My Life As A Cat
by Alexei Sayle
When Bettina’s husband left her for his secretary, twenty years younger, compliant and vacuous, she decided not to deal with it in any of the ways her friends had coped, or failed to cope with the same calamity. Apart from her husband the love of Bettina’s life had always been her cat Monty. Monty was an un-neutered tom and though she had constantly been forced to take him to the vet, to have the hideous wounds he received in his many fights sterilised and patched up, she had never for a second considered having him “done”. Even though the local vet (a French lesbian and the woman who had to deal with Monty’s many offspring) had offered to do the job for free. No, she said to herself what she would do in her new single state was live her life as he lived his, she would move round Crouch End covered by the darkness of night not respecting anybody’s fence or backyard wall, she would fight and she would fuck and she would live only for herself. Trembling with excitement Bettina dug out from the bottom of her wardrobe, loose black tracksuit trousers, a dark hooded top and black suede trainers with soft ridged soles, all left over from some previous fitness craze. When she had been married she had loved this neighbourhood, the cosy streets with their Dutch-style gable ends, the Budgens store with the unbeatable selection of olives and an unbeatable selection of actors off the TV, the red-brick clock-tower and the old fashioned bakery. Now it seemed sinister and frightening to her but she was going to reclaim it. Dressed in her outfit she waited until after midnight for the moon to rise, then slipped out of the back door of her house. Scaling the neighbour’s fence Bettina fell heavily into their vegetable patch crushing a great number of organic runner beans and uprooting a large amount of heritage carrots as she flailed around in the mud. But she would not allow herself to give up. Climbing the next fence at least meant she fell into the alley that led to directly to the brick wall which ran along the back of the local parade of shops, past the tapas bar, the really expensive jewellery store and the minicab firm staffed entirely by Nigerian religious maniacs. With a tremendous effort Bettina hauled herself onto this wall and then lay along it gasping. After what seemed like an age she slowly raised herself to her feet expecting at any second to topple back onto the backbreaking cobblestones of the lane but instead she discovered once upright that to her amazement that she possessed a cool-headed sense of balance, she was not going to fall after all. Soon she was able to run along the crumbling brick, the wind blowing in her hair, feeling more alive than she had ever done before in her entire life.
With a confident spring the middle-aged woman jumped down into another entryway, landing in a crouch that hardly hurt her knees at all. Then with the air pumping in her lungs and her heart beating like a trip hammer Bettina turned a corner and raced across the almost silent Topsfield Parade where, looking the wrong way she was hit by a car and killed.