On the Prowl
‘Get out, you thieving skunk!’
A silver blur shot down my neighbour’s front path and jumped clear of the fence.
‘If I see her in here again, I’ll contact the police!’ Melinda Richards yelled, swinging a packet of bread.
‘I was just about to have lunch and she was guzzling my ham.’
My cat Sascha crept around the hedge; fur spiked like a frilled neck lizard’s cape. Her huge eyes were peridot green and her head was cocked.
‘Why don’t you come in for a cuppa? I’ve just boiled the kettle and I can make you a sandwich,’ I said, rubbing my hands on my jeans.
‘Oh alright, I’ll be there in a jiffy.’
Five minutes later, Melinda was sitting at my dining table, the fringes on her jacket twisting and writhing like tentacles. Sascha, who thought she owned the district, sat warily in the corner.
‘Bob wants to know who’s been eating his snapdragons.’
‘I have no idea,’ I replied, picturing his leaf blower at full hum. Instead of bagging his detritus, he’d blast it all over my native violets. I’d tried speaking with him about it, but he’d waved me away.
‘And Julie’s rissoles were stolen the other day. A kid was selling chocolates door-to-door and when she got back to the kitchen, there was nothing left but scattered lettuce,’ Melinda said, glaring at Sascha whose tail was swishing.
I shrugged my shoulders. Julie had shouted at me the other day for parking in-front of her house. There were no other spots available and I don’t have a garage, but apparently, I was obstructing her view.
‘Perhaps it was Ollie,’ I offered. Ollie was the Chestertons’ Bichon Frise. They had weekends away and left him with piles of biscuits and bowls of water. The problem was, he howled constantly. Why couldn’t they hire a house-sitter?
‘Don’t blame it on that poor dog. He’d never leave his property anyway; he’s too anxious.’
‘Well, you’ve got no evidence. There’s nothing you can do without cold, hard proof.’
Melinda stroked my arm. ‘It’s alright, honey. It’s not like I really care.’
She’d seen Julie bailing me up and knew that Bob, despite his immaculate garden was a sleaze and a bully. He flirted with all the women at the street Christmas party and plied them with his homemade plum schnapps. It had never tempted me, though. Sascha bounced up and pawed at the tassels on Melinda’s jacket. She snuggled her close and my little burglar began to purr. Don’t leave your food out, I thought, eyes welling.
That night, Bob, Julie and the Chestertons were chatting on his front porch and chugging his infamous brew. Prawn cocktails stood on the kitchen bench, avocados fanned like sculpted ferns. Sascha pushed past me, nose lifted. She scaled the wall, trotted down the cobblestones and sprang in via an open window. Sniffing the plump, succulent morsels, she looked back, as if asking for permission. ‘Go get ‘em’, I whispered, kissing the air.