The room of the intimate pub was crowded with both locals and tourists enjoying a pint of beer on a Friday night. The exterior of the stone walls of the small town and the lack of lamplight in the streets contrasted with the gaudy red and blue of the pub’s interior and the bright lipstick of some of the older patrons.
“I’ve never really been a cat person. I was much more into dogs; they’ve got more soul and loyalty than a cat. I’ve never been into cats.
“But about a year ago, this cat started coming up to our flat, looking scared and hungry. It would scratch at the door, wait for us to open it and then sit there, almost looking sorry that it had disturbed us. We started giving it some food and milk and whatever it is that you are supposed to give to cats and it carried on coming round to see us.”
Some living spaces are different to others; in big cities, there are huge tower blocks which nowadays risk going up in smoke. Others are like small hotels, with carpeted landings and room numbers. In the country, where much bigger houses were built, it is often possible to divide this house up into three or four small flats. With their natural stone walls, they can be rather elegant, though one’s business is usually much more exposed.
“There was this guy living below us and we believe he had a few issues. You know, heroine and all this lot. Actually, on occasions I would sign for packages that came from the Dark Web and I’m pretty sure they were for crystals or rocks. Once, he came out of his room as I was collecting the post, snatched a package from my hand and ripped out a bottle of cough medicine and necked it right in front of me, before thanking me for getting the post and excusing himself back to his apartment.
“The cat kept on coming up to the apartment and me and my partner were feeding it more and more regularly. So, one day, I decided to speak to the guy about it and see what was what. I mean, the cat was clearly unhappy where it was, it was thinning and its pelt was mangy at times. I went downstairs, knocked on the door and went in. He was in the middle of sharpening one of his knives, but stopped as I entered the room. ‘Hey man, how you doing? Want a cup of tea?’ I didn’t and went right to the point.
“‘I didn’t even want a cat in the first place; I can barely look after myself, let alone another of God’s creatures. My dad used to keep a load of cats on his farm, but then he died about two years ago suddenly – heart attack while riding his quad bike. After the funeral, a few of us went to the farm to sort things out and there was bunch of cats that used to kill the mice in the barns to stop them getting at the chickens and scaring the cattle. There were five of them and five of us had come to look at the place. Someone said, ‘we should all keep one’. I said it was a stupid idea and the others looked at me and asked what should we do with it otherwise? I said, we’ll drown it in the well in the courtyard.
“‘They wanted to keep the cats, so picked them up and left. I stayed with this one and proceeded to the well. But then it looked up at me with them big eyes and stared at me, obviously frightened and suspicious of where we were going. Part of me wondered whether this was my dad’s favourite. Against my better wishes, I buckled and kept the cat. But as I said before, I’m not capable of looking after myself, let alone another of God’s creatures.’
“Well, me and my partner had been talking about it and we said that a cat could be good for us. So, there and then I offered to take it from him, not condescendingly, but as a way of helping him and the animal out. He accepted graciously and said he could contribute a bit to food. I said it was alright and took the animal in. This was about six months ago.”
Tables in busy pubs can be prize possessions and the bar area was now spilling over into the drawing room. The talk of the week was buzzing, more and more pints were being poured and the walls seemed to shiver gently with pride at containing so many conversations at once.
“A few months after taking in the cat, and it’s doing fine. One day, though, we get a knock on the door – it’s him and he’s holding two 12-inch hunting knives. Christ, I think, but the guy says ‘I’m going away today for sometime and I wanted to give you a present’. I remembered that he had quite the collection of knives, so I calmed down a little and let him in. There we were, me and my girlfriend, having a cup of tea with a man who’s given me a hunting knife and is carefully inspecting his own. We tried our best at polite conversation, but it was all a bit much, if you know what I mean.
“‘I’m being taken away today to a place where they’ll stop my addictions. I don’t think it will work, but I suppose if you’ve got the opportunity, you may as well give it a try.’ And with that, he stood up and walked out the door, not without stopping to say goodbye to the cat he almost drowned and saved.
“Honestly, that guy was such a gentleman and so switched on. Bloody drugs, but I suppose if you’re like him and gone through what he’s gone through, shooting up, smoking rocks and drinking syrup are the only things you’ve got left. Such a gentleman; the next guy to live in that apartment was a pedophile from Northern Ireland. But…”
And with that, the two young men drained their pints, getting up from the table as they did so, and walked out into the Yorkshire night, leaving their table for some avid bystanders who were enjoying a nice Friday night out.