… I attended an impromptu barbecue. Our host was a South African masseuse, who lives in a small house with eight cats, a dog, and a large collection of angel books. The barbecue idea had come about, as all good invitations do, in the time it took us all to agree we really must hang out outside of the confines of our daily coffee/beer/sunbed haunt. The next thing we all knew, we were agreeing to meet at the big supermarket at 7pm to buy supplies – supplies that turned out to largely consist of two enormous chickens and 5 litres of wine.
We convoyed from the supermarket, back to our hostess’s house. The bicycle led the quad bike which led the clapped out Clio. Seven people (an assortment of Australians, a Pom and a Canadian) and a dog (a Santorinian, adopted last summer as a tiny mite who had a run in with a car). We drew up in a cloud of dust, watched by four large cats, camped out near the entrance. As we unpacked the car, a dog appeared, befriended our dog, and the two began horsing. The most important introduction had been made.
‘I found her, about this big, in a field last year,’ our hostess held her hands about ten centimetres apart. ‘I thought I’d lose her. And then,’ she glided, serenely, across to the gate and began rolling it closed, ‘life kicked in and we’ve never looked back.’
Inside, our hostess apologised for having the cat toilet (which is cleansed regularly via the placement of black stones) open whilst guests were over and mentioned, casually, that should the dog happen to ingest some wine that had been spilt, it wouldn’t be a bad thing.
‘She was drunk before she was this big.’ This time the hands were about fifteen centimetres apart. ‘It was the cutest movie.’
Out on the balcony, wine in hand, and under the watchful eyes of an unsettling number of large black cats, I surveyed our surroundings. A pen, housing several goats and, interestingly, a dog. Large, arid fields. A house or two. Plenty of tomato plants. And a teeny kitten making its way up a dirt road. Prancing. It seemed to know precisely where it wanted to go and was heading in that direction – our direction – as quickly as its tiny little legs could carry it. Unbelievable. My lone goal of the summer (lay my hands on a pet, even by proxy) was within reach. Shrieking, ‘kitten’, I was down the stairs and on the dirt road in a flash, one of my friends behind me. Following our ears, we found it, mewing in the long grass. It came right to us, miniscule and thin, one eye bulging from its socket, milky and infected. It could not have been more than a month old. It purred like a quad bike when I picked it up. I looked at my friend. She looked at me. We both knew we couldn’t nurse a one month old kitten with one eye back to health – not on our budget in our living quarters. Our host was swanning about the balcony, introducing the remainder of our party to the four cats sitting just alongside the marijuana plants. I yelled out, did she want another cat … one with a potentially lost eye. She told me to bring it right up. So I did.
Now she has nine cats and one dog.
* The night ended in a circle, with an a capella soundtrack of ABBA and The Sound of Music provided by … us. My mother, upon hearing this, offered to send a poncho in the post.
** The kitten is doing very well and is called Aussie. Our hostess intuited Aussie is female. I will visit her soon. Whether or not I wind up back in a circle formation harmonising to The Winner Takes it All, remains to be known.
*** It is, however, highly probable.