The Mystery Of The Lost Cat

May2018

When the first poster went up, the town barely noticed. It was one poster. One singular, solitary poster. Sellotaped to a wet lamppost. And before long the poster had slipped from its lofty perch and drifted meekly to the ground, settling in the murky depths of the puddle below. Sodden. Faded. Forgotten.

But before long other posters started appearing. All around town. Stuck to shop windows, shop doors, car windows. Pinned to trees. Stapled to fences, gates, sheds. At that point the town couldn’t fail but sit up and take notice.

‘Lost Cat’.

That’s what the poster read. Lost Cat. Scrawled in, what appeared to be, childish handwriting. The words etched beneath, what again appeared to be, a childish, crude, sketch of a cat. The kind of drawing that would trouble no art galleries, nor even the upper echelons of a Primary School art teacher’s grading system, but that it was a cat was clear enough to anyone who took the time to scan the poster.

But that was it. Just the drawing of the cat and the words ‘Lost Cat’. Any other information required by the reader was not forthcoming. It oddly seemed to be left to the casual passer-by’s own imagination to decipher any further clues as to what the cat looked like, perhaps, or even whom should be contacted in the event that this unidentified cat should be found. Nothing. Nothing but the drawing. And the words. Lost Cat

So, in reality, the best thing for the town, and for those dwelling within it, would have been the wisest, most common-sense-driven, course of action; forget it. Simply forget it. Was it a childish joke without an obvious punch line? Possibly. Could it be that the person whom had put up said poster had simply rushed out the copies in a stress-induced panic and had forgotten to add pertinent information to the piece? Maybe. With the intention to produce a second draft complete with facts, names and any other points of reference for a team of would-be lost cat seekers and finders? Any of these scenarios could have been plausible. And all would have lent themselves to the notion that, in this instance, the best idea would simply have been to remove the posters, send them to the recycling bin and move on with their respective lives.

But no.

Not in this town.

This town was intrigued. Its interest was piqued. It was also, quite frankly, a little annoyed. Never mind the mystery that lay within these badly designed and produced posters but had anyone thought about the blemish that these images had inflicted upon the town? Had anyone seriously considered the damage this could do the town’s reining ‘Best Kept Small Town’ award status? This was littering, plain and simple. This was a wanton act of vandalism on the town. Lost cat or no lost cat. It was…it was…well, it was also quite sad wasn’t it? Well, I mean, it was obviously created by a small child who had lost their beloved pet, wasn’t it. No wonder the posters were lacking detail but were beyond generous in their sentimentality, it was the work of a child, obviously. Wasn’t it?

Well, was it? The town’s community council certainly didn’t know. They hadn’t heard any report or complaint informing them of a lost cat. And the local police? Well, let’s just say the local police had stopped taking calls or inquiries about the issue. Being bombarded by a deluge of the town’s feline population handed into the station, only to then be further submerged by a backlash from the owners of these incorrectly ‘rescued’ cats when they came to collect them, must have went some way to convincing the local police that the best route to take in this situation was to completely wipe their hands of those bloody posters and pass it back to the town’s community council.

So the mystery burrowed deeper into the minds of the town’s residents. Articles were written by the town’s self-deigned deep thinkers. Theories penned online by shady monikers. All speculating as to the what’s, the why’s and the who. The posters were left up. No, no, we can’t take them down, they thought, we must leave them up in anticipation of the happening. In anticipation of the event that was surely to occur. The one signalled by, and hidden within, the cryptic nature of the poster.

Then one day a lead. Yes, information. Nothing tangible, no, but a lead all the same. A hooded figure was spotted running away from the scene, caught in the act of pinning another poster to a tree by one of the town’s more senior residents as she took her mid-morning stroll. The figure looked smaller than average, that was all the witness could say. Young? Old? Who knew? The figure’s hooded jumper was fully zipped up, the hood completely obscuring his or her face. No words were exchanged. No she didn’t see what kind of shoes the perpetrator had on. No, how was she to know whether the person was acting in an angry, mischievous or distressed manner? And that was it. The first and only lead fizzled into nothing.

But the subject remained on the minds, in the hearts, of the town’s residents. Even as the summer’s rain became subsumed by the battering winds of autumn, damaging and scattering many of the posters in the process, the mystery of the Lost Cat continued to prey on the minds of the townsfolk.

Hairdressers, shopkeepers, janitors, mechanics, office-workers, teachers, the local clergy; all would use the posters as the first topic of conversation when meeting with their customers, peers or parishioners. They couldn’t remember a time when the posters weren’t in their lives.

