Pink misses Alleycat, but maybe she doesn’t know how much. When he left her to drive the trains she said she’d be able to cope without him and she’s sticking by that.
She adjusted fast to little Bertie’s arrival but Bertie’s surprised her by growing even faster. Pink still imagines she’s in charge of the establishment, and she expects Bertie to toe the line and obey her commands. That’s not going to happen fast, is it?
I’ve wanted to show you this for a long time, but sometimes it’s hard to capture the moment. I’m off work today, and it’s raining, but it’s not all bad because at long last I managed to snap a photo of Alleycat exercising his prerogative and lording it over the contents of the communal water-bowl. Many a time, when Bernie and Lucy are parched and need a drink, Alleycat gets to the water first, and once he’s there he settles down for a long leisurely drink and the dogs have to wait their turn until Grand Master Alleycat allows them to approach. The dogs are patient, dutiful creatures and they understand Alleycat’s pre-eminence. Pink has her own ideas about that, it has to be said, and she imagines she’s at the top of the pecking order (which in a way she is) but she relies on Alleycat to keep the peace in the house and who knows where’d she be if she didn’t have Bamber to patrol the fences and keep the Six Foot clear of encroaching cats and wild, ungovernable marauders.
Bartholomew Sharp was probably the only pirate to be an astrologer as well as a buccaneer; his parrot (Captain Morgan) helped him cast horoscopes and read fortunes. Parrots are capable familiars because they live a long time and accumulate great wisdom along the way. As well as his parrot, Sharp often had a water-dog or two aboard ship, but they never did anything except bark at things. It’s the same in our house; Lucy and Bernie are in thrall to Alleycat and never get the better of him. The other day Pink decided to walk across the sofa where Bernie and Lucy were asleep, and instead of stepping between them she stood on their heads and necks and faces and they didn’t complain at all because Alleycat was watching. Pink thinks that dogs like being used as doormats; she doesn’t understand that she only gets away with it because Alleycat ordains it so. If you’re going to be a magical person you have to study long hours and burn the midnight oil. and Pink’s not doing that at all. Of course, she can be as lazy and playful as she likes, because as long as Alleycat’s looking after her she’ll always be all right.
There are three circles of cat magic. Bamber sits in the first circle. Now and then the desire of ancient days comes over him, and the world goes dim and he seems to be walking in another place, in the temples of old Egypt, where the priests are chanting the word for Fire and the word for Moon and when they say the word Invisible, everything goes dark around him and no one can see him because he’s more in that world than he is in this. Once or twice he’s managed to escape from his enemies like that, and slip by them without being seen. The second circle of magic is where the old cat-wizards sit and watch the stars and talk to the skies and examine the future and the past – cats like Alleycat who’ve learned to commune with the moonlight. Finally, there are cats like Pink who don’t know what they know and yet they know pretty much everything. They sit in the third circle and everything they see reminds them of a dream. On the other hand, dogs and other sorts of creatures know little of these things, which explains why cats usually manage to look down on them.
Something’s afoot in the Six Foot. Pink normally doesn’t go out of doors for months on end and yet recently she’s spent whole days and nights on sentry duty on the back fence. For just the same reason Alleycat’s been at the front, and I know that both these cats are watching for encroachers. Encroachers are strange, alien cats from far away (anything further than two streets distance). Alleycat’s made a forest of branches in the lilac tree at the corner of his lawns, and he sits day and night in concealment, staring out, and he watches the front of the Six Foot, while Pink observes the gardens at the back. And where is Bamber I hear you ask? He’s up in his high tree, his home from home, talking to the breezes, and if cutthroat cats were ever to attack the fences, he’d be too far away to answer Alleycat’s summons. Alleycat’s best hope of immediate support is from the dogs, Bernie and Lucy, who’ll always come when he calls. He’s trained them, you see. The one bright spot in all this is that Pink watches the back of the house, where no one can see how beautiful and peculiar she is. If anyone knew she was there alone, so far from Alleycat’s protection – if anyone even suspected that to be the case we’d all be really worried.
The dogs can’t bear it when the cats appear in high places. It pains them greatly when Pink appears on the tall fence right over their heads or looks down on them from the roof of the carport. They leap at the fence and yell at the top of their voices, but they can’t ever reach her, and all they can do is ask where Alleycat’s going, or demand to be told where Alleycat’s been, and Alleycat occasionally sings a jangling sort of song at them from the branch of an overhanging tree, and this makes them madder than ever and causes them great displeasure. Up they leap at him and Alleycat warbles in their woolly faces and says: I go where I please, I climb all the trees, I go where I go, and only I know what it’s like to be there, drinking the air, alone in the night in the moon’s friendly light. And the dogs look at one another and run indoors and cover their faces with their ears, because it’s all too much for them.
Today, just now in fact, I almost stepped on Pink by mistake, because she was curled up inside a sunbeam and I couldn’t see her. She was literally asleep inside it and the yellow light was covering her up like a cloak. Her coat isn’t exactly the same colour as the sun (only nearly so) but I can guarantee that when when I almost stepped on her, Pink and the sun were virtually one and the same . Of course, cats have a knack of concealment, of hiding in open sight, and this was just one of those cases I suppose. Neither of the dogs cares about hiding anywhere. All they want is to bark, eat, sleep, run, and bury their bones in obvious places. On the other hand, dogs can be sensitive. Lucy’s suffering from a rather nasty skin condition at the moment and we’ve had to buy her expensive food from the butcher (high quality, only the best) and her mother Bernie’s jealous as sin. You see, Lucy’s prone to anxiety and she just can’t hide it.