Louise M. Hart

For the patients and staff on Melissa Ward

“The test results were conclusive, Mrs Green. There were no signs of cancer…just a nasty chest infection.” The doctor’s words echoed in Joan’s busy mind. She had desired a way out, but fate seemingly offered her no easy get out clause or escape from the drudgery of terminal reality. Determined to counteract her disappointment and elevate her mood, she visited a charity shop on her drive home and bought a second hand computer.

Heaving the outdated machine into her car boot, she sighed and regulated her breathing. Lighting a cigarette, she cursed her deceased Mother for giving her life and drove slowly home, anxious not to damage her precious cargo. Joan wondered how she could bribe her neighbour to assist her to manoeuvre the computer into her flat. After all, she was getting older and had been seriously unwell. She arrived at the small block of flats, where she resided and knocked her neighbour’s door.

Theo sat inside slobbering into a cheese sandwich, lost in the subtext of the latest episode of his favourite, daytime T.V. soap opera. “Please, give me a hand, Theo,” She pleaded through his letterbox, “I’ll give you a ciggie.”

“I’ve got some, Joan…Got paid today.” He replied.

“You know I haven’t been feeling too good, recently,” Joan continued.

“Your chest, isn’t it?” Theo opened the door

“The specialist reckons that I’ve got a few more months and then…” The lie slid from Joan’s lips so casually that she almost believed it to be true. Theo looked at her and his eyes suddenly deepened with fear and a shadowy black undercurrent. He placed his sandwich on a table.

“Course I’ll help you, Joanie.”

“Good lad.”

Joan could not abide Theo and his fetid cat, who regularly shit all over her prize winning petunias. But he was useful in a crisis and always dependable. So, after he had assembled her computer into a workable form, she sprayed the air with lavender. The sickly scent destroyed all odours of masculinity, enabling Joan to breathe freely, once more.

In contrast, Joan’s pet of choice was a dog. Buster was the latest in a long lineage of canine beauties she had owned. The big, black, bouncy burble of fun and slather jumped against her frail physique and head butted her chin in an attempt to yield a kiss. “Soppy bugger,” grinned Joan. He was as bad as the rest of them, the males of this world; he would do anything in exchange for a hearty meal and a tummy rub.

Joan spent most of the night playing with her new machine. She had passed a beginner’s computing course run by the local library and was competent at word processing, but had little experience of the internet. She managed to work out how to create a twitter account and the hours soon disappeared, as she set about reading tweets and following the accounts of people who interested her. Life suddenly seemed vastly more exciting. Joan’s head hit her pillow at about 3 a.m. and she lapsed into sleep.

Theo, also, went to bed at 3 o’clock. 7 or 8 cans of extra strong larger always ensured a peaceful sleep. It was now 2 weeks since his last recurring nightmare about exploding torsos and eating his own brain. Joan gave him the creeps, but even she did not deserve cancer.

Joan slept until 10 a.m. It was unusually decadent of her to rise after 6.30. She preferred to walk the dog, whilst the streets were quiet and only a stone’s throw from the mask of darkness. Eager to pound the pavements, Buster dropped his lead at his mistress’s feet and appealed to her sense of guilt. “Naughty Mummy,” Admitted Joan. She stumbled into her wellington boots and well-worn anorak and walked behind her companion, her head hung low. Buster bounced into the outside world, like a creature experiencing pleasure for the first time. Standing in his doorway, Theo called to his neighbour, “Joan, Joanie. Can I crash a cigarette, please?”

Joan audibly scoffed. Why could he not smoke his own cigarettes? Only yesterday, he had told her that he had been paid. She ignored his request and walked on. Theo watched Joan cross the road and his heart sank. Her jeans, worn a little too short, flapped around her skinny legs. She turned out her booted feet to Chaplinesque effect.

As she stumbled over the uneven pavement, Theo wondered if she would return in one fragile piece, or fall into the arms of death. He reached into his pocket, pulled out an unopened packet of cigarettes and sighed.

Joan’s mind throbbed with thoughts about her computer; they were fated to become good friends. Her body’s streamlined frame and the monitor’s liquid crystal features potentiated a possible symbiosis between human being and technological form. She smiled inside and the world adopted a reciprocal glow.

