the state of things
by Douglas Lindsay - 10:35 on 23 March 2009
Whilst out for a family walk yesterday in the grounds of Wilanów Palace - the former summer residence of some Polish king or other, which has recently been repainted a very gauche, but visually arresting bright yellow - we happened upon a dead cat. Most of it was missing. In fact, the only part of the cat which was lying in the middle of the path, the right way up, was the head. No sign of the torso, not a leg to be seen, the tail was gone.
A cat’s head lying in the middle of the path. The right way up.
I’m not much of a fan of cats. I’ve never gone so far as to chop a cat’s head off, but if one morning the world woke up and all the heads of all the cats in all the world had been inadvertently removed, I wouldn’t care. One less thing to be annoyed about, (although I expect something else would soon fill the void.) Despite this antipathy, it’s still hard not to be diverted by the decapitated head of anything.
Why did it happen? Who or what did it? Was it suicide? How did the head come to be sitting in the middle of a path in the grounds of a gauchely decorated summer palace? What was the cat’s name? Was there somewhere a Mr or Mrs Cat, wondering when their partner was going to come home for lunch? Was a wee old woman wondering what had happened to Squiffy or Fluffy?
For our purposes we’ll call the dead cat Maurice. (That would be Maur-REES, not Morris.)
There’s an unavoidably sinister element to any decapitated head encounter. It’s the kind of thing that happens in movies. Real life tends to be decapitated-head-lite. (To go off on an ultimately related tangent, earlier in the day I’d been out for a run and had stumbled across a four-piece brass band playing at the door of an apartment block at 8.30 in the morning, which was an odd little occurrence for a Sunday and also the kind of thing that might happen in a quirky-with-potential-to-be-sinister movie, so naturally the second we stumbled across the cat’s napper, the day began to look very, very ominous.)
So, when TPCKAM asked me to get rid of the head of Maurice before the spawn saw it, I was suddenly very wary. It wasn’t that I didn’t agree with her. Wee Girl + Decapitated Cat’s Head = Trauma. Wee Boy + Decapitated Cat’s Head = Fascination and a lifelong pursuit of learning. It was best to keep it away from both of them.
Sadly, however, I had left my Head Clearing Up Kit at home that morning. I had one option, which was to kick Maurice’s head to the side of the path. TPCKAM and her visiting family walked on. The kids were still playing thirty yards behind us. I stood looking down at Maurice’s head, the right way up in the middle of a path, and contemplated booting it into the shrubbery.
At this point one has no option but to consider the movie angle, because this was an actual bona fide movie situation. Cat’s heads don’t just sit in the middle of paths. I’m nigh on forty-five now, and I’ve never seen one before. There was at least a 75% probability that we were in a movie-type scenario, and had this been a movie, Maurice would not have wanted me to kick him into the shrubbery, and at the moment when my foot connected with his head, he would have sunk his teeth into my toes. Thereafter he would have proceeded to munch his way through various parts of my body, culminating in ripping my throat out, while TPCKAM screamed.
The thin bare trees cast slender shadows in the light of a weak March sun. A cold wind blew along the path, a bitter reminder of the chill of winter, hugging the skin and sending shivers through every muscle. I looked around and thought I could see movement in the trees, and this time the shiver was not caused by the calamitous breeze of doom that swept across this blighted place.
I looked down at the decapitated head and lined up the kick. And then, as I brought my foot back and took aim to fire Maurice into the back of the net of eternal ignominy and damnation, his eyes turned upwards, he looked straight at me.... and winked. I could have sworn.
So I booted him into the shrubbery.
Then we went and had hot chocolate.
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