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Sardines for Tea

by Beverley, Napier, New Zealand


John adores Ollie but Ollie doesn't adore him. It's sad but true. John is Ollie's slave - he opens doors to let that cat in and out. He gives him bits from his dinner. Ollie is allowed to sleep in the middle of the bed while John sleeps in the leftovers. But Ollie ignores him and never even sits on his knee. I comforted John by telling him it was something to do with his being thin. "Ollie just can't get comfortable on your knee," I murmured soothingly.

One evening we had sardines and biscuits for tea in front of the telly. John gave Ollie most of his sardines and was flattered when the cat jumped up on his knee. "Ollie likes me after all," he chortled. "See, I knew I'd win him over if I spoilt him enough. Is he a cute little Ollie Baby then??"

I was surprised to see that Ollie seemed to be enjoying John's babble.

I was even more surprised to see him sitting on John's chest. There was a smirky look about him and I wondered fleetingly if he was up to something.

I was getting bored by the film on telly when I noticed a movement out of the corner of my eye. John had gone to sleep and his mouth was open wide. Ollie was expertly licking the remnants of sardine from around his lips. It was being done expertly with Ollie's tongue exploring every little nook and cranny. I felt a terrible rush of laughter and stifled a hanky in my mouth to stop it. I knew I should halt the performance at once - from a hygiene point of view it was a no no. After all, hadn't Ollie left the tail of a mouse on the back porch that very morning! What if John caught bubonic plague. I'd never forgive myself. I could see the whole scenario in my mind's eye. The doctor looking at me gravely and saying "Just where do you think he picked this up", and me saying equally gravely "I think he got it when the cat licked his teeth."

Then Ollie stopped. He got that peculiar expression on his face that cats get when they're staring inside a mouse-hole. I knew what that cat was going to do before he did it. His tongue darted out and nimbly uplifted a piece of sardine from John's front tooth.

This was too much for John. He awoke with a jerk and snapped his mouth shut, missing Ollie's nose by a whisker. "er imiff, what's that cat doing to my face," John was still only half awake.

I couldn't resist it. I know, I needn't have told him but it was too good a story to keep to myself. "Ollie's been having a sardine tea off your teeth," I sniggered. "That'll teach you to be such a messy eater."

John exploded from the chair with a remarkable turn of speed and by the sound of the water running in the bathroom I guessed he was washing his face and cleaning his teeth.

When he came back he didn't look at me but had forgiven Ollie. He patted his knee "Come on back up, Ollie Baby," he said. I sighed: John will never understand that cat.

Ollie treated that baby babble with the contempt it deserved. John had outlived his usefulness. Ollie turned his back on him and jumped on my knee, purring and rubbing me with sycophantic zeal.

John had had enough. "Go and suck eggs then, cat," he told Ollie rudely.

The telly was boring and I found myself drifting off. I raised a sleepy eyelid. Ollie's face was a centimetre from mine and he was gazing at my mouth with a familiar intensity. Suddenly I knew exactly what would happen if I went to sleep. Ollie would have more sardines for tea.


Editor's note:

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