Angie strapped the harness onto the cat, it was a dog harness, but it fitted. The cat wasn’t sure about that, it felt alright and it looked alright when the cat sprang onto the table in front of the mirror.
The cat knew that something big was about to happen. Was the harness part of that? And hopefully Betty too? It followed Angie to the car park. Funny things these cars, they looked very odd, they smelled awful and they were very dangerous. The cat had discovered many things about cars, for instance that the things that looked like human beings inside cars were actually human beings.
Angie opened the back door of a car and the cat sprang inside, it didn’t particularly want to, but nothing ventured, nothing gained. Angie clipped the harness to the seat belt. The cat looked out the window, Angie drove away to First Ridge.
The cat had never been outside Smalltown before – big surprises. But the cat was, as all cats are, very curious about everything new – lots to see.
Between Smalltown and the sea was a range of high ridges, you’ll never guess what the first one was called. Angie stopped the car and unclipped the cat.
Wow! Was it windy. And how far could you see. And what was that funny group of towers on the horizon? The cat stared into the distance for a long time. It was the cat’s home, what we call Smalltown.
Angie picked up the cat and hugged it. First test passed – the cat had gone for a ride in a car and hadn’t thrown up or anything. The cat was happy.
The cat was happy, he was secured next to Betty on the back seat of Angie’s car. It was great that Betty was back. Angie took the old road – slower, but shorter and more picturesque. They stopped at Top Ridge to see the view: Smalltown in the distance and in the other direction an even smaller town and a strange blue horizon.
Angie parked at a B&B in a back street. “What sweet little girls you have, especially the little one in the cat suit. Tomorrow’s Wednesday, the weekly children’s talent contest. Go to the pier in the morning and sign the two girls on for the show – nice prizes.”
The cat wasn’t prepared – he knew that some water would be involved – but not this. Everywhere he looked there was water – apart from behind him – and there were human beings in the water. The cat flipped out. Betty quickly picked him up and they entered a fish and chip restaurant. The cat ate most of Betty’s fish sans batter – cod for cat, and cat for cod. The cat recovered, he’d have to live with the sea.
In the pub Angie drank a glass of wine, Betty two big beers and the cat a vodka and milk. They took one last look at the big wetness, they were tired, even the night-time cat.
The cat woke, it was very dark, he could see nothing, it was very warm, he was trapped between his best two human beings. As Angie said: very snooky‑cosy. He fell asleep.
Another surprise, a red fish. The cat ate a kipper for breakfast in the B&B. Angie and Betty had bacon and eggs. Betty gave the cat half a sausage.
The three of them walked to the pier and added the cat to the list:
the cat and his friends dance for you
“Rehearsals at two and the show starts at four o’clock.”
The three of them wandered along the promenade – the sense of evil and nastiness and hate was increasing.
The cat was thinking: The sea was still there, but he could live with that so long as the water came nowhere near him. It was daytime, there were dogs, little dogs and big dogs.
The big dogs were OK, they were not so stupid as to mess with the cat; his best animal friend was a great Dane in Smalltown. But the little dogs were awful, especially the dogs that looked like the hairs you pull out of the shower drain hole. They yipped and they yapped and strained on their leads. One little wretch broke away from its lead and wanted to attack the cat until it discovered the lack of lead – it ran away.
Betty was thinking. There was something very odd about this town. Most of the human beings, there were lots of them, were not human beings but androids. The air smelled good, the food was good, but no way was she going in the sea for a paddle.
Angie was thinking. There was something fake about this town. Everything was clean and tidy and well maintained – everything looked new. It was not like the other seaside towns that she had visited – everything run down and shabby and dirty. Perhaps she would go for a swim in the sea on the next day.
And there it was, a huge ornamental clock, a big round flowerbed of a roundabout, even the clock hands were planted with flowers – all very picturesque. And there was the pet shop.
Inside at one end was a crowd of children gathered around five baby rabbits with a man who was probably the pet shop owner – everybody happy; and at the other end a miserable-looking man doing something with some miserable-looking fish – evil and nastiness and hate.
