Nutmeg and Steven by Chris Green
Before he accidentally became famous as a rock and roll singer, Buddy Holly was a gentle soul who pressed wildflowers and practised yoga. He was the shy and retiring sort. Everyone said so. Not a hateful bone in his body, they said. But Buddy killed my bunny. Not intentionally, of course. He had been dead for many years when it happened. A plane crash in Iowa, USA, you may recall, in the dead of winter. Buddy perished along with his fellow rockers, Richie Valens and The Big Bopper. According to that drove my Chevy to the levee song you hear on the radio sometimes when you are pottering in the kitchen, it was the day the music died.
Yet were it not for Buddy, Nutmeg would still be alive. Nutmeg was a girl rabbit. She was mostly grey with a pink nose. Strictly speaking, Nutmeg wasn’t my rabbit. She belonged to my eight-year-old daughter, Chloe. Chloe’s mother, Lucy, had bought her the English Spot as a birthday present just weeks before she left us for a life of leisure with Luke from Luton. It was me who bought the rabbit food and chopped up lettuce and carrots for Nutmeg. And more often than not, it was me who cleaned up after her. I have never discovered why Chloe called her Nutmeg. She tells me she doesn’t remember, so let’s skip that one, otherwise, we might get into a T. S. Eliot naming of cats type discussion, and that would not help the narrative along. I mean, Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer, where did those names come from? Suffice to say, for whatever reason, Nutmeg she was. And Nutmeg was now an ex-rabbit. A bunny no more.
It was careless of me to leave the boxes of albums stacked so precariously on the cabinet in the spare room, but LPs take up a lot of room and I had nowhere else to store them. I was looking after them for Dan, a friend of mine, while he organised a move to a smaller flat, even though strictly speaking, even without Lucy’s bits and pieces, we did not have the room to store six boxes of albums. These were the big boxes you can sometimes get to take your plants home from garden centres. Probably not so much now that garden centres are being swallowed up by nationwide concerns. But Robert’s Plants, where Dan and I sometimes went to buy our plants for the community garden, were unlikely to go that way any time soon. Robert’s Plants was a small and friendly nursery. Bob was a helpful guy, someone you could rely on for plant advice.
It was also remiss of Chloe not to keep a close eye on Nutmeg on one of the occasions she allowed her to run around the house, but it was Buddy Holly’s Greatest Hits that did the damage. The album had been left out of its sleeve and, dropping from a great height, it sliced into poor Nutmeg’s neck. Chloe was distraught. Understandably so. In her short life, no one close to her had died.
‘You’re struggling with this one, aren’t you?’ Patti says. ‘You don’t know where to go with it.’
‘It does seem to have ground to a halt the last couple of days,’ I say.
‘You could introduce a talking cat,’ Patti says. ‘That would help to move the story forward.’
‘Funnily enough, I was thinking of a talking cat,’ I say. ‘But I’ve already used that one. You think it might work again, then?’
‘Talking cats are always a good standby. You could call it Syd this time. Or Steven. Steven’s a good name for a cat, don’t you think?’
‘Steven, yes. Why not?’
Steven has been out all night. His people have gone away on holiday and left him. Gavin, the lad who is supposed to be letting him in and out and feeding him his pouches of Gourmet Chunks has not been around since Thursday afternoon. Youngsters are so unreliable at weekends. Not the best of days for a cat to be out either, as it has been pouring with rain and he has had to sleep in a leaky old shed. It is now light and thankfully the rain has stopped. Steven sees an opportunity of some warmth and, who knows, perhaps even a tasty breakfast from the man at number nine. The one with the eight-year-old daughter.
Chloe hears the scratching at the door and lets the cat in. It is a ginger tom. She strokes it lovingly. She likes cats. She is taken aback when the cat asks her if he can come in and snuggle up by the radiator to get warm. Chloe is not used to talking cats, but she finds the idea amusing and quickly warms to the idea.
‘I’m quite partial to bacon too if you have a spare rasher or two,’ Steven says. ‘And perhaps a sausage. I like sausages.’
‘Dad isn’t up yet,’ Chloe says. ‘He likes to lie in on Saturdays. But I’m sure he will get you something when he does get up. I’ve not seen you around here before. What’s your name?’
‘I’m Steven,’ Steven says. ‘Would you like to talk about magic carpets?’
‘I thought magic carpets would make a change,’ Steven says. ‘All my people want to talk about is what is on the television.’
‘OK,’ Chloe says. ‘Let’s talk about magic carpets.’
‘Or if you prefer, I could sing you a song. Do you like Peggy Sue? Or That’ll Be the Day?’
‘I don’t think I know those,’ Chloe says.
‘How about Tea for the Tillerman or Lady D’Arbanville?’
‘Wild World? Do you know that one?’
‘Perhaps we should stick with magic carpets,’ Chloe says.
‘Or we could try Surrealist fairy tales.’
‘Magic carpets would be better.’
‘OK. Magic carpets it shall be. Did you know, magic carpets originate in the area from Egypt to Iraq known as the Fertile Crescent, which, as it happens, is also where cats come from?’
‘Egypt. That’s far away, isn’t it?’
‘It’s over a thousand miles.’
‘That is a long way. We went to Scotland once in the car but I don’t think it was that far.’
‘Are you sure it’s going well with the talking cat?’ Patti asks. ‘You don’t think you’ve got bogged down again?’
‘It still needs a little work,’ I say. ‘But, don’t worry, I will get there.’
He might be famous for his ballads about love and peace and his conversion to Islam following a near-death experience in Malibu California, but Cat Stevens kidnapped my cat ……………………….
Copyright © Chris Green 2022: All rights reserved