Like Cats And Dogs – Episode 11

Cally returned to the Cats’ Hotel to be met by an empty drive.

She checked her watch: three fifteen. Two sets of owners had been due to drop their cats off at three.

Maybe they’d been early, she decided. It didn’t take long to drop them off, though most owners – and these ones in particular, she recalled – liked to see their pets settled into their respective pens before they left.

They also liked to double check that she knew their pets’ current dietary preferences which, with cats, fussily changed all the time.

Continuing to hum along to the tune that the car radio had lodged in her head, she skipped up the single step into the office, and found Marna seated behind the desk, on the phone.

Marna pulled a face at her and pointed at the reservations book lying open on the desk. Against one of today’s bookings she had inked a question mark, and against the other she had written Cancelled in ominous black felt tip.

Cally’s eyes flew to her face.

“Yes, I do see your point of view, Mrs Robinson,” the American girl was saying, “but if you’d just let me explain . . . Yes, of course. Cally’s actually just walked in the door if you’d like to speak to her. I’ll just put her on now.”

Marna held out the cordless handset and Cally took it with a sense of dread in the pit of her stomach. Mrs Robinson was one of the two owners she had expected to see this afternoon, delivering her two Siamese cats.

“Hello, Mrs Robinson,” Cally said more cheerfully than she felt. “What’s the problem? The cats aren’t ill, are they?”

As she listened to the woman’s reply, Cally wandered to the door to look out on the cattery, well run, clean and tidy and so pretty in the sunshine – it was a little cats’ haven.

What Mrs Robinson was telling her, though, was that she had heard about the kennels opening up nearby, and was very concerned that the presence of all those dogs on the doorstep would traumatise her two little darlings.

“I’m sorry to cancel at the last minute like this, Cally, but I only heard about it this morning from a friend. Though, in these circumstances,” she went on, her tone swerving towards aggrieved, “I really feel that you might have informed us that the situation had changed.”

Cally took a breath, counted to ten, and then began to try to appease the woman.

“I do understand your point of view, Mrs Robinson,” she said, unconsciously reiterating Marna’s words, “but I can assure you that the new kennels are having no negative impact on the Cats’ Hotel at all. It’s as peaceful as it ever was, I promise you. I have thirty-three cats in residence at the moment, and they’re all perfectly happy –”

“I’m sorry,” Mrs Robinson broke in, “but my mind is made up. I just won’t feel comfortable leaving Pinky and Perky with you in the circumstances.”

She made a few more polite remarks about how well Cally had looked after her pets in the past, then rang off.

Cally looked at Marna, who was spinning slowly in the swivel chair behind the desk.

“That’s bad news,” Cally said, her expression grim. “A few more customers like that and it will spell the end for my business.”

It was what she had feared ever since she’d first heard about the kennels. After all her hard work, could it really fall apart so quickly?

She tapped the other booking that had been cancelled in the reservations book.

“Did Mr and Mrs Wilshire say the same thing?” she asked. “Is that why they didn’t bring in Bingo?”

Marna shook her head.

“I haven’t heard anything from them yet.”

Cally glanced at the clock on the wall, in the shape of a black cat with a wagging tail as its pendulum. It had been an opening day gift from her parents to bring her good luck.

“But they’re more than thirty minutes late. Maybe they didn’t have the nerve to phone to cancel,” she said, her heart sinking.

“Or maybe they’re just stuck in some traffic,” Marna suggested, optimism brightening her tone.

“But surely they would phone to let me know,” Cally countered.

“Maybe they can’t get a signal. Or perhaps their batteries have run out.” Marna bounced up from the chair, setting it spinning. “Let’s not get ahead of ourselves in looking for trouble.”

Cally found herself enveloped in a reassuring, morale-boosting hug.

“Thanks, Marna. You’re right. I’m probably worrying about nothing.”

Alan Spink

Alan is a member of the “Friend” Fiction Team. He enjoys working closely with writers and being part of the creative process, which sees storytelling ideas come to fruition. A keen reader, he also writes fiction and enjoys watching football and movies in his spare time. His one tip to new writers is “write from your imagination”.