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Samuel Watches the Cat

S

amuel watches the cat. The cat is completely unaware of the Jew – it clumber-saunters along the up-and-down planks of the fence with some awkward claw work. Samuel waits with a stone. He has turned it so that the sharp edge points out like a shark tooth. He runs his finger along it experimentally, visualising piercing the cat’s hide.

The cat teeter-totters along, up-and-down. Rage burns in Samuel’s brain at the unabashed disrespect, as the cat nuzzles the clambering honeysuckle, dishes its backside through the willow, swats at a fly – an odd, three-legged operation, with the cat hanging on like a crab and the fourth paw high-fiving a plank and skittering around. It’s the perfect moment to throw the stone.

Cara wanders out of her yellow shed, brushing compost from her soft, brown hands. She spots the cat and strokes it. The cat arches its back appreciatively. Cara’s hair is down – long, black, glossy hair that suggest oil and hazelnuts and sparkles on an Irish oxbow lake. She laughs her soft Irish laugh. She is everything a twenty-two-year-old Irish girl should be.

Samuel hides the stone – for now – in the soft cotton pocket of his jeans, twisting the cat’s demise around and around, out of sight. He waits patiently for the glowing figure to notice him, where he stands by the butt and compost, in the shadowy lee of his own shed. His shed is weathered and dirt-grey, where soft, untreated wood has retreated. There is no paint – no colour – that appeals to him.

She doesn’t see him. She lets the cat twist about her hand. The cat sniffs appreciatively. Samuel scowls.

Later, Cara is watering her hydrangeas with a ridiculously small watering can. It’s a child’s thing, of purple, with a yellow plastic flower for a spout. This boggles Samuel’s mind. There is no sign of the bastard cat, but he has the stone ready.

Cara is sowing seeds – tiny, black, mustard grains – a seed at a time. She holds them between her finger and thumb, with some difficulty, where her long pink nails scissor together. The drops are both delicate and awkward. As each seed is placed, she carefully shifts a little soil on top with one of those self-same nails. Samuel might have thrown a fistful of seeds over half an acre in the time it has taken Cara O’Dare to plant her immaculate half-dozen.

When dusk falls, and the midges begin to whine and buzz about – suddenly brave now the heat of the day has passed – Samuel strikes a heavy brown match and lights his paraffin lamp. The lamp is burnished in black soot and oil, mirrored, in places, between the rusting seams. A coat hanger holds it in place, embedded in the chest of a dressmaker’s dummy. The dummy sags in brown folds of torn material, hunched over in its wooden ellipses and metal stays.

Clara looks up from the birdbath she is rotating: pulling it one way, then the next, walk-dragging it into position. It’ll make a nice centrepiece, he assumes she assumes. He can’t help staring at her chest – two globes of firm, brown, flesh that spread out from her dungarees. Gravity and her movements are page three conspirators. She waves cheerfully.

Samuel nods. He is using a tough pair of pliers to throttle a hosepipe, twisting heavy-duty wire around the fleshy, green rubber. Where he kneels, the stone is digging into his thigh. A little bit of the hurt for the cat has found him instead. But he will get his revenge when he next catches sight of its black-and-white patches, and when he is alone. Revenge is best enjoyed quietly and carefully, where hands can throttle rather than ball up impotently. Samuel wants, needs, to get his hands on the cat – or at least a stone in its flank. It is getting too dark to throw stones, though. Neither is he alone.

An hour later, and it’s too cold to continue. He pulls on his jacket, safely padlocks his shed, and walks off the allotment. Cara has already gone – gone with the sunshine – her shed ‘secured’ with a willow branch she has painted with spirals.

Back at home, Samuel stares through the television. The cat lolls on top of it, occasionally dropping a tail or paw down, but mostly just snoozing in the warmth from the vent at the back. The stone is in Samuel’s jacket pocket; the jacket is hung neatly in the hall. It would be no good anyway, he is not alone. Samuel’s wife strokes the cat and sits down heavily with the remote control. She has brought Rich Tea biscuits and strong coffee.

The cat cracks an eye open, studying Samuel disdainfully, before drifting back into sleep.

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