There have been quite a few rehomings lately, both dogs and cats going to their forever homes after a period of fostering at Katherine’s house. But sometimes one discovers that home is right here, right where one already is – and one such lucky fellow is Aswell McFatterson. I’ve come to see him to find out how he’s doing. He’s taking his usual nap, but he condescendingly agrees to talk to me:
“I suspect you notice that I have a very grand name. Well, rest assured, it befits my distinguished position here as governor of this establishment. But let’s go back a trifle to my days in Clarens, where it all began.
You see, I’ve always had an interest in the hospitality trade. So it was not entirely unexpected that I should turn up at a guest house in Clarens. Of course, I merely sought apprenticeship and was happy to go without remuneration, although I did appreciate the daily rations. So I was somewhat taken aback by the owners of this establishment being awkward about my being there.
It seems that arrangements were made behind my back, without the courtesy of dialogue, and virtually overnight I was whisked off and found myself engaged in an entirely different vocation. Security! Have you ever! Security at a Vet Practice in Clarens. Not my line of work at all – but I did comply for a few days! Then I discovered that she (the Vet) was there for only two or three hours a day, so when she left – I left.
It wasn’t very difficult to find another occupation that better suited my interest. Right below us was another guest house, and I took it upon myself to undertake quality inspections of the bedrooms. I ask you! – what exactly is the problem with testing the beds? You can hardly expect your guests to lie down on sumptuously adorned bedcovers without first having tried them out yourself.
Once again I was whisked away. This time I heard the words ‘rehome’ and ‘forever home’ and wondered what new disastrous outcome awaited me. After a most undignified journey in a box I found myself in what I can only describe as a menagerie.
That was a good six months ago. And here I still am. I have never discovered what was meant by the ‘rehome’ and ‘forever home’ remarks that I overheard, but they appear not to have been applied to my situation. Instead I quickly found myself appointed to the noteworthy position of: Governor of the Establishment, Vet Practice, Fouriesburg.
I have never been given a proper job description for my position here, but I imagine that my superior experience and mature disposition have led them to understand that I am quite capable of determining requirements myself and fulfilling the role in a professional manner.
She (the Vet) is also here much of the time, as well as several others. I am not sure what their roles are, but they do succeed in clattering about and making themselves look busy – which, of course, can be a bit tiresome when peace and tranquillity are more conducive to napping.
I generally maintain a dignified distance from the other characters that reside here. I heard it said once that the shepherd should not drink at the trough with the sheep. I employ this motto in my own work ethic with good results. Donna, though, is inclined to think that she is boss. Apparently one of her parents was a Great Dane. She is monstrously big, but I don’t let that affect the upper hand I have. In fact, she relieves me of much of my work pressure by dealing with the petty squabbles herself. Her bearing when she towers over one of the others, doing her growling routine, is intimidating. Not to me, of course! She has great respect for me and avoids passing by me too closely, and for good reason.
Then there’s Basil. He’s a silver-grey tabby and a nice fellow really, but gosh! – not the brightest in the pack. He’s certainly half a loaf short of a slice of bread! He always seems busy, on his way somewhere or on his way back from somewhere. I doubt, though, that he ever remembers after two seconds of starting off what the purpose of his errand was.
I cannot possibly name all the characters here. It is a menagerie after all, and I can barely keep track of all the comings and goings. My main priority is to maintain my position as governor, and thus far I go unchallenged.”
Aswell settles down to nap. But I badger him. “What about Mommy Cat?” I ask. He yawns and stretches and settles down. “What about Mommy Cat?” I repeat. “Who?” he smothers into his paw. “Mommy Cat!”
He can’t avoid the question really. He must respond, he knows. “Mommy Cat..” he manages to utter. “Yes, Aswell. Mommy Cat! Tell me about her.”
“Mommy Cat is old. She’s old and small and frail. She’s been here forever. Since the beginning, they say. Even before the whole establishment started, she was here. Everyone is scared of her. Even Donna is scared of her.”
“Are you scared of her, Aswell?” I ask. He looks away. “She packs an evil punch,” he whispers into his blanket. “Who’s boss, Aswell?” I ask. “Who’s really boss of this establishment?”
“Mommy Cat, I guess.” He hides his head under his arm, feigning sleep. I leave him so, distracted in his thoughts of Mommy Cat.
Text and photos by Mary Walker
8 June 2016