But, on returning home, her mood dipped. Theo stood at her garden gate, his sickly smile reflecting the incongruity of his social status. To heighten her despair, she noticed his cat reclining in her garden, as though she owned it as inherently as her own purrs.

“Alright, Joan?” Theo enquired. Suddenly, the cat jumped into the air in pursuit of a fly. She missed her target and the fly flew in Joan’s direction. In a flash, Joan grabbed the fly, clenching it in her arse tight fist. “Cool,” Smiled Theo. But, rather than crushing the lowly creature, Joan unclenched her fist and freed it. Perplexed, Theo took a step backwards and stammered, “Why..?”

“Flies have feelings, too,” said Joan, turning her back on him. She opened her house door. Buster peeped between her legs and rushed inside.

For an old dear, Joan was a fast learner. Over the next few days, she and the computer became intimately acquainted and eventually, submerged the blogosphere, where Joan learned about modern life and geek culture. She even attracted a twitter follower. She began to subscribe to blogs and receive daily emails, containing the latest posts by the bloggers she followed, including one written by a woman, whose partner had been diagnosed with dementia. Beneath the post, were countless comments written by empathic readers from all over the globe. People not only sympathised with the blogger, but embraced her as a legitimate, living voice. Joan had never been popular. She wished that she could make the world care.

The following day Joan travelled into town to roam local charity shops for books. She paused outside the Cancer Shop and looked through the window, entering cautiously and making her way to the self-help section. Picking up a book about Reiki, she pretended to read the back cover. A curious volunteer shop assistant walked towards her. “It’s supposed to be very good for stress…Reiki.” She said.

“But does it cure cancer?” Blurted Joan, her voice trembled with feigned emotion. The assistant approached the poor, thin, waif, who stood shaking in the shop. She wrapped her arms around Joan’s tiny shoulders and sank piteously beneath Joan’s ostensibly weighty tears. A tear for every miserable day Joan had spent as a prisoner of her own tainted skin and a hundred for the lies she was about to tell.

“It’s terminal. I will be dead by Christmas.”

The shop assistant’s eyes clouded and she said that she, too, had been affected by cancer. “Never give up. You hear so many miracle stories…people whose tumours have vanished, or who have lived for many years with a condition, diagnosed as terminal.” “There have been so many advances in the treatment of cancer…chin up.” She asked for Joan’s address and suggested that a visit from the local parish priest might help her. Joan wrote down her address as shakily as she could and thanked the woman.

“God bless,” Said Joan, as she left the shop. She was not a believer, but a visitor would help pass the day- even if she had to clean her flat, before he arrived.

In the evening, Joan googled, WordPress and found out how to create a blog. The process was much simpler than she had anticipated and within minutes she had become the owner of her own blog. She decided to call her blog, Diary of a Big C Sufferer. The name was both memorable and catchy. A name initiated by inspiration, a name derived from deceit. Sometimes, ends justify means.

Apart from writing an occasional letter, she had not written anything challenging or of great significance since her school days. But, that evening, she wrote as though her life depended on it. An endless conveyor belt of words arrived in her mind, as though they had been delivered by God’s unofficial postman. They thrust through the letterbox of her consciousness and were transformed into particles of cyberspace. When Joan clicked on, “Post,” both her words and her-self became real.

Linking her blog to her twitter account, she tweeted an array of twitter health experts links to her blog post. Exhausted, she turned off the computer and slept.

Later, after she had rested, Joan turned on the computer, again and was rewarded. It was an obliging piece of kit, a circuitous whore who satiated its mistress’s need for self-expression. The monitor displayed an inbox bursting with emails. Each one expressing either a, “like” from someone who had read her blog post or even better, a message detailing that a living human, person had chosen, of their own volition and because they enjoyed reading it, to subscribe to her blog. Joan was overjoyed.

Thenceforth, Joan wrote daily blog posts. The more she described the debilitating effects of her, “terminal illness,” the better she became. She, now, walked with her head held high. From his lounge window, Theo observed Joan with a mixture of puzzlement and admiration. She coped so well, if he had not known differently he would swear that she positively bloomed with health and vitality.

