James was a cat. Not just any old cat. There were many things that made James a special cat. For a start he was big for a cat. His fur was black and shiny. He had bright green eyes that shone like emeralds.
But what made James really special was that he was Mrs Murphy’s cat. Mrs Mary Murphy lived at Number 10 College Street. She had a lovely little cottage for a home and a beautiful garden. Only Mrs Murphy and James lived at Number 10. Mr Murphy had passed away many years ago and the couple did not have any children. Mrs Murphy did have a young nephew but he did not come to visit her.
James was Mrs Murphy’s pride and joy and she looked after him very well. In fact James was not treated like a cat at all. James had his own little bed to sleep in. Every morning Mrs Murphy brushed his fur with a special comb then walked to the shops to buy James the best pieces of meat or fish to eat. Sometimes she bought him a special treat. It was some chocolate especially made for cats and dogs. And James ate his meals with Mrs Murphy at the dinner table.
He was one very spoilt cat.
James and Mrs Murphy were very happy together. But one day something happened and everything changed. Mrs Murphy was sick one morning and rang for a doctor to visit her. The doctor examined Mrs Murphy with his stethoscope and decided that Mrs Murphy was too sick to stay at home. An ambulance came and took Mrs Murphy to the hospital. That was the last time that James saw Mrs Murphy. She did not come home again but died in the hospital.
James did not know where Mrs Murphy had gone. A strange lady now brought him food every day which he had to eat on a plate outside the cottage. He missed Mrs Murphy and was sad. He was also very lonely.
James did not know things were happening that would affect his life forever. When someone passes away they usually leave behind something called a will. It tells everybody what a person wants to happen with all their possessions when they pass away. Mrs Murphy had made a will. In it she stated that everything she owned now belonged to James. But if something happened to James all her possessions were to go to her nephew, Frank.
When Frank learned of the terms of the will he was angry and upset. “How could she leave everything to that cat!” he yelled at his friends. It took a long time for Frank to calm down.
Then he smiled slyly. “Well, I am just going to have to do something about it,” he said. “If that cat were to disappear I would get everything. Well, I’ll just have to make him disappear.” His friends laughed. “We will help you,” they said.
One night, about a month after Mrs Murphy left the cottage, James heard a car stop in the driveway. This was unusual, as no car had ever stopped there before. He got out of bed, crawled through the catflap in the front door and walked around to the driveway to look.
He walked right into Frank and two other men. Frank was carrying a large butterfly net. “He’s here,” whispered Frank. “I felt him brush past my legs. Quick shine the light.”
A torch flashed on James blinding him for a moment. James did not know what to do. He had only seen Frank once before and had not liked him then. What was Frank doing here at night and why was he carrying that big net? James thought.
“Here James,” said Frank soothingly. “Look what I’ve got for you. A lovely piece of cat chocolate.” James had not eaten any cat chocolate since Mrs Murphy went away. His mouth watered at the thought of it. He started to walk over to Frank. Frank was holding the chocolate in one hand and the net was behind his back.
James sniffed the chocolate in Frank’s hand. As he did so he saw Frank swing the net towards him, but James was too quick. Letting out a howl he leapt up onto Frank’s shoulders and the net sailed under him. He leapt off Frank’s back and ran into the night.
Frank had dropped the chocolate and was chasing him, yelling to his friends to head James off. James did not know where to run so he ran around the house with the men in pursuit. He started to tire and he could hear them getting closer and closer. Then James made a leap over the neighbour’s fence and sunk to the ground.
The men did not see him do this and continued running around the house until they realised what James had done. The men stopped running and bent over trying to catch their breath. At last Frank spoke. “Don’t worry, he’ll be back. He’s got nowhere else to go. When he comes back we’ll get him and then get rid of him.”
James did not wait to hear more. He walked slowly away his head hanging low. James kept walking until daylight and then lay down to rest. He was very sad. “What will I do?” he thought. “Where can I go?” He closed his eyes and was soon asleep.
When he awoke he was cold and hungry. Not knowing what else to do he started to walk back to Mrs Murphy’s cottage at Number 10 College Street. He was nearly there when he saw a lady working in the garden at Number 22. He sat down to watch her. She saw him and smiled.
“Hello cat,” she said. “You’re a beauty. What are you doing here?” James walked over to her and brushed against her legs. She stroked his back and he couldn’t help purring.
“You look hungry, cat,” she said. “Let me get you some food.” The food she brought out on a plate wasn’t as nice as the food Mrs Murphy gave him, but James was so hungry he ate it anyway. James curled up on the lawn watching the lady. A man came out the house bringing her a cup of tea.
“It looks as if we have another cat, Pete.”
“Not another one,” said the man looking at James. “He’s a big one isn’t he.”
The lady nodded.
The couple was known as Grandpop Pete and Gran Carol. They lived in a big brick house with their grandson, a little boy called Owain. They had three dogs and two cats, but they welcomed James to their family. James did have a few adjustments to make though. When he jumped up on the table at dinnertime to join the family in their meal Grandpop Pete yelled at him to get down.
When James went to sleep in Owain’s bed the boy had started crying. Grandma Carol had gently lifted him out and carried him outside. James was given a box with a blanket to sleep in. The other animals looked at James with disgust.
However, after about a week James had become part of the family and knew his place within it. He never jumped up on the dinner table again nor did he try to sleep in Owain’s bed. He became quite friendly with the other animals too and enjoyed having so many people and animals around him. Then one day he suddenly felt a strong urge to see Mrs Murphy’s cottage again.
The cottage wasn’t that far from where he was now living. Setting off in the early morning James went across several back yards of various houses until he reached Number 10 College Street. He hid in the garden making sure no one was around then went to have a good look at the house.
As he walked around the house he noticed a large “For Sale” sign in front of the house. He pushed the catflap with his paw. It opened easily. Should he go in and look? He sat on the front doorstep trying to decide. He had just made up his mind to return to his new home when he heard a sound that made his heart stop. A car had pulled into the driveway! He looked around and saw Frank getting out of the car. Frank saw him too.
Frank opened the boot of the car and took out the net that James had seen once before. James did not wait to see more. He ran down the street. Frank quickly reversed the car down the street and set off after James. James saw his new home ahead of him and ran into the garden. Frank stopped the car and followed him, net in his hand. James ran to the back of the house and climbed a tree in the garden. But Frank saw him do it and had him trapped.
As Frank moved towards the tree he became aware that there were other animals around including three dogs that were growling and snarling at him. One dog barred its teeth to let Frank know it meant business. Frank kept very still not knowing what to do next.
A small boy came out of the house. “Hey Mister. Leave our cat alone,” he said.
“So this is your cat?” asked Frank.
“Yes,” Owain replied. “He’s ours and we look after him. Don’t hurt him please.”
Frank lowered the net and looked at the ground in shame.
“Okay,” he said softly. “He’s now your cat. Look after him well won’t you?”
“By the way, his name is James.”
And with that Frank left the property. James never saw him again.
James lived with his new family and never went back to the cottage at Number 10 College Street again. He loved his new family and the animals and never felt alone again. While he did not have the soft bed and the attentions of Mrs Murphy he had learned something important. James enjoyed the company of other animals and he loved being a cat.
© Glyn Harper
Read our interview with Glyn Harper.