Sadly, Felix is not one of my cats but he seems to spend the greater part of his day in my back garden watching the birds. I feed the birds obsessively. I am so afraid the birds will go hungry that I keep checking the bird-feeder in case it’s about to run out. Bird food costs me almost as much as cat food, but Felix appreciates my efforts on his behalf.
This evening there was a badly dying mouse on my doorstep. I suspected the poor little thing might be a gift to me from Felix, since I had seen him watching the mouse nest next to the garage for some weeks. It was tiny, bloody and writhing and at least one of its legs was broken. I knew perfectly well that I ought to kill it. A man could have killed it. Why hadn’t I got a man to kill things for me?
Felix, I thought, full-strength, from behind my glass door. Felix! Felix duly materialised at the bottom of the garden and we intertwined our gazes.
Help. I closed my eyes and pictured what I would see for real if I opened them – the bloodied fur, the contortions, the broken limbs.
Felix Mouse Help Please Help Mouse Help.
Felix does nothing quickly unless it involves birds, but after a minute or two he started up the garden towards me. He’s a magnificent moggie – black and white of course, like the one on the box – a long-limbed killer with a Roman nose and a streamlined wedge of a face. A cat like a cobra. And now he’s located his long-forgotten gift. He looks at me, then at it. He bends and arranges his white teeth delicately around it, hoists it high and walks off. Head up, tail up, proud.
I was not proud. I had got a cat to do my dirty work.
To take my mind off things I turned on the TV News channel. Mistake. Somewhere in Africa a dentist from Bloomington, Minnesota was being prosecuted for poaching, having killed the most beautiful lion, at night, with a crossbow. It seems wealthy trophy-hunters and their African accomplices actually bait lions out of the National Park. This they do by tying a freshly-slaughtered animal to a truck to lure or bait the lion outside the protected zone and then – whoopee! – they kill it.
The Minnesota dentist says he now regrets shooting the lion. How much more than regretful does he need to be? And do we all need to be, for being even distantly related to him?
Do you ever wonder whether Hell might be Here and Now rather than There and Then, and we just haven’t woken up to the fact? Instead of red devils with pointy tails and pitchforks, maybe the real Enfer is staffed by dentists from Bloomington, Minnesota, armed with crossbows.
L’enfer, c’est les autres
Hell is other people