And it wasn’t just the older members of the community that focussed on the posters. The obsession also spread to the younger members of the community. Geeks, goths, jocks, nerds; they all had their own take, their own theories, their own opinions on the Lost Cat.

Even the local musicians.

Like one particular band. Standing on stage. Poised to play their set opener at the town’s community hall. Looking out to a sea of…well, nothingness. No-one. Not one person. Not one ticket-owner. An audience of none. Even then the subject of the posters seemed to crop up. Even then, at such a crucial stage of their performance, the matter of the posters arrested their attention as the guitarist laid his instrument against the amp belligerently and snarled towards the singer.

‘I fucking well told you nobody would turn up!’

‘Well, I…I mean, how was I to know that…’

‘It was those bloody posters!’ chipped in the female bass player as her instrument similarly made the journey from around-neck to slouching-against-amp. ‘A stupid fucking idea.’

‘Oh come on…’ started the singer confidently, ‘it created mystery didn’t it? Am I wrong? No. It created an aura didn’t it? It’s all anyone has talked about in this town for the last few months. It worked.’ He flashed a smug smile to each member of the band.

‘But it didn’t fucking work did it!?’ shouted the drummer behind him, standing up from his kit. ‘Because no-one has a fucking clue that our band is called Lost Cat do they!? In fact no-one has a clue the posters relate to a band at all!?’

‘Well, no, listen…’

‘And no-one knows there’s a bloody gig! That’s why no fucker has turned up!? That’s why we’re sat here looking like twats!’

‘Well, yes, but you see the mystery it created is…’

‘Oh fuck your mystery!’ shouted the bespectacled keyboard player, slamming the keys with his fists for good measure. ‘Lost Cat for fuck’s sake. What a fucking joke.’

‘You know what,’ answered the singer, a surge of rage coursing through him, ‘if you think you can do any fucking better then why don’t you just go and fu….’

And even after a poorly-executed multi-band member fight broke out – one in which many innocent instruments found themselves damaged in the melee – the subject of the posters still seemed to be foremost in their minds.

‘Look,’ began the singer as he wiped a spatter of blood away from the corner of his mouth, ‘how about we just keep this fucking embarrassment to ourselves and never mention it to anyone ok? Agreed? Good. Fucking good.’

And so as the weeks became months and months became seasons, the mystery of the Lost Cat posters, and their origin and meaning, remained unsolved in the little town. Unknown to all but that small few.

Slowly their importance started to fade as more and more, crumpled and weather-beaten, began their descent to the often sodden ground.

Until just one remained. Pinned to a solitary tree.

A source of perpetual mystery, a source of intrigue.

A source of embarrassment.

Lost Cat.

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Imaginary Snow

They say you should dance
as though no one is watching
and you should sing
as though no one is listening
so why not build snowmen
when imaginary snow is glistening
if your worlds collide
and seek out that dream inside
to prevent you falling apart?
Build up your courage,
and be only guilty
of following your heart.

Lost Cat

May2018

 

 

 

 

 

I searched through empty rooms
hearing always the purr
though I found nothing but empty space,
little lost lumps of fluff and fur,
so I stopped and stayed within the gloom.

I looked around at forgotten art
seeing always a smiling face
and seeing there a steady hand,
each line lining an accurate trace,
joy returned to my heavy heart.

But now the child’s drawing must do
in place of masterpieces of old
as my searching mind grows slow
and the warmth within me grows cold
to remind me of the lost cat I once knew.

Failed

There was no light
shining for me,
guiding the way
down a tunnel
of oblivion

No calming aura
to soften the blow
while fat faced angels
hovered protectively

Voices of loved ones
lost did not whisper
hello nor welcome
me to oblivion

For me;
pain, grief and anger
howled in the distance
while strange hands
pawed at a body tired
of fighting,
of living in torment

Silently screaming
to let me be,
to help me forget,
to scratch the horrors
from my mind

As the fog cleared
relief swept through
the room for all

But one.

Where Relationships Go To Die

‘Oh, a new one’

The slightly overweight and unshaven man pulled on his company-assigned fleece as he lowered himself on to the swivel chair in front of his designated checkout. The faded blue and yellow colouring on the fleece suggested several miscalculated spin cycles too many. It also suggested experience. Longevity. A scuffed plastic name tag crept out of the creased rubble as he adjusted the fleece. Barry, it read. He glanced down at it through his rimmed glasses briefly before looking across at the ‘new one’ sitting at the checkout across from him.