“There’s no point in being gloomy,” She said to Theo, one day. “I like to greet the world with a smile.” In the 5 years he had lived next door to Joan, he had seen her smile no more than twice before. Now, she stood before him grinning toothlessly from ear to ear. “The world doesn’t owe anyone a living.” She reached down to his cat and tenderly patted her head. Theo decided to visit the jobcentre on Monday.

When Diary of a Big C Sufferer exceeded 1000 views, Joan bought a pair of nearly new jeans. She felt quite a glamour puss, strutting around the neighbourhood, like a lascivious street walker, in search of rough trade and adorned in her figure accentuating product of charity shop magic. From his window, Theo noted with surprise that she had gained weight.

The following week Reverend Simon Peter Lockhart visited Joan. She was gardening. The act of manoeuvring slab stones was exhausting for everyone, but watching the self-proclaimed terminally ill cancer sufferer proved unbearably painful for him.

Sweat rolled down Joan’s face and formed damp patches on her back. The concerned man of God beckoned Joan to rest. She led him inside her flat. Even to her cynical ear, his words sounded almost sincere. He asked if she was receiving the support she deserved and said that she might be entitled to social security benefits and a MacMillan nurse’s support. “I value my independence,” Replied Joan. “When the time comes the necessary arrangements are in place.”

The lie had taken over Joan’s life and consciousness to the point, where she often needed to remind herself that she was not really terminally ill. She resented the lie for being essentially what it was, a lie. Her mortality had immortalised her, at least for the lifespan of the internet. Whenever she felt lost, all she had to do was Google, Diary of a Big C Sufferer.

“Do you have a faith?” Reverend Simon asked. Lying again, Joan looked him directly in the eye.

“I have always been very God fearing.”

“You are very welcome to join us on a Sunday. My 10 o’clock service is very popular.”

“Thank you, vicar.” Joan remained non-committal.

“Would you like us to pray for you? At every Sunday Worship, we reserve time to pray for parishioners in need.”

“That would be very kind of you.” Joan battled to conceal her excitement. Perhaps, she would go, after all.

“I shall call in to see you again, soon. In the meantime, if you need anything, you know where to find me.” Swaying his metaphorical cassock, the priest left. “No, don’t get up, I shall show myself out.” More bullshit and brimstone than fire and brimstone, Joan knew that most priests were kiddie fiddlers and only folk who pretended to believe in God went to church. Thus, on Sunday, Joan attended church for the first time.

Walking into the building, she felt nauseous. The congregation was a uniform as the rows of benches on which they sat. Joan crept up to a back bench and sat down awkwardly, her stomach churning. The woman sitting beside her turned and smiled sweetly. But, from somewhere behind her smile, she issued a threat. Joan reciprocated with a smile.

As Joan had anticipated, the service was as dull as holy ditch water, comprising an attention numbing array of monotonic hymns and climaxing in a sermon, to which nobody listened. However, when the priest announced that it was time to pray, she anticipated that he would mention her name and began to listen. He reeled off a list of names, before finally mentioning hers.

Upon hearing her name, vomit rose from the pit of her stomach. Clasping her hands to her mouth, she fled from the church, like Lucifer’s unclaimed bride. For gripped by a sudden and unexpected compulsion to escape, she felt as though she had supped with Satan.

The church service marked the beginning of a downturn in Joan’s fortune. Inspiration had turned its back and moved onto another consciousness. Her computer, now, lay abandoned on her desk, as virginally untouched as a newly manufactured pre-sale Apple model and unsullied by her mistress’s grubby hands. Joan turned on her television and became, once again, the person she had been before the P.C. took over her life.

Perched in an old wooden chair beside his front window, Theo wondered why a priest had recently visited Joan. It was now November and she had told him weeks ago that she would be dead in a few months.

3 days later, Joan made a final attempt to speak through technology, again. But, inspiration had been deleted from her consciousness, like a redundant computer file. And during her online absence, her blog site statistics had taken a dive. She had lost a handful of subscribers and the glory of an identity.

Joan’s fingers searched the computer keyboard for the most apposite and emotionally provocative words she could find. But, the words she accessed echoed in her mind as incomprehensibly as her own despair. She rapidly typed the following:

“1+2=3?  Discuss.”

“If you remove a brick from your house, your house will fall.”


