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The cat who hated Heathcliff

All witches love cats and magic realism so this excerpt from my short story is a combination of the two.

He was an angel on a cloud, cooing into a basket of newborn black kittens and became so entranced he fell in and became a kitten, half cat, half angel. Being half angel, his tail was incomplete. His mama, who was lovely, took one look at him and said “such as sweet little face, and look at his poor little tail. I’ll take him home”. His mama named him Café Central, after the famous coffee house in Vienna where the artists and writers went to ignore one another. His mama’s friends thought it pretentious but it suited him, for Café Central, like his mama, was fond of art and nineteenth century novels in particular. Being half cat, half angel, he liked looking into novels, looking right through them, running through them, chasing them to a dramatic conclusion, feeling the sweetness of happy endings tingling on his new cat’s whiskers. His mama, who was a witch, but really a nice, kind, lovely witch would tease him. “Give me those whiskers, I want to put them in my soup! Give me that tail. I want it for a feather boa”! and Café Central, delighted, would run away and pretend to hide and sometimes he hid in nineteenth century novels.

One day he ran and hid in Wuthering Heights and found himself on the moors, in a graveyard. He saw Heathcliff, moaning and weeping over Catherine Earnshaw’s grave. Heathcliff hated cats and Café Central’s mama hated Heathcliff and thought him not in the least romantic because he had tormented Isabella Linton’s pet, so Café Central hissed at him and decided to chase him and, besides, he liked the taste of saturnine romantic heroes and could detect their brooding, mutton-chocked scent from miles away. Heathcliff muttered an oath and snarled: “Begone, you snivelling lily-livered cat. Can’t you see I have lost my heart, can’t you see I have lost my soul.” Café Central chased him anyway and Heathcliff had no option but to run away, because Café Central was half cat half angel, so Café Central chased him across the moors and caught him and he tasted of mutton and soot and boiled socks. Heathcliff wept and pleaded for mercy. “Leave me alone, can’t you see I am a 19th century romantic, an 18th century romantic, a 15th century romantic. I am all the romantics of all the centuries.” Café Central wasn’t fooled. He chased him again. He chased him into Great Expectations, which was beyond the sunset Heathcliff had unconsciously anticipated, and he was beaten and lured into the lair of the witch, Miss Havisham, who liked him less than Pip and tormented him to death.

Café Central went home to his mama. He had observed that his Mama had become somewhat wan and nervous of late. It was Christmas and she had taken to staring anxiously at the chilli pepper lights on the Christmas tree. “those red eyes, “ she sighed. Before retiring for the evening she paced the floor of her bed chamber, staring listlessly out of the window, sighing and finally placing her grandmother’s rosary around her neck. To comfort her, Café Central arranged himself around the sacred symbol purring and rubbing his little head around it, as she smiled and kissed him and tickled his ears. When Café Central was sure that his Mama had fallen asleep, he crept out of her arms and jumped onto the bedside table so that he might peruse the novel she had been reading and which he suspected might be the cause of her agitated state. He shook his head in feline disapproval as his golden eyes fell on the title page. Whatever was his Mama thinking, reading Bram Stoker’s Dracula.. What if his Mama got bitten, depleted of blood, what if Dracula appeared at her bedroom window, foaming at the mouth? It was too horrible. Café Central found himself in a graveyard which reeked of gothic horror, weeping willows and mausoleums and gloomy angels, “a lordly death house in a lonely churchyard, away from teeming London..." He caught a whiff of cigar smoke, mingled with Calvin Klein’s Obsession pour homme. Dracula stood by Karl Marx’s grave enjoying a fine after dinner Havana and was in that not unpleasant meditative state of mind that sometimes steals upon a man on a moonlit night, after a good dinner. The count had dined well, a five-course delegation of property developers who had come to persuade him to sell his castle in Transylvania at a ridiculously low price so that they might convert it into a block of luxury flats - Count Dracula Mansions. Bah! Did they take him for a fool, did they imagine that he had floated lately down the Danube on the bubble, he who had commanded nations and pursued a hundred thousand virgins. Interesting bouquet though, greed and insomnia mingled with Starbucks latte and that delicate modern scent: Ocado, somehow reminiscent of rocket salad and horseradish sauce, drizzled in the modern way. The count took an iPod out of the pocket of his dinner jacket and pressed on the elegant click wheel. An aria from Madame butterfly floated into his sensitive ears and love and loss and longing floated into his ancient, sensitive soul and his red eyes grew redder with weeping. “Love,” he said aloud, “what do I know of love? Perhaps once, long, long ago when the Danube was young and here I am now, old, so incomparably old, me, who never wanted to grow old, who longed to die young, so that they might weep over me, and mourn my beauty and yet here I am still dreaming, dreaming through the Christmas nights, femme fatales in fishnet tights. Bah!” He thought of the times he visited his mad old aunt at Christmas, in her mouldering schloss, and how she used to lecture him on the dangers of Havana cigars, while taking her teeth in and out, in an out: “Don’t you know that smoking is bad for you, young Dracul.” In. Out. How he shuddered that one day he would grow ancient enough to take his teeth out at will, that the act of extracting his teeth would be but a whim of an idle moment. Cafe Central, hovering behind an angel, witnessed Count Dracula’s tears and was sorry. He purred, very tentatively. The count’s sensitive ears detected the purr and he called out: “You may come out cat for I am too haughty to dine on cats and I am in the mood for conversation tonight.” Cafe Central came out from behind the angel and Dracula surveyed him. “Bah A paltry, snivelling excuse of a cat, I see. What happened to your tail? Cafe Central was sensitive about his tail so he crept back behind the angel and cried. He thought Count Dracula very rude and silly. He decided to go home to his Mama but, as though to reassure himself that the count was very bad indeed, he looked into his red eyes and Dracula softened.

