Like Cats And Dogs – Episode 24


Just along the road at Cally’s Cats’ Hotel, paperwork was the order of the next portion of the day for Cally, too. But when she arrived in the office to tackle it after checking on her current feline residents, it was to find Marna already ensconced at the desk.

The computer was on and the girl was typing busily. She was so engrossed, she didn’t even look up when Cally bustled in.

Rather than disturb her, Cally curled up on the battered old sofa in the corner and turned to the advertising section in the local paper.

She pursed her lips. Advertising was expensive; was it worth the outlay to try to give the business another little boost?

She still worried that Tim’s kennels being so close by had had a negative impact on her place. Was it her imagination or were bookings slightly down?

She sighed, and the sound made Marna look up.

“Hi! I didn’t hear you come in.”

She started to stand, but Cally waved her back down.

“Don’t worry. Finish whatever it is you’re doing. You were totally engrossed,” she added, curiosity plain in her tone.

Marna glanced again at the computer screen, then turned it so that Cally could see, too.

“I’ve been creating a chart, showing bookings over the last year, cancellations, referrals and returns.”

Cally looked again at the chart with its mountain range of lines picked out in different colours.

“See, this line here is bookings, this one cancellations . . .”

She talked Cally through every detail of the graph. Cally didn’t attempt to hide how impressed she was, and the girl looked slightly embarrassed.

“I’m a bit of a geek when it comes to spreadsheets,” she said.

“And thank goodness for that. I’m the one with the degree in business studies!” Cally exclaimed. “I should have thought of doing this myself.”

What the chart showed, very plainly, was that her business was doing OK, but that it had slipped back a little in its progress, with a slight drop in bookings.

More worryingly, families who had brought their cats to stay twice and three times already were inexplicably making no further reservations.

She peered more closely at the screen.

“Can you put a date to it? When things started to change?”

Marna pointed, but Cally already had a suspicion of what it was going to say. It coincided almost exactly with the date of Tim’s kennels opening.

She gazed woefully at the American girl.

“What am I going to do about that?”

****

Cally didn’t have time to think about it because they had to get round to feed the cats and settle them for the evening. They had only just finished all that when her brother Craig turned up in his rattly old van.

“Hasn’t that thing given up the ghost yet?” she asked, laughing as she went out to meet him.

He patted the van’s bonnet fondly.

“Never! I love this old van. How are you, Cally? It’s been ages.”

“You’re busy, I’m busy. But you’re here now, so come on in and tell me all your news.”

Cally linked her arm through his and they turned towards the house, unmistakably brother and sister. They were both slim, almost the same height, and with a similar loose-limbed walk born of a shared childhood spent outdoors.

Marna skipped forward to take his other arm.

“Don’t mind, do you? I miss my big brother back in Maryland. Borrowing you for a minute is the next best thing.”

“Feel free,” he said, laughing.

By the time the three of them had shared the chicken casserole Cally had left simmering all day in the slow cooker, brother and sister had caught up on pretty much everything that was going on in their lives – with the exception of Tim. Or so Cally thought.

“Mum tells me you have a new neighbour. Opened a kennels, she said. That could make things difficult. How’s it going?” Craig asked.

Cally gave Marna a warning look.

“Fine,” she said airily.

Craig, a very protective brother, was about to meet Tim for the first time. Now wasn’t the moment to reveal that her business might be in trouble because of him.

“Actually, we’ve been seeing each other – me and the new neighbour. His name’s Tim. I thought we could all go out for a drink after supper.”

Craig raised his eyebrows at Marna.

“Serious, is it? My sister doesn’t usually let me meet her boyfriends!”

Marna rose to take the dishes to the sink, but gave him a teasing glance back over her shoulder.

“I think she’s just taking advantage of you as a taxi service!”

“Too right,” Cally chipped in, running hot water for the dishes, “since you’re driving tonight anyway. But we’ll take my car. I don’t trust that van!”

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 aspiring tip to new writers is to “write from your imagination”.