Later that night, in awe of the depth of her profundity, Joan checked her site statistics and discovered that only 4 people had viewed her last post and none had commented. Did they not realise who she was? Could not they recognise genius? Was the world not happy that she was better? Morality had died with the creation of

After experiencing a sleepless night, Joan looked out of her kitchen window and saw Theo’s cat wrestling a mouse. Prancing in her garden, with carefree ease and unrepentant pleasure, the cat threw its pitiful captive into the air like a lifeless toy. Joan thought mice had feelings, too. So had she.

Enraged, she headed for the local supermarket, purchasing 2 pints of milk, 100 cigarettes and some rodent poison. A few hours later, Theo’s cat died in his arms. She had become suddenly very sick. Theo wished that he had been taken instead. Without his friend, life seemed pointless. He had no reason to get out of bed, nobody to feed and for whom to care, no one to love and cuddle. A constant flow of tears merged into oceans of pain, he cried in vain.

Shuffling into the kitchen in search of a bottle of vodka, he recalled how he and friends had once ridiculed other psychiatric patients, whose gaits betrayed their mentally ill status. Now, he had no friends, but he did have a, “Walsgrave shuffle,” the eponymous walk of a Walsgrave Psychiatric Hospital patient, where he had misspent his degraded youth.

Theo wondered if his cat now resided in feline heaven or a more inclusive afterlife with his parents and Jim Morrison. Unusually sentimental, he wanted to believe that they were all together, accompanying frolicking angels and dead rock stars above a straightjacket of sky. He was not afraid of death. It was life that killed the spirit and damaged the human mind. The pills his doctor prescribed him did not make existence more bearable, but they did stop him shouting about it.

Nobody was reading Joan’s blog, her life work and seminal portrait of existence with a terminal illness. She concluded that life was the real disease. Cancer had been her cure. She telephoned the Department of Work and Pensions and reported Theo for benefit fraud. He could function as well as anybody else, she claimed. He was bloody idle. People like him gave the genuinely sick a bad name.

Next door, Theo who had not cleaned his flat for 5 years or bathed for 3 weeks, cried into a can of larger and tried not to think about cutting his arms. It had been 10 days since he last gashed his broken body and soothed his beautiful mind.

On Christmas Eve, Joan wrote a blog post:

My name is Joan and I think I am going to kill myself. I live at 4 Upper Hill, Stoke. If there is anyone out there, please call by.

Joan pressed, “Post,” and, momentarily paused. In serenity, she waited for 2 hours but no one came. She washed down her last supper with a bottle of sherry and a few thousand milligrams of paracetamol.

A week later, the police broke into Joan’s flat. They discovered shredded clothing, gorged human remains and a dog with a bulging, full stomach. A concerned neighbour had phoned them. He claimed that Joan was terminally ill and that he had not been seen her for 2 weeks. Buster was ecstatic to be rescued, but could not understand where Mummy was.

Theo cried, when he was told of Joan’s passing. “That cancer…” He said, “its pure evil.” He took Buster’s lead and felt thankful to have found something to love, again.




The Cat with No Eyes


3 magazines have declined the following short story. However, because writing it involved many tiring hours, I would like to warrant it some kind of online existence.

This will be my last post for some time.

The Cat with no Eyes


Louise M. Hart

It was a chill January morning. A stranger approached 11 Allan Poe Close. He stared at the house’s boarded windows and wiped away a tear. Puzzled, Mrs Nopperson, who lived nearby, surveyed the man. For the stranger cast an elegant figure. Tall and stylishly dressed, he looked incongruous with the dreary and conventional surroundings.

Mrs Nopperson advanced towards him, her curiosity aroused like a hormonal teenager. He continued to stare ahead; apparently oblivious to her nearing presence, though she sensed that he had seen her. “Proper eyesore, isn’t it?”  She began.

Last summer, the stranger relocated to middle England. A stray from his native northern climes, he was an escapee from reality who favoured isolationism and self-hatred to social interaction and fleshy emotionalism. Like Steppenwolf, he rarely ventured outdoors, choosing rather to make love to the shadows of his own despicable and tempestuous thoughts.

The stranger always concealed his intentions from domestic view. But, the moment he crossed paths with Mrs Nopperson thwarted his secret campaign, his noble brow, usually adorning a practiced frown, now smoothened with feigned displays of interest. He even forced a smile.

