Schrodinger the cat
A heartwarming short story for cat lovers...
Pictured: Schrodinger enjoying a nice sleep after a good meal
They say that a criminal always returns to the scene of his crime. Perhaps that was the reason that I ventured into Pluto Close today. Whatever my reason might have been, it was a mistake.
Too late, I saw Mrs Barnaby coming down the Close towards me and she spotted me right away, even though her eyes are old and rheumy. She used her stick to propel herself towards me at great speed, as if she could not wait to confront me. The stick must have been a recent acquisition as I had never seen it before. It looked as old and as gnarled as she was.
I could have turned and fled but that would have aroused suspicion. I had to brass it out, so I greeted her with a cheerful insouciance.
“Good afternoon, Mrs. Barnaby. How are you this fine day?” I enquired.
She came to a halt in front of me and glared.
I was boxed in.
To either side there were unbroken rows of red brick terraced houses and ahead of me, a bitter old woman.
The only escape route lay behind me, the way I had come, but there was no turning back, not, at least, until I had confronted the enemy. I was like the Light Brigade at the Battle of Balaclava. The only way was forward into the valley of death.
Mrs Barnaby fired her opening salvo.
“I thought you’d gone to live somewhere in the North,” she snapped.
“And so I have,” I lied. It was a lie that I had been forced to peddle due to recent events. “I live in Yorkshire these days. I’m down here on a business trip. I’ll be getting the train back up to Doncaster from King’s Cross come five o’clock.”
She thrust her seamed face towards my own. Mrs Barnaby was standing very close to me. I detected the faint but unmistakable smell of urine.
“Where’s Tiddles?” She demanded.
Unfortunately, old people often become obsessive, and Mrs. Barnaby is a prime example of this phenomenon. She is obsessed with her pet cat Tiddles, which went missing a considerable while ago. It is time that she let the matter go. It really is making her ill. Sometimes I fear for her sanity.
“Tiddles?” I asked, stroking my chin as if baffled. I knew very well what she was referring to. And she knew that I knew. She stuck her bony index finger into my chest. It was like a claw.
“You know where he is. You know far more than you’re letting on,” she asserted, as if she knew for a fact that I was behind the disappearance of her precious moggy. This was rather unfair to say the least, as she knew nothing of the sort.
“I’m afraid that I know only what I have already told you, Mrs. Barnaby, which is precious little,” I said as soothingly as possible. “I’d help you if I could, but I have no idea where little Tiddles might be hiding. Have you tried the Cat Rescue Centre in Bromley? I hear that they get to know all the latest tittle-tattle about cats at the Rescue Centre. They might have some news of him there.”
She eyed me with the greatest of suspicion.
“Tell me where he is,” she snarled. “You’ve kidnapped him. You’ve taken him up to Yorkshire, haven’t you?”
That’s the trouble with old people. They think that it is their divine right to hurl unsubstantiated allegations at you and blacken your name in public. The few passers-by on Pluto Close could hear quite clearly every slur that she was loudly trumpeting against me.
“I assure you that I have done nothing of the sort,” I said. I could not help but get a little terse at this point, and it must have shown in my demeanour, for when Mrs. Barnaby saw the expression on my face she recoiled in horror.
“You’ve done something worse than kidnapping, haven’t you?” She asked, although I believe the question was rhetorical. “You’ve killed him. You’ve killed my little Tiddles. Admit it. I know you have.”
I could see the curtains twitching in the houses at either side of the Close. I knew that Mrs. Barnaby was the sort of person who suffered from paranoid delusions; but did the people who were twitching those curtains know? If not, they might see us arguing and conclude that a vigorous young man was bullying a feeble old woman. It was time I made my exit. I shook my head sorrowfully.
“I am an animal lover like you, Mrs. Barnaby,” I replied. “It saddens me to hear that you think me capable of a brutal act like that. Now I really must bid you farewell. I’m sorry, but I cannot help you any further.”
“I saw the police round at your house just before you left for Yorkshire. What did they want?” She demanded. “What have you got on your conscience?”
“If you must know, I have a very clear conscience, Mrs. Barnaby,” I replied in an even if somewhat steely voice. “If I have done anything wrong in this life it was due to force of circumstance or for some other good reason, and not to any failing of my moral compass. And I have always been ready to admit to my mistakes and to repent them. How many people do you know who can say that? Precious few, I imagine.”
I had hoped that this might put an end to Mrs. Barnaby’s ranting but even my fine speech did not deter her.
“How many cats have you killed?” She shrieked. “I’m going to ring up the police and tip them off about you and Tiddles if you don’t tell me the truth!”
I looked around anxiously, somewhat concerned at the number of people that might have been within earshot who would have heard me branded a cat-killer.
“I am telling you the truth, Mrs. Barnaby,” I replied with a deep sigh, so as to affect the air of someone exercising saintly forbearance in the face of extreme provocation. “I am a cat preserver, not a cat killer. Now you must excuse me as I have things to do. Good day to you, Mrs. Barnaby.”
I turned and walked away.
“Cat killer!” She called after me as I disappeared in the direction of the high street.
Between you and me, I have to confess that I knew rather more than I was letting on to Mrs. Barnaby.
The evening that Tiddles disappeared, my girlfriend Angela had ended our relationship, a development which had a rather unsettling effect on my nerves.