The three of them walked to the theatre at the end of the pier. There were four acts to be rehearsed – curtain up at four.
The cat was on last, the curtain rose to show the cat on his hind legs and Angie playing a horn pipe on a wooden recorder. The cat waited for its cue and danced to the sailors’ song. The cat had been practising dancing with Betty for months.
The cat was not a particularly graceful dancer and the huge, children audience were greatly amused, especially when the tune stopped and the cat stopped dancing and bowed to the audience, he lost his balance and boomphed his backside down on the stage. How they laughed, how they clapped.
Angie played a melody of tunes and the cat danced all over the stage. More applause.
Betty, wearing a white tutu as usual, entered stage left. She took the cat’s right paw and the two of them danced a cha cha: tea for two, and two for tea. Lots of applause, another boomph. The cat and Betty and Angie waved to the audience.
The curtain came down and a man in a black suit and top hat stood at the front of the stage to perform magic tricks whilst the “judges” judged.
“And the third prize goes to ‘Ivan tells a story’ – much applause. A little boy came to the front of the stage and told a very short story; he received his prize – a surfboard with knee and elbow protectors – much applause.
“And the second prize goes to ‘Judy sings songs of yesteryear’ – much applause. A girl came to the front of the stage and sang the chorus of Daisy, Daisy; she received her prize – a bicycle – much applause.
“And now for the moment you’ve all been waiting for. The first prize goes to – wait for it – ‘two 2 juggle’ – much applause. A girl and a boy came to the front of the stage and juggled; they received their prize – tickets to two end-of-the-pier shows – much applause.
The cat and Betty and Angie were very disappointed. However…
“And now for a special announcement. It has been reported to us that the dancing cat is actually a cat and not a child and thus not eligible for a children’s talent contest. So we had to disqualify the cat. However the proprietor of Holden’s Ice Cream Parlour has donated a special prize for ‘the cat and his friends dance for you’ – much applause. The cat and Betty and Angie came to the front of the stage and received their prize – a week’s free supply of ice creams at Holden’s Ice Cream Parlour – much applause.
Angie played her recorder and everyone on the stage danced and sang:
Daisy, Daisy, Give me your answer do! I'm half crazy, All for the love of you! It won't be a stylish marriage, I can't afford a carriage But you'll look sweet upon the seat Of a bicycle made for two.
Off they went to the ice cream parlour, Betty ate a spaghetti ice, it really looked like a bowl of mixed pasta, but was entirely ice cream, Angie had a very traditional banana split and the cat had a bowl of vanilla ice cream scoops.
This was new for the cat, very cold cream balls – yummy. Angie decided that she would try a knickerbocker glory the next day.
A woman walking past their table complained. “She may be dressed up as a cat, but she doesn’t have to eat with her face in...” “It is not dressed as a cat, he is a cat, cats don’t use spoons.” The woman pushed her nose up to the ceiling and left.
The next morning found the three of them sitting on a bench on the promenade. It was high tide.
Betty was observing the people and the sea.
The cat was eating a fish with a name I can’t remember or pronounce. They had been to a fishmonger. There was a big marble slab sloping down to the street. It was covered in crushed ice and all different sorts of fish. The cat thought that he was in cat’s heaven; he pointed his paw at two different fishes and Angie bought them for him.
Angie thought that the fishmonger was 1950s nostalgia; Angie had to look the word fishmonger up on her smart phone.
Angie was not a member of the group, she was not violent, not strong and could not sense evil and nastiness; but she knew what the plan was. Betty and cat had spent hours on the plan; but Angie knew it: 1. the cat would spring onto the counter top and bash the evil and nasty man’s brains out and 2. Betty would grab the hateful fish and throw them on the floor and stamp on them.
And so it came to pass; however one problem: the sense of evil and nastiness and hate was less, but not gone.
The three of them wandered along the promenade in the other direction – no pier and fewer hotels. The sense of evil and nastiness and hate was increasing. They rounded a corner and there was a row of small shops. The end shop was another pet shop.