“Did you want to see where IT happened…all those years ago?” Mrs Nopperson asked. His interest piqued, the stranger suddenly turned his head towards the wretched woman. Perceiving her inauspicious reflection in his mirror glasses, she adjusted her floral blouse and smoothed her hair. He vaguely smiled again, revealing a set of cheekbones that only an aristocrat or a crack addict could possess. Mrs Nopperson’s heart missed a beat and she began to tell a tale, a tale to twist the mind and unsettle the quiescent soul.

Built during the post-war boom years, the Blackwood estate had epitomised the ostensible solidity and dependability of British working class life. But, behind the houses’ bricks and mortar, lurked struggle and disquiet, psychical unrest and the doom sated torments of the body, soul and tortured mind. In disingenuous Blackwood, back stabbers and social butterflies existed as symbiotic bedfellows, feeding off each other’s neuroses and bones. Each resident told many stories and every story enunciated lies.

Nanny B moved to 11 Alan Poe Close in the 1960’s. The Mother of a girl and wife of a factory worker, life had never been better. But, in 1974 her daughter bore the child of a friendly, local drugs dealer. Thereafter, she left home pushing a pram and cannabis in order to work on street corners, with the devil on her back. A year later Nanny’s husband died from a massive heart attack. Life had been better.

Nanny never saw her daughter again but in 1992 her grandchild knocked her door. She stared into his misted eyes and saw not herself, as she had hoped, but the effects of the extra strong cider he had been drinking. He was, though, her kin, and seemed eager to know her.

He visited her for about an hour and promised to return again, soon. Seemingly a bright and diligent young man, Nanny offered to help him resolve his current financial issues. He left her house smiling and £20 richer.

Nanny no longer enjoyed going out. Groups of troubled youths often congregated outside the corner shop where she bought milk, newspapers and basic groceries. Although the rapacious rabble rarely bothered her, they cast a menacing shadow over the neighbourhood. This particular day was different.  As she left the shop, a moon faced boy deliberately kicked out his foot and tripped her to the ground, ragdoll fashion.

Shocked, she fell, helpless and pitifully vulnerable, an old woman in fraying skin. The braying mob cackled above her, like a pack of hyenas salivating over their defeated prey. Nanny struggled to her feet and fought back tears, as she made her way home.

Nanny B limped through her front door into her modest abode. Collapsing into her favourite armchair, she brushed away the tears that drowned her papery cheeks and searched her mantelpiece for the small piece of paper on which her grandson had written his phone number. She was about to reach for the phone when she felt something rub against her ankles. Startled, she looked down and saw a cat.

How the creature had entered the house, she did not know? But, in appearance, he was a wretchedly poor example of his own kind. Pathetically thin, his fur was coloured black and unhealthily dull apart from a small, white triangle of fur on his chest where his heart should have been.

Nanny reached down and lifted the cat to her slack belly. He fed greedily off the warmth she radiated and purred volubly. She noticed that he possessed no eyes and felt her heart grew heavy with the throb of her unshed tears. She pitied the ailing and fragile creature even more than she pitied herself and continued to clasp his bony form, as though validating him would somehow validate her, too. She wondered what cruel and hideous acts had befallen him.

After feeding the cat a tin of tuna he, subsequently, curled up on her lap, falling into a deep and restful sleep. He distracted her from her painful thoughts and feelings. So, she decided to postpone the phone call to her grandson and, rather, concentrate on the worthier existent.

The cat spent the rest of the day following Nanny around the house. Had she not known differently, she would swear that he possessed perfect vision. For, never did he stumble or bang into furniture or other items scattered around the house.

When night time arrived, she proceeded to bed, whereupon the cat jumped onto her duvet and lay beside her. United, they were stronger together than alone and slept as peacefully as doves with heads buried their beneath wings of thought.

“Help me!” Nanny B pleaded the following morning.

“What’s the matter…Nan?” Her grandson enquired, down the phone. “Nan,” he had called her, “Nan,” the most beautiful word in the whole, God forsaken world.

