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In a Beautiful Golden Cage

by Beverley, Napier, New Zealand


New people were renting the flat next to Maurice. I was nervous when I noticed Ollie sitting in the guttering on their roof. He had been deeply interested in the people since he saw the two cockatiels in a large golden cage. By a strange and terrible co-incidence the woman who had previously rented the flat also had a cockatiel. She'd arrived on my doorstep one day full of accusations. "Your cat broke into my bedroom and knocked over Tinkerbell's cage," she'd fumed. "My darling nearly died of fright." She gave Ollie a filthy look. He was sitting at my feet, smirking.

Ollie was still theoretically living with the neighbours so I felt justified in telling her he wasn't my cat. She wasn't fooled for a minute. "I won't be responsible for what I do to that cat if he comes back," she muttered darkly.

I did try to keep him in but was relieved when she shifted. I went over to see the new people. "er, Just wanted to warn you about your cockatiels and the grey cat," I said.

The girl exchanged a look with her partner. The look said 'here's a meddling neighbour'. "Our cockatiels are more than a match for any cat," she said coldly. "The last cat that tangled with them is still running."

I sighed. It was no use. Out of the corner of my eye I caught a glimpse of Ollie in the Jacaranda tree near their back door.

When I saw them hanging the golden cage on the bough of the Jacaranda tree I knew they were on a suicide mission. I did try to keep Ollie away but it was useless. He had that peculiar intensity about him that cats get when they know there is a bird available. His yowling was deafening. I gave in and let him out.

Later that afternoon it happened - dreadful screaming and sobbing from the flat. I tore outside. The beautiful golden cage was lying open beneath the Jacaranda tree. The woman seemed to be having some sort of fit. The man had a broom and was futilely trying to whack Ollie off an upper branch of the Jacaranda tree. A jabbering cockatiel was sitting at the end of the branch and Ollie was inching towards it. He obviously regarded it as a talking dinner. The other bird was flapping in frantic circles around their heads.

As I sped across the road, Ollie pounced. The bird flew up with squawk, missing Ollie's greedy claws by centimetres, the branch gave away under Ollie's weight and he landed with a crash on the man's head. Even Ollie knew that this was not the place to linger. He slid down the man and bolted for his life across the road to safety. The cockatiels, perhaps realising they had had brush with death, flew down onto the lawn, were grabbed by their owners and spirited into the house. I slunk back home, glad that they had hardly noticed me.

The couple moved away the following week. I was so relieved. The new flat owners moving in were elderly and looked nice. But I blanched when I saw what they were carrying into the flat. It was a goldfish bowl!


Editor's note:

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