Granny sat outside this morning with her breakfast. She'd brewed coffee in a stove-top espresso pot with strong freshly-ground Fairtrade (of course..) coffee; toasted slices of bread full of seeds and walnuts from a German bakery: put out ricotta cheese - Italian - and her own home-made strawberry and balsamic jam. She had also picked two ripe guavas off the tree that Mr Handsome planted by the front gate. To her right on one side of the patio was a riotous display of nasturtiums, on the other an equally riotous display of morning-glory. The olive trees she planted five years ago were growing and healthy, she saw, the fronds of the palm tree that was small when she arrived and is no longer were waving benignly in a very gentle wind. To the far left, hibiscus bushes were in full flower. Such a sunny, relatively windless morning a relatively rare thing here, Granny sat comfortably, eating and drinking and reading an only half-read issue of the Guardian review. Bliss.
But no, actually. Not bliss. Granny was not - is not - very happy just now.
You know the comic shaggy-dog story about the cat that got shut in the washing-machine and washed? Well, she can tell you it is not a funny story really - not unless you like black humour -something fine on paper -or in the movies; but not at all fine in real life.
Yesterday morning she went to get the washing out of the machine to hang on the line. In the middle of it was the sodden, rigid, very clean, very heavy - being sodden - very dead body of Pili (otherwise Pilar Lorengar after the opera singer, because as a kitten she had such a sweet miao): Granny's half-calico, half tabby and much loved little cat.
Kicking the washing-machine shouting 'murderer' wasn't much help: the washing-machine is an inanimate object which was only doing what it's programmed to do: the real murderer - programmed to do the washing after all these years she might be, but Granny is not an inanimate object - was the one who closed the machine door and set it going: Granny herself.
She howled mightily half the day, but nothing could bring back her little cat, by now wrapped in large amounts of newspaper and two plastic bags and dumped in the rubbish: no grave no cat funeral here; the ground is too hard and dogs would have come along and dug the body up.
It was an evil collection of unfortunate circumstances; starting with the fact that the Local Yokel having not adapted to the cat like the other dogs, and continuing to hassle her, Pili had ceased to station herself in the dining-room in the evenings, on a chair and taken to hiding in cupboards etc - but never so far as anyone knows in the washing-machine before. Going on to the fact, that, having discovered the odd flea bite on one of her legs, Granny had that evening decided to do a flea blitz, had hauled the throws off the sitting-room sofas, sprayed the sofas - sprayed everywhere, dumped the throws in the machine - she hadn't shut the door, in case there was more washing to be found. (The throws of course would have smelled comfortably familiar to the cat who sat on them sometimes when noone was around to chuck her off. )
There was also, for the first time ever, another cat lurking down on the land; a black and white monster. Granny due to go to a concert watched it for a bit, hoped it wouldn't cause trouble then hurried to her office to look up the map giving her the whereabouts of the concert, remembering to put the machine on as she went.
She heard a cat scream in a little while; but put it down to the cat outside, hoping there wasn't some fight in which her cat would come off worst. When Pili didn't turn up for her breakfast in the morning she even went outside to see if she could find her wounded somewhere on the land. In vain, of course. Then she came back in and emptied the washing-machine....etc etc.
The cat's scream is what haunts her, especially. If she'd correctly identified its source, could she have got the machine open - could she have saved her? - the programme was a low temperature one, so couldn't have boiled her at least - one small comfort, of a rather black kind. Maybe even then it would have been too late. The sheer terror of the poor animal when the machine started turning is more than she can bear to think of. Your animals - like your children - are yours to protect and care for, not to condemn to horrible deaths.
Murderer Granny....felinicide - whatever. Aided of course by the lethal tendency of cats to seek out small warm, familiar-smelling places, especially when harried by a small black street dog - who isn't to be blamed either, though this disaster doesn't make Granny any fonder of the Local Yokel.
Granny didn't even get to her concert. Despite her investigation of the map before leaving, she still drove round and round an unfamiliar village and couldn't find it. Not an apt punishment for the killer of what must have already been a very dead cat. But something.
She will keep her washing-machine shut in future. And meantime, until another cat is found, later in the summer, the mice will be happy. Sod them.
(Pili would have been sitting on Granny's lap while she wrote this, in other days. She had a book on her lap at one point and almost thought it was the cat. She keeps seeing the cat, she thinks - or at least expecting it to come round the corner. She keeps on having flashbacks of everything - if only she had done this, not done that etc etc. That's how it always is with tragedies, big and small. Don't drop that handkerchief, Desdemona. Don't turn that machine on, Granny. Oh God. Oh God.