Nanny described the previous day’s events. Her cat rubbed her legs. Curtailing the conversation and sounding impatient the young man snapped, “I’ve got a lot on today…but I’ll come round, right away. I’ll see you in about an hour.”

He arrived 2 hours later, wearing a hangover as effortlessly as most people wear their skin and tainting the air with his beery, nicotine breath. “I didn’t know you had a cat,” her grandson said. The cat growled and patrolled the area around his new mistress, like a dog protecting his bone from a predator. “What happened to its eyes?”

“He’s very hungry.” Nanny appealed to the fellow’s kinder instincts and asked him if he could visit the local shop to buy some cat food.

“You mean…I have come all this way to buy cat food.”

“I’m too scared to go…those kids were very frightening…and the one who tripped me up possessed the face of the devil…himself!” She lifted her dress above her knee revealing two enormous purple bruises.

“Okay…then. I suppose, I’ll go.” Her grandson conceded.

“I would like a newspaper, too and some milk…please…if that’s okay?” Nanny began to fumble in her purse.

“I have only got a couple of cigarettes left,” said her grandson, peering down into her purse. She pulled out a £10 note and told him to treat himself. Suddenly enthused, he bounced to his feet. The cat arched his back and spat out feline expletives.

“Were the kids there?” Nanny asked, anxiety gnawing the sub-textual source of her words with worm-like efficacy.

“No, it was dead quiet.”

As she fed her eyeless cat, Nanny’s innocent nose remained insentient to the smell of blood that now saturated Blackwood’s air and her mind ignorant of the horror of the previous night’s events. But, when she unfolded the newspaper that her grandson had bought, she gasped in shock. For staring back at her, beneath a headline that read, “Local youth murdered in frenzied attack,” was a photograph of the young man who had so viciously assaulted her the previous day.  The moon faced boy had been murdered and there was a killer on the loose.

“Justice,” smiled her grandson, distractedly surveying the shabby furnishing around him. Nanny’s consciousness followed his unfurling thought processes, as he fantasised about the nature of the hidden riches that could exist beneath her cushions and grubby mattress. He decided that there was only one solution, “I’ll move in with you, Nan…to look after you.” Blackwood simply was not safe for a frail old lady and her blind cat. And free meals would suit his wallet.

On 7th February 1992, Nanny B’s compassionate and altruistic grandson moved into her home. For the following few weeks the streets remained eerily quiet and unsullied by kids. The police were never far away and on one occasion, even knocked Nanny’s door to ask whether she had seen anything unusual or knew the murdered boy. Advised by her grandchild, Nanny politely answered, “No,” to both questions and as he had predicted, they did not return.

Rumours abounded on the estate about the circumstances of the boy’s murder. It was widely believed that his death had been more horrific than even the darkest and most malevolent human imagination could contemplate. Some people claimed that his internal organs had been ripped from his body, like butcher’s meat. Others spoke of his alleged beheading and signs that his flesh had been savagely consumed. Whether by passing animal or human, no one seemed certain.

The cat grew more beautiful, each day. His fur thickened and shone with inky luminosity. He rapidly gained weight, his torso revealing a level of muscularity seldom present in others of his own kind and a facility for athleticism, which even most sighted cats rarely possessed.

Alongside his increasing physical strength developed an expanding mental fortitude. Constantly at Nanny B’s side, his intermittent roars warned her grandson not to come too close.

On a dull day in late February, Nanny’s neighbour summoned her to the door. The cherry faced man began, “Please don’t let your cat do its business on my garden…it’s killing my plants.”

“My cat is blind and never goes outside.”

“He may be blind, but he still shits,” The neighbour replied. Nanny’s grandson sniggered.

The following day faeces were posted through Nanny’s letterbox. “That’s not cats!” The lad shouted, squirming at the foul, mahogany lump that lay on the mat. Before Nanny could reason with him, he stormed over next door’s garden gate and banged the neighbour’s front door, shouting abusively. Nanny watched helplessly, as her relative grabbed her neighbour’s neck and pushed him against the wall.

“It’s because we are black,” He subsequently claimed.

A mere two days later, the doorbell rang, again. Nanny’s companion had gone to the local social security office to sign-on for his unemployment benefit, or dole.  The cat had disappeared. Nanny hoped that he was not defiling her neighbour’s lawn.