“I suppose it’s not a bad little tail, Dracula conceded thoughtfully and perhaps if I had had a pet, a kitten or a puppy to love, my life might have been different. I might have found happiness in loving an innocent little creature, I might have lowered my blood pressure,” said Dracula who was falling under Café Central’s angelic influence. Dracula picked up Café Central and tickled his ears, thrilling to his gentle purrs. “I’m not so bad really,” he said thoughtfully. If I can love a cat, or a dog or a butterfly I can love. It could be sweet, having a cat, singing him Christmas carols and brushing his coat and stroking his whiskers.” Lost in a haze of tender maternal solicitude for Café Central, Dracula laughed with delight and the ghosts fled from the graveyard and Dracula’s past, with the lonely nights in that draughty castle, the half witted virgins, caught fire and burned away. The fire spread throughout the nineteenth century, and the sparks flew into Miss Havisham’s miserable house and caught her mouldering bridal dress, they flew into the attic where Bertha Rochester was tearing at her grief-tangled hair and they flew into the little house where old Biddy Murphy was brooding darkly over her sister’s Christmas present, a pair of pants of an inferior silk. “Pants, oul pants,” Biddy muttered and the pants caught fire and burned away, to Biddy/s deep gratification. Dracula kissed Café Central’s head in gratitude and laughed, laughed through the fleeing ghosts, laughed through the graves and the grief and ascended into heaven, leaving only his bones which evaporated and became the fleeting, jewel coloured lights of a beautiful city at night which swirled and shimmered and glittered around Cafe Central like a Viennese waltz. Café Central went home to his mama who was still asleep. To amuse himself, he decided to peruse Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. He took a look into it and found the unfortunate creature high on a mountaintop, avidly reading The Guardian. “I don’t care much for the mountains,” said the creature. “Sometimes I long for the sea. I could be happy, perhaps, just sitting looking out to sea, but you have to be philosophical about these things. Mountains and ice are my lot in life.” Café Central thought the sea air would be good for the creature, and would put some roses in his sallow cheeks so, using angelic dispensations involving silver bells and cockle shells, he whisked him away to a beach, far away from the nineteenth century. The creature ate ice-cream and Café Central taught him how to swim. He decided the creature must have a name so he named him Jonathan and Jonathan wept with gratitude and sorrow, for a part of him mourned the loss of his anonymity. Baptisms are bitter-sweet. He wept so sorely, Café Central had to fetch him a coffee and The Guardian: they calmed him so. Later, they built a sandcastle and children and lovers smiled fondly upon Café Central and Jonathan, so happy and carefree on the beach. As the sun went down, Jonathan sat on Café Central’s knee and was very happy, because he had always wanted to sit on someone’s knee and be kissed and told he was very beautiful.

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