Writing

Chief Mourner

I wrote this when I was first teaching- I must have been 21 - and Im afraid its a bit flowery. I have gradually learnt to simplify my writing,although I do love poetic phrases!

Timothy was sleeping,a wreath of dusty velvet,in the corner by the dustbin. The morning sun spread suddenly like thin margarine over the broken rubble in the yard- slid its pale fingers through sooty privet-leaves to feel over the familiar bricks and bottles,and met, with a delicate surprise, the rise and fall of fur. Sleep melted on the instant,and Timothy with his first green gaze drew in the details of his open-air apartment,flattering his lean black body against the wall. Easily elegant, a savage in dusty evening-dress,he considered with cold eyes an audience of cabbage-roots,broken glass and frowsty paper-bags:and felt through his nostrils,slowly and selectively,the warm dustbin-smells waving to and fro in the sunlight. Then he rose: stretched out long black legs and arms: and with lovely insolence made his way through the debris to the area steps.

Like most cats at most times, Timothy was not at home. Forgotten the warm hand pressed along his back, the empty plate and the filled belly, the strange human smell of soap and sweat and clothes; remembered only the call of the night,lonely wet walls and moonlight on the rooftop......now it was over:morning had flattened him into orderly feelings,and lulled his wild dreams into a tender anticipation of breakfast. He scorned the mouldering steps and landed beneath them with conscious grace:felt the air with nose and fur: and carried his tail high into the passage-way beyond.

It was the smell that made him pause. Not the wallpaper-smell,rising damp and floury from a riot of blood-red vegetation:not the sour smell of the carpet rotting gently on the floor:nor the rich,heavy cabbage-and-bacon smell moving towards him from the distant kitchen. It was a death-smell. Only a cat could have pulled that strand of scent from the odours of a dirty house:only a cat could have known that pale,delicate evil for what it was. Timothy pulled it out:Timothy's green brain knew it for what it was, as he paused, tail roving gently,eyes aglitter, outside a swinging door.

At last, because he was hungry and could smell the kipper in the room,he went in, his black silk stockings making no sound,and stood in a prickle of fear against the wall. Their eyes met at once- his amber and royal emerald,hers pallid,staring from a cloud of dead hair in the dreary waste of blood and bread and kipper on the table-top. Sunlight flowed through the vacant flesh, glowing dimly like treacle under clouded glass,and the fingers curving upward were as stiff and slender as coral-branches. Timothy leaned out towards the deathsmell which was unfolding its terrible petals into the room,and considered silently with shining eyes. Among the dead hands and old blood on the table the kipper, yellow now and withered in a stale rind, stirred hunger-water gently in his mouth. Suddenly he looped his lean body up into the shadows,and with a black explosion fired himself to the table in a second. There he swayed,eyes splintered, courting the flame of hunger until desire at last overwhelmed him and he sprang in a fury of love and hate to bury sharp white needles into the prey.

When he had eaten,Timothy sat long in idle contemplation,rapt over his rich blood and heavy belly,content rubbing gently up and down his throat and plucking at the tip of his tail. Within reach of the dead hands and in the shadow of the smell of death he made a leisurely toilet:and from its nest of clouded hair the face stared incuriously as he parted his ears and with fastidious care straightened the seams of his long black stockings. Then he turned,dignified and debonair, to sniff delicately about the corpse: stepped with tender feet upon her forsaken shoulders, and stretched to meet the floor.

Outside, rain began to fall:tears hung on the spear-tipped railings.and little grey feet ran in and out among the bricks and bottles in the yard. A distant thunder of fists rattled the window as a black cat paused on the threshold, poised his tail, and strolled immaculate up the area steps and out into the world beyond.

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