People rarely called on Nanny, thus she opened the door with caution, praying that no demons or neighbours lurked outside. Standing at the door, two police officers stared into her faded tawny eyes and asked if they could enter.

They wanted to speak to her grandson. When she said that he was not home, they asked where he was, proceeding to enquire about his relationship with their neighbours and the incident that had recently occurred between him and the man who lived next door.

Upon the young man’s return, Nanny felt perplexed and anxious. She recounted her conversation with the police. “But…I hardly touched him, Nan.” He said. She added that she felt that the police’s concern about the aforementioned fracas probably constituted a mere diversion from the true nature of the business that really troubled them. The cat appeared at the kitchen window. Relieved, Nanny let him in. How a blind cat could navigate the world so proficiently astounded her.

“They mentioned the little boy, who lives next door and asked me if you ever spoke to him.” She said.

“Little boy? I didn’t even know there was a boy living there.”

The next day, Blackwood’s residents spoke in hushed tones about the strange disappearance of 5 year old Michael Machen. Missing for 5 hours, police discovered him wandering in a park 4 miles from his home. Although physically unharmed, his mental scars were visible to all those who looked into his eyes from that day hence. Replacing his hitherto existing muddy brown pupils were mad and magnificent jewel-like emerald pools that glared at the world with sagacious wonder.

In the space of a few hours he had become an Apollonian child with eyes of Dionysian discord and a bad attitude.  When the police asked him why he had travelled to the park, he replied that he had merely followed the, “most excellent,” cat in the world.

Reluctantly, they decided that there was no evidence to contradict the boy’s story. Thus, when his perturbed Father pointed out that it was not usual for a person’s eye colour to suddenly change, one of the officers sarcastically quipped that an alien had probably substituted him.

Although the police did not approach Nanny B’s grandson, gossip spread and local people now regarded the young man with suspicion. Children ran when he was in sight and adults frequently crossed roads to avoid being near to him. Their neighbour never spoke to him or Nanny again. He now yielded power, like an oligarch in a self-created kingdom, the dictator of rules of domestic disorder. No longer was he merely a grandson, he was now Leon, King of the suburban jungle. In contrast, Nanny became smaller and frailer by the day.

Soon, they had all appeared at 11 Allan Poe Close, the down and outs and drug addled social rejects in search of King Leon and a quick fix. Nanny spent most of her days in her bedroom, the cat rhythmically massaging her lap with his protective claws.

Leon had considerately bought her a portable television to watch in her bedroom, enabling her to pass away the days with a semblance of company. He was his Mother’s son alright, she thought, an entrepreneur of the gutter, high on others’ suffering and money.

Feeling obscurely responsible for Leon’s cruel and twisted psyche, she perceived his evilness as a birth right, an inescapable form of madness. If he was evil, then her blood had made him so. Thus, providing a home for the poor, deranged creature was the least she could do.

Although it challenged her patience, she tolerated Leon’s behaviour. Whilst being confined to her bedroom annoyed her, outwardly, she remained calm. Conversely, the cat became increasingly ill-tempered and frequently paced about the room; slinky, independent and artfully irritable.

It was a particularly noisy spring day. Nanny bravely ventured into the lounge. She intended to ask Leon to turn down the volume of his music. Relieved to be freed from his restrictive confines, the cat dashed before her.

When Nanny entered the room Leon was leaning over the coffee table measuring substances, whose nature Nanny could only conjecture. In a sudden flurry of mania the cat jumped at the table, knocking Leon’s mysterious substances to the ground. He grabbed the cat and threw him into the air, like an unwanted rag. Looking on in horror, Nanny screamed inside and out.

Miraculously, the cat landed on all four paws. Nanny stumbled over to him, scooping him up in her maternal arms and wailing in torment and shock. “You wicked, wicked boy,” She shouted at Leon. Angrily raising his arm, Leon hissed back. Nanny and the cat escaped to their room.

Nanny’s anger built like a tidal wave of fury. The wave’s roar became Nanny’s own, a shrieking cry of torment that threatened to erode her flimsy sandbanks of thought. She claimed her anger and, in turn, her anger claimed her.

