A dog!!! Dad promised. A dream come true.
FREAK-BALL ‘But dad promised me a dog, not a cat. I really really want a dog I can chase round with, and race across the field, and train to fetch sticks, and swim with me in the pond, and show off to my friends in the park; and watch telly with me and sleep on my bed. ‘It’s not fair,’ I told them, ‘Dad said if I helped him in the garden in April and May when there was a lot to be done, he would get me a dog because he knew somebody whose dog just had some puppies. And he didn’t. He brought a cat for me. A cat! It’s tiny. It can hardly stand up, much less chase after rabbits at Baker’s Farm.’
The wobbly little freak-ball tried to follow me, making this stupid cracked sort of miaow noise and falling over. Stood there when I turned round, looking fluffy and pathetic. So I eased my foot under it, and carefully flicked it up and sent it delicately flying back over the garden fence. Yes! Goal!
Dad got it for nothing from somebody he knows at the pub. He told me a man he knew had a mongrel puppy that I would love, but he din’t get it. He brought me the stupid cat thing instead. It doesn’t do anything. No wonder it was for free. So I thought I’d show it what real boys do, like jumping across the stream and throwing a stone at Mr Klintz’s door, and climbing a tree in the wood at the bottom of the garden. And falling out the tree at the bottom of the garden. Another thing real boys do is have dogs. Dogs that would have gone and got mum to come. My leg was twisted and really hurt. Huh – useless cat didn’t even come and bark for help. Dad found me when I was late in for dinner and I was really hurting because it was broken and it was cold. But I didn’t want to shout because dad says only sissies make a fuss and cry and stuff so I was trying to feel good enough to stand up and find a branch to use as a walking stick under my arm so I could get back across the garden on my own. So who needed a rotten cat?
My leg was broke but they said it was clean. I saw the bone sticking out the side and it didn’t look all that clean with leaves and soil and blood and two maggots. Mum chastises me with a clip round the ear when I come in like that usually – now here they are saying it’s clean. I had to stay in the hospital for a night. I don’t know why. I was a bit scared with all these crying kids round and I thought there must be something up with them. Not even a dog to wag its tail at me. Dogs do that. All I got was stupid women here with sicky smiles, and a stupid cat at home with a sicky miaow.
When I got home, I had to lie on the settee with my leg up and the cat made so much noise like a door creaking that mum picked it up and put it on me and said it was just a kitten and I had to look after it and I said, “How?” It wouldn’t go. It kept looking at me and going, “ah… ah… ow… ow… ow…” like it was choking and crying at the same time and it was stupid doing that. Except it was echoing me and I gave it a bit of a head tickle like dogs like, and a rub behind its ear. Dogs like that, too. It got its nose right close to my face and touched my nose and breathed on me. ‘At least you’re not a dog-breath cat. ‘Dogs’ breath smells horrible, eh, Pusscat?’ It did its purr-thing at me. And I cuddled it a bit closer, ‘Should we maybe change your name, eh, Lassie?’