Monday, 26 March 2012

The cat that walked into walls

Some speak of Macavity in hushed tones; others mutter the name Griddlebone and then cross themselves and look over their shoulders.  There are those who fear Mungojerrie, and those who worry intently about Grimalkin.  There are even, amidst the pasta-makers of Firenze, those who mutter the name Garfield and then lock their doors and shrive themselves in darkened rooms.  But no-one mentions Arbutternot, the cat who walked into walls
His name is not forgotten, and in the temples of Bast that survive to this day there are books in which the roll-call of famous and sacred cats is written, and Arbutternot is still listed there.  But no-one dares speak it, for though the others may be dreaded to be listening in, overhearing conversations that were better not discussed in front of cats, there is surety that speaking his name will summon him, pulling him from wherever he is beforehand to wherever the speaker is now.
For the problem with the cat who walked into walls is that the walls always gave way before him.
Dolly Hayfield was sixty-six and already fed up with retirement.  She had fourteen separate pensions from her various activities before she retired, and for the first three months she'd entertained herself by organising the various cheques and stipends that they provided and consolidating the various payments to happen on the same day and into the same account, followed by a myriad outflowing into other accounts, through shell companies and eventually into clandestine accounts where they accrued financial interest and sloughed off governmental interest.  Now that her money ticked like clockwork though, she was looking for something else to do
The local library had yielded two students who were unimpressed with her offer of help, possibly because she'd shaken her head at their homework problems and muttered 'Trivial!' not quietly enough under her breath.  When she'd started asking them if they could request harder homework and trying to show them how to solve polylogarithms in their heads they'd approached the head librarian and told him that she was attempting to touch them indecently.  Given that she felt that she'd been trying to reach through sloppily-cooked baked beans to find intelligence, she was inclined to agree and so had had to promise to leave them alone.  The hobbies and activities board only had three notices on it; an announcement for a weekly book-club meeting, a knitting circle, and a yellowed and smudged offer of tuition that she'd assessed as discrete prostitution.
The book-club let her attend two meetings and then asked her to leave.  She protested, and asked to know what the problem was, and was told that they liked their Mills & Boon romance novels and disliked her attempts to introduce foreign-language texts with over eight hundred pages.  The knitting circle had started off in a friendly manner as she'd not known how to knit, and the matrons and mothers had cooed over her, lending her needles and yarn (with a sharp look that she immediately recognised as meaning there will be payment for this) and teaching her the basic stitches.  When she returned the second week with a reasonable quality knit of the Bayeaux Tapestry they'd told her to get out and demanded money for the needles and yarn she'd been lent.
So when the book she'd proposed to the book club arrived and she opened it to learn that there were supposedly temples of Bast hidden around the world from where they migrated after the fall of the worship of her in the Egyptian empire, she decided that hunting down a lost temple might be just what she needed to keep her mind sharp and engaged.
She was still feeling put out about her rejection from the library's clubs though, and as a last act of vengeance she sent a couple of pieces of paper to both meetings, each containing the same word written in large, block capitals.

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