I tried drinking camomile tea, but it failed to calm me down, so I went to the corner shop and bought a bottle of whiskey. I am not a big drinker but I thought that for once I would get well and truly drunk. I told myself I had every reason to get drunk. I had only known Angela for a matter of weeks, but in that brief period she had come to mean a lot to me, and now I had lost her, and discovered she had been cheating on me to boot.
I spent an evening watching the mind-numbing pap that is standard fare on television these days, while simultaneously ingesting mind-numbing quantities of whiskey. The combination was most therapeutic.
After drinking half the bottle, I stood up, glass in hand, to get some ice, and turned in the direction of the kitchen. As you can imagine I was somewhat unsteady on my feet by then, and consequently dropped my glass. It smashed against the stone hearth sending splinters everywhere. I went to get the brush and pan, then hurried back to the epicentre of the damage to clear up the mess.
As my pet cat Schrodinger is deaf, I normally take great care to look out for him when I am moving around in the house, because I know that it would be all too easy to step on him, particularly as he can’t hear me coming.
On this occasion, in my drunken hurry, I omitted to think about Schrodinger and kicked him on my way to the fireplace. The impact was so hard that he became airborne and landed awkwardly on a shard of glass. It may have pierced an artery, because blood fountained from his leg. The sight of it instantly sobered me up.
I ran to the kitchen and took out my first aid kit, and, ignoring his protestations and scratches, not to mention a few savage bites he inflicted on me, I cleaned up his wound and dressed it as best I could. Somehow I managed to stop the flow of blood.
But I knew full well that this would suffice only as a temporary measure. I would have to get him to a VET’s practice to have his wound properly dealt with.
However, there was a problem. I had noticed when bandaging Schrodinger’s leg that his attempts to fend me off quickly became feeble. It was obvious this was because of the amount of blood he had lost. He now seemed too weak even to open his eyes. I gently pulled back his lips with my fingers and examined his gums.
They were pale compared to the healthy pink colour they normally had. He wouldn’t make it to the VET’s; he had lost too much blood. The chances were that if he didn’t get an immediate blood transfusion, he would die here, right in front of me, on the rug I kept before the hearth.
This was a possibility I was simply not prepared to accept. I had just lost one great love of my life and was not prepared to lose another.
But where would I get a source of type A cat blood at this time of night?
The answer came to me immediately: Tiddles. He was type A; I had seen it mentioned in his Feline Medical Profile. Mrs Barnaby had shown it to me in the days when we were good friends.
I went to the cellar, found some tubing and hollow needles amongst my medical equipment, and sterilised them, then I went to the front door with a torch. I opened the door and stood on the doorstep.
The night was warm and dry. Cats appreciate good weather, so I thought Tiddles would almost certainly be out and about.
A few silvery strands of cloud were dancing attendance on a full moon. This made for good lighting conditions.
Perfect for cat hunting.
I looked over the wall that separated my garden from that of Mrs. Barnaby and spotted Tiddles foraging about in the undergrowth in her garden. I knew I would have to lure him to my side of the wall using subterfuge, but once I had him indoors, I would be able to use whatever methods I needed to enlist his help.
“Tiddles,” I called in a syrupy voice like the one that I had heard Mrs. Barnaby use.
“OOOOh Tiiiidd-les. Puss puss puss puss. Come here Tiii-dles.”
He glanced at me with an expression of disinterest on his face and carried on scratching about in the bushes. I went indoors and got a cat treat – the sort that I knew from experience he could not resist.
“OOOOOH Tiiiidd-les,” I called again, waving the treat around in my hand.
This time his eyes widened with interest. I saw them glowing in the light of my torch. He jumped onto the wall next to me and I scooped him up and carried him indoors, then I set about restraining him in an improvised harness so that I could carry out an emergency blood transfusion.
I am sure that if Tiddles had possessed the brain power to understand that he was going to give blood to help to save his good friend Schrodinger, the little fellow would have done so willingly; as it was; all he was interested in was saving his own miserable hide. Consequently, my persuasion had to be somewhat forceful.
His fur stood on end so that he resembled a furry football and he hissed and mewled and whined and fought me tooth and claw to avoid being secured in the harness.
But for all this I got him trussed up and stuck one of the hollow needles in him. It was attached to the tube. At the other end of the tube there was a similar needle. In an instant, blood began to flow from the second needle, and I found a suitable vein in Schrodinger’s foreleg and stuck the needle in it. He didn’t resist; he couldn’t, for he was far too weak.
I held Tiddles aloft like one of those gravity feed blood-bags that you see suspended on poles above hospital patients. Gradually the blood ebbed from him and flowed into Schrodinger.
After a while, Schrodinger’s eyes opened he began to look quite perky, compared to the way he had been, at least.
Regrettably, Tiddles did just the opposite. He became feeble and quiet and, ultimately, did not survive the experience.
When he had served his purpose I said a prayer, put him in a black bin liner, and dropped him in the wastebin in my back yard. Fortunately the bin men were due to collect the rubbish the very next day, and all evidence of Tiddles and his fate would be removed to a council dump far, far away.
You will no doubt be delighted to hear that Schrodinger made a full recovery and, to this day, continues to lead an active and happy life.
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