Sunday, 31 January 2010

Behind the Blue Fence: Further Adventures With The Green Pharisee

What is it about walking to work? And cars! This time I am completely in iPod World, blocking out three lanes of Macquarie Street traffic noise. As I approach the city, my peripheral vision catches a cat “doing dohies” in the middle of the road. So wrong! I suddenly realise that the white and ginger tortoiseshell has been struck by a car while trying to cross the road.

I am no friend of cats. I have owned them, and despite their furry, purry charms, I am troubled by what they do to wildlife. Our meek “Miffy”, a small and rather lovely black cat, had assassinated everything from a rabbit and a bandicoot to birds and rodents and reptiles of almost any size. This despite two bells and a locked-in, night-time curfew. If only we’d been able to train her to discriminate, I might have tolerated her killing ways. Rats, mice, rabbits – and maybe starlings? Go for it ... but leave the rest alone! But no. So once Miffy died, the rest of the family didn’t need much persuasion for us to go catless from then on.

Back in Macquarie Street the pretty young cat swerves erratically in broad circles. The traffic has slowed. Somewhere behind the glass and steel, the engine noise and morning radio there are humans. Do we all fancy the cat is gradually winning its way to my side of the road? I will it to make it. But its radar is failing, and it keeps circling back to the centre of the road.

I turn, judge the traffic to have more or less stopped, and step onto the road where the cat is now turning its sick circles more slowly, a wind-up toy running down. I reach down, grasp it around its shoulders and chest, firmly keeping its claws as far out of reach as possible. I carry it back to my side of the road, noticing its pretty markings and wide, scared eyes, and place it gently behind a blue fence. If it can still flee, it might do so safely from there.

But it lies there twitching and trembling in what I take to be a terminal manner. A car horn beeps, and I look back to see my iPod lying in the middle of the road where I have dropped it. I acknowledge the woman driver’s thoughtfulness, and retrieve my device.

Back where pedestrians should be, I look once more towards the cat, judge I can do no more, and turn to walk away. About 50 metres down the road, I see a worried-looking woman coming back up the other side of the road, searching – I guess – for the cat. She mouths across three lanes “Where is it?” Not the owner, I’m guessing, perhaps the guilty driver. I call back “behind the blue fence” and point up the road.

Once again I start to walk on, but not before being joined by a man in early middle age, who says “well done mate. I wish I’d been able to do that.” We walk the rest of the way to town talking about pets and life in general. I hear about his ex-cats and ex-dogs, even his ex-wife.

For a short time we are joined in a strange bubble of male intimacy. And then he turns and crosses the road to go to work, saying a quick good-bye. His final words are “And thanks again”. I’m not sure I’ve done much, but at least this time I haven’t walked by on the other side.
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