‘Hi there, I’m…’

‘You won’t have a name tag yet, will you.’ Barry ignorantly cut short the ‘new one’s’ overly pleasant introduction – the kind reserved and displayed by any and all new starts on their first day in a new job. Less a question, more a statement.

‘Erm…no, not yet…’ answered the ‘new one’ tentatively, his eyes narrowed slightly as the wheels in his mind began to decipher what kind of person his new colleague seemed to be. ‘But never mind, I’m…’

‘Don’t bother.’ Barry raised his hand in admonishment. ‘It doesn’t matter. Trust me. You’ll see.’

‘I’m sorry?’ the ‘new one’ asked, taken aback. The new start-in-a-new job eagerness rapidly wearing thin and crossing into the ‘who the fuck is this arrogant arsehole!?’ territory.

‘Look, I’m not being rude. Well, not intentionally. It’s just, well believe me, its better not to bother with all that. You’ll see.’

‘You’re being serious!?’ the ‘new one’s’ slowly percolating anger ticked up a notch.

‘Look, seriously, you can think I’m an arsehole…’

‘I don’t think you’re an arsehole’ replied the ‘new one’, all the while very clearly thinking this man is an arsehole.

‘…you can think I’m an arsehole, be my guest, but it’s far better and easier in the long run if I don’t know your name. Trust me.’

‘Suit yourself then.’ The new one swivelled slightly in his own chair, turning away from Barry, mentally noting never again to engage that particular mountain of arsehole in conversation should it be possible.

He glanced down the line of checkouts, briefly renewing the forced eagerness of his demeanour as he prepared to ingratiate himself with other (hopefully) friendlier colleagues. The smiling façade dissolved almost instantly. As he looked up at the line of checkouts all he could see was a succession of hunched, unsmiling, unwelcoming colleagues smothered in over-washed, un-ironed fleeces. Only the faded yellow and blue colouring of said fleeces suggested they were in fact at their place of work and not, as appeared more likely, participants in a funeral procession.

He swivelled back in his chair, staring at his till sullenly. He looked up slightly, above the till and into the vast expanse of warehouse beyond. Furniture (flat pack and/or built), lights, storage containers; all arranged or displayed in a seemingly unending array of ceiling high shelves or meticulously choreographed ‘room’ scenes. Oh well, he thought. Five minutes into the job and I despise the place already. That’s a new record. He drummed his fingers on the roof of the till and adjusted the plastic coiling on his PA microphone. Waiting. Waiting for a customer. Any customer. Any human being, in fact, to help lift him from this fresh suffocating portion of hell.

‘Can I just ask, why?’ the words shot out of his mouth before his brain had time to analyse their impact, surprising himself.

Barry sighed. ‘Why what?’

‘Why is it easier if you don’t know my name?’ he asked in reply, looking up at the mountain of arsehole sitting across from him whom, he now noticed, was not even giving him the professional courtesy of eye contact.

‘It just is.’

‘Ok, I get that. You’ve made that point. But why? Just tell me that and I’ll leave you alone. I won’t ask again.’

Barry sighed once more. A longer, deeper sigh than the one before. One that ignored all attempts at subtlety.

‘Because,’ he began slowly, ‘because, look, you’ve not had any customers yet have you?’

‘No.’

‘So you won’t know yet. But you’ll see.’

‘What don’t I know yet?’

Another sigh punctuated the space between question and answer.

‘What this place does. To people. To relationships.’

‘What do you mean? What does ‘this place’ do to relationships? What does that mean?’

Barry looked up at his new naïve, unlearned colleague, adjusting his glasses slightly as he looked him in the eye.

‘It’s where relationships come to die.’

The ‘new one’ narrowed his eyes. And then burst into a loud one syllable eruption of laughter. It echoed around the warehouse. He turned around towards the line of other colleagues, expecting to see them either smile in acknowledgement of the teasing or share his bafflement at the strange and nonsensical utterings – or ‘pish’ as he would usually refer to such drivel – flowing from this Barry’s mouth. He saw neither. All he did see was each of the colleagues look up gloomily in unison at the sound of the sudden noise only to then look back down again towards their tills. A slight shiver shot through his veins. He tried to shake it off, turning back to Barry.

‘Don’t talk rubbish,’ he laughed, aware that the laugh lacked sincerity, ‘what do you mean this is where relationships come to die?! What does that even mean?’

‘Trust me’ answered Barry, each vowel and consonant now somehow sounding as if they were infused with his, what would appear to be, trademark sigh.

‘Trust you?’