On the night of the 2nd April 1992, the Machen family who lived at 9 Allan Poe Close were woken by horrific and terrifying cries and screams emanating from the house next door. The noise continued for a few minutes, becoming increasingly disturbing and frenzied. Mr Machen duly telephoned the police. His voice shook, as he described the chilling sounds he had heard. The police claimed that they would reach Allan Poe Close in mere minutes.

Upon arrival, they noticed that the light in the back bedroom of 11 Allan Poe Close was turned on. They repeatedly rang the doorbell and banged the front door, but no one replied. Their only option was to break in. The Machen family surveyed the scene from behind their curtains, anxious not to miss a second of the action. Young Michael clung to his Mother’s nightshirt, grinning inconsolably.

Rushing towards the light, the police burst into Nanny’s house. Leon’s final gurgles had already crossed the threshold between his earthly existence and mortal death, his body lay splattered across the floor as unidentifiable to the reasoned mind as an abstract painting. His torso severed from chest to gut, brazenly displayed parchments of his hitherto existing bones and flesh.

Positioned beside the body, Nanny looked up at the police. “Can I help you, officers?” She said, spitting scraps of liver and kidney across the room. Purring, the cat washed his whiskers and welcomed the visitors.

Mrs Nopperson shook her head with exaggerated dismay. “Nanny B died within 24 hours of being arrested, they said being separated from the cat broke her heart. The newspapers described her as sick and extremely dangerous, but I have always said that she was okay until she took that cat in.”

“The house…” The stranger continued, “…have there ever been any plans to sell it?” Horrified, Mrs Nopperson stared at him blankly. “If you should hear anything…” He handed her his business card. A fear, as dark as Satan’s heart, gripped her troubled psyche. The card read Michael A. Machen, veterinary surgeon. With a flourish, the stranger took off his glasses. His eyes were mad and magnificent jewel-like emerald pools that glared…

Mrs Nopperson went home and did not leave, again until 2 weeks later when her bodily remains were removed from her house. Subsequently, the house was sold to a vet, who specialised in treating cats.

I want to tell you a story…

Tom was one of nature’s gentlemen; he wore an old school tie around the neck of his many faces and always opened doors for ladies of the night. Peeping from behind his curtains, he watched Mrs Castle bustle past his house. “She’s put on a few pounds…glad she hires out her mind and not her body.” Like a polar bear, Tom awakened in the winter, gestating in the heat of the summer sun. As incongruous as an icicle, he melted his load, beneath the blankets of a creaky single bed.
With autumn about to dawn, Tom’s scowls had evolved into a smile. And anticipating the glory of the impending chill and the pleasure of the shiver, he had nearly said, “Hello,” that morning, to his next door neighbour. He was, however, determined not to succumb to the commonality of spontaneity and human speech. Tom turned on his TV and unwrapped a takeaway fish supper. The smell of grease caressing his nasal hair, like Lancombe’s finest, to a fastidious perfumer.


Bursting through the TV screen, the theme music announced the change in season. As perennially as trees shed their leaves, the X Factor filled his Saturday evenings with delight, so deep, that he, sometimes, hummed a tune sung by one of the contestants. When Tom watched the X Factor, he felt real. Sharon Osborne had returned to the judging panel; she was an unusual animal, part feral, but formed from plastic. Loose as knicker elastic and tight as Simon Cowell’s arse. Did Louis swing the other way? No, he was merely paternal.
The screen swallowed Tom whole, he merged with whitened teeth and seductive pixels. In the presence of cameras, he came alive, engaging in banter with the pretty American one and batting his eyelashes at the fat bloke from Take That, who was, really, rather dull. Then, arrived his opportunity to sing.
Tom was magnificent. He owned the stage, like a born professional. Thrusting his hips, he reinvented Elvis Presley’s song. Rock n roll for the hip hop generation, his rapped version of Suspicious Minds ignited Louis’ fire and Sharon was overcome with tears.


Tom rubbed his eyes and realised that he had missed most of the show. “Oh, well, it’s repeated tomorrow afternoon. I think I shall try singing something more contemporary, then…maybe a dub version of Piccadilly Palare.” He entered his kitchen, opened a tin of cat food and walked upstairs into his attic. Bound to a chair, a young woman lifted her head. Tom took off her gag and spooning out the cat food smiled, “Dinner, dear.”