27 May 2007
The Cat stopped to rest, dropping its prey on the threadbare Persian carpet. It was a brute of a rat and very, very dead. It lay slumped and heavy in the dimly lit hallway, a final drop of thick blood poised at the end of its snout. The Cat nudged the foot-long creature with a delicate paw. But it was not enough to shift the massive beast. Eager to complete his mission, the Cat sank his teeth into the rat’s neck and dragged it clumsily between his legs, the disturbingly fat tail trailing a further 12 inches behind him.
Finally the Cat stood at the top of the stairs that snaked five floors down around the metal cage of the lift-shaft. He dropped the rat, listening to the fizzing neon ‘Hotel Orient’ sign on the roof. It would be easy to take the lift but there was nobody around to operate it. Moreover, his line of work was best done alone and at night, for no one in a hotel wishes to be reminded of its other, verminous guests and of the constant need to eradicate them. That was the Cat’s task, and for him it was a daily labour of love. For Malak.
What should he do? The Cat peered quizzically at the rat, jumped and batted it hard with his forepaw. Slowing the rat flip-flopped from step to step like a tumbling sack of cement. Then it stopped. The Cat swiped the rat again, his green eyes watching with delight at the little puffs of dust that popped up out of the carpet with each impact of the falling creature. This was fun!
They had reached the landing. The Cat took his time, lovingly cleaning his scimitar claws, for it had been a noble battle. The rat had been a formidable and worthy foe, snapping this way and that at his eyes and his balls. The Cat blinked. Apart from a new tear in his velvety ear, he had been fortunate. To celebrate the victory, he slowly, lovingly showered the peeling, red flock wallpaper with his own, luxuriously pungent spray. The Cat inhaled, savouring the wealth of staircase smells: urine, excrement, semen, cleaning fluid and sickly sweet perfume. And above it all, the glorious proof of his invincible masculinity.
He stretched out his paws, his tail in the air, as the hotel thrummed with a deep slumber. The moon’s fullness shone through the stained glass skylight windows, bathing the Cat’s midnight blackness in pinks and purples. But just as he began to relax, he heard the lift’s whirring and a burst of raucous laughter far below. Suddenly the lift jerked to a halt, unleashing a group of drunks who galumphed blindly past him, a woman’s stiletto heel narrowly missing the rat’s upturned belly. The Cat shuddered, for the rat was his trophy and his alone. Fortunately, the drunks were bent on finding the nearest mini-bar; they hadn’t noticed a thing.
The Cat struggled to the end of the third floor landing, his shoulders aching from the rat’s weight. He stopped, releasing its bedraggled head, which bounced sharply against the floor and lay at a crazy angle to its body. He was getting weary, and the rat was stiffening with each passing second. It was time for drastic action.
Carefully he pushed the rat towards the lift shift and onto the edge of the stairs so that its upper body dangled into space. A final shove and it hurtled towards the ground floor. The Cat shot down the stairs to find the rat splayed out on the marble floor next to the snoring night porter.
He knew that he was on the home strait now, the rat bouncing merrily along beneath him, and he trotted briskly towards the kitchen where a light was already on. Deep within him a thunderous purr took hold: Malak! The door was firmly shut, so the Cat mewed plaintively like a tiny kitten to reel in the object of his affection. And there he was: Malak, standing in the doorway, his brown eyes glowing with astonishment at the sight of his loyal hunting cat and its gigantic breakfast offering. ‘It’s a beaut, Cat. Thank you!’ Malak gingerly picked up the rat up by its thick tail. He would make sure to take it to the incinerator before Chef arrived. But first he carefully cut up the best of yesterday’s leftover roast for the Cat, who was leaning lovingly against his leg.