Note: This is posted “as is”, no editing or proof reading involved, as part of the 30 Shorts In 30 Days project. During April I will be attempting to write and post a new short story everyday.
The small fire blazed in the wall of the apartment; an occasional crackle coming from the logs as they burned was the loudest noise in the room, accompanied by the creaking of a rocking chair as its occupant pushed themselves back and forth.
The apartment had double glazing and central heating, but there is something about sitting and watching a fire burning away gently in the hearth that helps people to relax. And Polynius needed all the help he could get to try and relax. Since the vet at London Zoo’s Endangered Creatures Programme had informed him that he was pregnant, Polynius was trying to keep calm. Unfortunately their companion Belia wasn’t a great help.
It had been a long time since an angel gave birth, thousands of years. The angels were very, very long lived. They also didn’t have genders, or rather they had both genders and no genders, or rather they could pick and choose which gender they wanted to have, or rather the situations they found themselves in chose their genders for them, or rather… it was complicated.
Belia however, was getting fully into the role of incompetent prospective father. So far one of the rooms in their apartment had been repainted eight different times, in eight different colours, to make a nursery for the coming child. It had also been fitted out with new furniture eight different times. There were so many unsuitable toys that Polynius had taken to boxing them up and putting them into storage while Belia was out at work.
“Poly, I’m home!” Belia called as he came through the front door into the small hallway. “I’ve brought you a present!”
“Belia, please. You’ve got to stop bringing things home. We’ve more than enough stuff here already.”
“Don’t worry Poly, this is for you, not the baby,” Belia explained walking into living room, carrying a cardboard box.
“You’ve brought home another cat haven’t you?” Poly asked, looking at the box with an air of dread. “How many times do I have to tell you, you can’t just pick up creatures from the zoo and bring them home.”
“Don’t worry so Poly, this one isn’t from the zoo. I went to a cat rescue centre and talked to someone there,” Belia said as he put the box down in front of Polynius.
Polynius leaned forward and lifted the flaps back from the lid of the box before reaching in and lifting out a large, scruffy looking cat.
“What is this?”
“It’s a cat,” Belia replied.
“Are you sure?”
“Absolutely. The nice lady at the rescue centre told me it’s a pedigree.”
“I think,” Polynius said as he turned the cat around in to examine it, “that she lied.”
“Oh no, she gave me a certificate and everything. That’s a pedigree Persian,” Belia said beaming with pride.
“What happened to its face?”
“They’re supposed to look like that,” Belia explained.
“Really? You mean that someone sat down one day and thought ‘Hey, let’s breed a cat that looks like it’s run into one too many walls?”
“It’s not his fault, he didn’t ask to be born like that,” Belia replied taking the cat back from Polynius’ outstretched hands. “I think he’s just adorable.”
“I think he looks like he’s hit too many walls and been in too many fights.”
“Well, yes, he is an old cat. And his fur’s been a bit clumpy, and shaved off a bit here and there to remove the dreadlocks. And he is missing a few teeth, and there is that little incontinence problem too, apparently,” Belia explained as he put the cat down. “But you have to admit, he is gorgeous.”
“Belia dear, I have to admit no such thing,” Polynius replied. “And you believe that getting this cat will help us to be more responsible parents?”
“That is the theory,” Belia replied as he watched the cat wander over to the fire and curl up in front of it before falling instantly asleep.
“Fine, you can keep it if it’ll stop you bringing more things home. But it’s your responsibility, you’re the one that needs practice it seems.”
Getting enough sleep is vital to any healthy lifestyle, and more so when you’re expecting. Once a baby arrives, the late night feeds, changes and cleans can make sure that whatever sleep you do manage to get is very, very welcome. So catching up on sleep before the baby arrives, that’s vital.
“Belia, it’s your turn,” Poly said rolling over slightly in the bed.
“Yes, it’s always your turn because it’s your cat that’s meowing outside the bedroom door!” Polynius replied through clenched teeth.
“He just wants a bit of company, he’d be quiet if he was allowed in here to sleep on the bed.”
“And if he comes in here to sleep, my allergies will flare up,” Polynius replied. “He’s staying out there.”
“I’ll go and shut him in the kitchen then.”
The aromas that come from the kitchen of a good cook can be some of the best you’ll ever smell. The blends of spices and fresh vegetables cooking and make your mouth water even if you’ve just eaten. These however can be overpowered, and totally ruined, by a bad smell.
“BELIA!” Polynius shouted.
“Yes Poly?” Belia replied joining him in the kitchen.
“Your cat has crapped in the litter tray again. I’m trying to cook.”
“Sorry Poly, I’ll get it cleared up now.”
“Most animals, Belia dear, most animals know to cover up their scat. What’s wrong with that one?”
“I think he’s just nervous Poly, and he is old.”
“Old or not, teach him to use the litter tray, or he goes.”
“But Poly, we can’t get rid of him,” Belia pleaded. “He’s helping us learn about responsibility.”
“Belia, he’s so far left puddles all over the house, clawed almost every item of furniture, eaten food while we’re still cooking it, has a habit of crapping while I’m cooking, and only stops meowing when he’s eating or sleeping. Which is most of the time,” Polynius explained. “I’m sorry Belia, but I’ve had enough. I need sleep and relaxation, and he’s depriving me of both. Find him another home.”
“Ah Gerald,” Belia greeted the manticore. “I was wondering if you would like to take in our cat. We’re looking for a new home for it.”
“Sorry Belia, I’ve been trying to cut down on spicy food.”
“Ken, hello, glad I caught you,” Belia waved to the centaur as he approached the stables. “I was wondering, would you like to take in our cat? We’ve got to give it up you see.”
“Ah Belia, how nice to see you. That’s a cat is it? My, they’ve changed since I last saw one,” Ken replied, looking at the animal the angel was carrying.
“He’s a pedigree Persian,” Belia replied proudly.
“Really? Wonderful. And, er, what are you supposed to do with it?”
“Do with it?” Belia asked.
“Yes, what’s the point of it?”
“Well, you feed it, and clear up after it,” Belia explained.
“And what does it do in return?”
“Mostly it sleeps,” Belia replied looking at Ken’s expression. “You don’t want to look after it, do you?”
“Ah Jerry,” Belia said as he met the Programme’s Head Keeper in the staff canteen.
“No, I don’t want a cat,” Jerry replied, cutting short their conversation.
Rehoming the cat wasn’t going well. So far he’d been mistaken for a potential lunch three times, a novelty draught excluder twice, and as a self-cleaning duster once. Belia was afraid that he would have to take him back to the rescue centre, where he’d probably never get homed again, so was passing some time sat in the gardens, stroking the cat.
“Hello Belia, I never took you as a cat person.”
Belia looked up and saw a late-middle-aged lady looking down at him.
“Hello Bridget,” Belia said to the Programme’s resident Banshee.
“He’s adorable isn’t he?”
“You like him?” Belia asked hopefully.
“Like him, I could just take him home and keep him. Why?”
“Well, I got him to help Poly and me learn about responsibility, but, well, he’s done nothing but meow all the time he’s not eating or sleeping, and Poly’s allergic to him, “ Belia explained.
“So what are you going to do?”
“I’ve got to find a new home for him. I don’t want to take him back to the rescue centre, he’s an old cat and would likely be there for the rest of his days. Would you take him home?”
“Belia, I’d be delighted to. I’m already a mad old lady, might as well finish off the reputation and get a cat.”