‘Trust me, yes. Look…’ yet another sigh, this time serving as filler as he deliberated whether to expand on his laconic answer, ‘look, you’ll see what happens when we get some customers. It’s still early, you’ll see. In fact…in fact look there, down at the bottom till. There’s a couple. Look at them. Look at their faces. Hatred. Pure hatred there. To each other. And you know what? I passed them on my way in here about twenty minutes ago. They were holding hands. Smiling. Laughing. Planning how to revamp their bedroom or living room or whatever. And now look at them.’

‘Come on now, I think you’re pulling…’

AAAGH! A short sharp shout echoed around the building.

‘Look, look!’ said Barry excitedly, ‘look for god’s sake. Look! She’s just run over his foot with that trolley! She’s laughing! Look! Snarling! I’m telling you, it’s this place. Relationships die here. They don’t stand a chance! Customers, co-workers, everyone. Relationships cannot survive this place.’

‘Na, come on, I’m not having that…’ his voice sounded unsure as he looked towards the couple, the man now limping and swearing, his partner holding aloft a wooden shelf in a combative, fighting stance.

‘Trust me. I’m telling you.’

‘Na…no, I can’t…’

‘Look, you’ll see. This place. It does something. It does, I don’t know, something. It gets under people’s skin. It clamps onto all those little problems and animosities bubbling away under the surface of relationships and brings them out into the open. I don’t know how. But it does. Maybe it’s the size of the place. Maybe it’s those stupid little arrows that usher you round the building should you, god forbid, decide to stray from the path. Could be it’s that bloody bypass and the nightmare drive to get here. Maybe it’s the Swedes, maybe they want to bring down Western civilisation?! Maybe they lured us in with the soulful sounds of ABBA to make us all docile and now they plan to finish the job with this place, befuddling everyone’s mind with irrational animosity and a tsunami of shitty instructions! I don’t know. But as sure I’m sat here now, this place will destroy any relationship. I’m telling you, it might be £30-odd for a home delivery from here but I would urge anyone, if they want to keep their relationship and sanity intact, and even though it would put us out of a job, to pay that charge every single time. This place does things man, it does things…’

The ‘new one’ looked up at Barry and saw that his colleague appeared to be genuinely troubled. Uneasiness trickled through his own mind. Was this a wind-up? Was this a nightmare? Was this dishevelled Barry character in the midst of a nervous breakdown? Had he stumbled onto the pages of a sub-standard dystopian short story? No, he thought, surely not. It can’t be that.

‘No, come on Barry. Seriously. Couples argue all the time. Especially in shops. You’re exaggerating.’

‘I’m not.’

‘Ok then, if it’s so bad then why stay?’

‘Why stay? The job market isn’t exactly in its prime is it? And anyway, since when was job satisfaction ever a realistic goal.’

‘Na…na, you’re at it. You’re pulling my leg here. You are.’

‘You’ll see. I’m telling you, you’ll see. Oh look, here’s another couple coming now. I’m sure that blood-stained box clutched in the woman’s hand and the man’s open, bleeding head wound is all perfectly innocent…’

Barry straightened himself on the chair and greeted the aforementioned customers to his checkout, keeping chat to a minimum as his new colleague looked on with open-mouthed awe. At one point Barry, in between the screams of ‘FUCK’ and ‘BITCH’ and ‘BALD PRICK!’ emanating from his warring customers, nodded over at his colleague. A nod which, slyly and smugly, said I told you, you’ll learn, you can see I’m right.

And he did learn, the ‘new one’. He’s not sure when exactly but at some point during that day he did learn. Maybe it was when his first customer smashed his newly purchased chest of drawers off the ground only inches away from his counter after a whispered, barely-audible argument with his significant other? Or it could have been when he swivelled in his chair at one point and looked towards the food area to see an angry couple viciously lobbing meatballs at one another’s head. Or, quite possibly, it may have been when one furious wife or girlfriend, clearly at the end of her rope, actually got behind the wheel of a momentarily abandoned forklift truck and tried to, albeit very slowly, run down her male partner. Or maybe it was a dozen other incidents that managed to convince him that, yes, maybe Barry was telling the truth after all. Relationships really did come to this place to die.

At the end of his shift as he walked through the automatic doors, head bowed in a cloud of gloom, a smiling fresh-faced, fresh-fleeced woman walked towards him, her arm out-stretched anticipating a handshake.

‘Hi there, I’m just starting my first shift, my name is…’

‘Don’t bother’ mumbled the now-no-longer-new-one as he ignored her outstretched hand and rudely walked past her into a car park full of angry beeps and blood-curdling shouts, ‘just don’t bloody bother, trust me.’