Short Stories - Willoughby's Tail

This is a short story about a cat. Now, anyone who knows about cats will know that there really can be no such thing as a short story concerning cats, and anyone who has read T.S. Eliot's "Book of Practical Cats" or seen "Cats" the musical will also know that's not even the half of it.

Anyway, this Willoughby's Tale. Not actually his tail, although it is a very attractive tail, to match Willoughby, who is a very attractive marmalade cat. He is not my cat, you must understand, as if any cat can be owned by anyone, but instead he "belongs" to my brother Stephen and his wife Sarah.

Willoughby is, however, a cat of little brain: a few whiskers short of a moustache, you could say, although he does seem to be an unending source of fluff, which gets everywhere, including inbetween the keys on the computer keyboard.

Willoughby is definitely of the school that prefers to curl up on the floor in front of a hot air outlet or possibly on the chair that you were about to sit upon or had just vacated, as that would be warmer, wouldn't it? His ginger stripes are an almost perfect match for the grain on the kitchen floor, so he can be overlooked if you are occupied, such as, when making a cup of tea or a cheese sandwich. No doubt this goes some way towards explaining his ability to appear wherever food is being prepared.

On this particular occasion, I had just finished packing up an order for a customer and was sending a text message to the driver to let him know that it was ready for collection. I was sitting on a chair next to the smoked glass-topped dining table, and Willoughby had jumped up, apparently from nowhere, onto the table.

Of course, cats aren't supposed to do that in Stephen and Sarah's house, but such trifling rules are of little concern to a cat like Willoughby, being generally of too complex a nature to fit in his brain, although he does pay attention to items such as cheese sandwiches and especially pieces of corned beef, which are not.

It was only when I finished sending the text message that I noticed Willoughby was sitting on the table right beside me. He was staring fixedly right at me and his pupils were wide open, making his eyes look completely black. I sat quite still, and he reached out with his right front paw towards my face. It didn't quite reach, and he put it back on the table. He reached out again, and this time, he touched me on my beard and pressed, very gently.

I suppose he might have thought it was a mouse or something edible to cats, that had inexplicably become attached to my face, and most things are inexplicable to Willoughby, but then he is not really the inquisitive, mouse catching type of cat, if only on account of their typically rapid movement when cats are about.

He didn't use his claws or move quickly, just put his paw up, reached over to me, touched my beard and put his paw down again. The world had slowed down to Willoughby's speed for a moment, and then sped back up to normal, leaving him in his customary position near the back of the bus.