published in BEST OF DF LEWIS (Tal 1993)

Is that black lump on the garden path the cat I shot from my bedroom window?

My mum and dad are estranged, despite the grunts and groans I can hear them make through my bedroom wall. It’s their bedroom wall, too, I suppose, as each of them is the other’s spouse. They talk to each other, but they’re still estranged. They usually talk about me. They eat together, but they’re estranged. They have a joint account, but they’re estranged. They go to bed together after watching the same TV programme, but they’re estranged. They even laugh and joke together, but they’re estranged. They both have a son, but they’re estranged. They argue a lot too, like most married couples do, but, without fear of contradiction, they remain firmly estranged.

But what DOES “estranged” really mean?

Is that black lump on the garden path the cat I shot from my bedroom window? If it is, good riddance to it. It wasn’t called Dustbin Liner for nothing.

I eat baby mice. I suck the flesh off their still twitching bones. The taste’s like fine wine mixed with aniseed balls, threaded through with chewy fibres which don’t have any taste at all. There’s a whole nest of baby mice under my bed, knotted and twined like suckling walnuts. Their mummy was a rat, so I suppose the babies will grow into rats, too. I’m an expert on genetics having done biology with Mr Utting at school. Well. yes, mummy rat I jellified.

Is that black lump on the garden path the cat I shot from my bedroom window? If so I didn’t shoot it properly. Since I last looked down it has moved nearer the gate. The blighter always seemed to get the babies before I did. Bones for whiskers. Blood for snot. Dustbin Liner was NOT a pretty sight after it’d been on the scavenge. It’s class of prey was not pedigree, though. Not well bred, like MY babies. I’ve just plucked one from the dark bunch like a live grape. The meat comes off the tangled bones with the ease of pip mush from a pomegranate. It literally melts in the mouth.

When the mice grow into rats, as they sometimes do, because they’re too many for one person tto suck – and with Dustbin Liner departed – well, those that get bigger I jellify. It’s not an easy process. Embalming and taxidermy, Mr Utting tells me are skills with which few are endowed. He’s been using the same dissected rat in lessons for yonks now.

Well, that was yesterday.

Today, the black lump has been cleared away by my dad. I saw him with the shovel. The scraping on the concrete went on for most of the night until I finally fell asleep.

They do put me to bed too early, especially on these light evenings. I lay awake listening to birdsong. There’s more birdsong about than I ever remember. Which, in itself, is not all that surprising, seeing how young I am. I bet my dad can remember most things.

They were grunting and groaning all night long in their bedroom, after the scraping stopped. It’s such a pity they are so estranged. If it were not for that, I bet they could make a go of it.

Anyway, down to this day’s entry proper, I got up at daybreak as usual to get ready for school. Only to find it was hours before breakfast time. Hearing that the babies were awake, too, by their squeaking, I plucked a juicy one to tide me over.

Wednesday’s are always good days. Double Biology and Games. I’m excused Games, because I take them so seriously. Win at all costs, that’s my motto. Having said that, I do give the babies a chance – that’s why some of them get to be bigger, I play cat and mouse with them, if you can excuse the expression. Giving them their head. Free mice are tastier than imprisoned ones. Goes without saying. That’s why cannibals prefer white men, and will spit out slave flesh on to the side of their plates.

I haven’t even got a gun, but they say will-power packs a equal punch.

Well, I didn’t go to school, after all, yesterday.  I was off sick. Which, I suppose, is not so surprising. Dad came in before going off to work and handed me a letter, supposedly to take to school saying I was off sick. Went without saying, I say. Absence speaks for itself. Mr Utting would guess. It would be some other kid’s chance to be down to the elbows in entrails, for a change.

Days are getting shorter. The black lump, it’s back on the path.  This time it’s more a stain than a lump. Something to do with the change in light. My babies have all gone. I shall go hungry, unless I go to the larder and seek out that jelly trifle where I hid mummy rat.

I wonder what that scratching noise is on my bedroom door? Or is it on the dividing wall? Or is it on neither? Only tomorrow’s entry will be able to tell.

All creatures great and small really DO love each other, but they’re probably estranged.

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