt I'm getting the bill for them as well. The other firemen were getting stuck into a cup of tea and some biscuit, courtesy of gloating MCW (mad cat woman). I could hear her informing one of the firemen of the irresponsible manner in which I looked after my cats. He shook his head slowly and looked over at me, his disdain obvious. Magic. Thanks MCW.
Anyway, Pete was lowered to safety and the crowd dispersed, throwing a few glances over their shoulder at me and hiding a couple more giggles. The fire engines departed, leaving just me and MCW stood watching them go.
"You're lucky I saw him go up that tree and called the fire brigade", she said, "otherwise he might still be in a predicament"
I smiled a short, quick smile and wend back in. Thoughts of ringing her scrawny, turkey like neck ran through my mind, but I was strong enough to resist....this time.