It is the morning of my wife’s appointment to look at a tiny tabby kitten whose picture has been on her phone for a week. An hour before, she comes into the kitchen with a cat carrier.
“Where did that come from?” I say.
“We had it,” my wife says.
But we’ve never had a cat carrier. We used to borrow one from next door to take the old cat to the vet.
“It still has the tag on it,” I say. My wife undoes the front zip of the cat carrier and pulls out a variety of cat toys, some kitten food, a litter tray, a scratching post and a little bowl.
“I see,” I say.
“None of it was expensive,” she says. “The toys were less than a quid each.”
“It’s not about the money,” I say. “It’s about due diligence.”
Actually, from my point of view, it’s about the now-vanishing possibility of not getting a new cat. The middle one enters, heading directly for the fridge.
“Are you coming with me to see this cat?” my wife says.
“Yeah, all right,” says the middle one.
“This is meant to be a viewing,” I say. “A first viewing. And you’ve already bought cat furniture.”
“What are you worried about?” says the middle one, from behind the open fridge door. I say: “We don’t even know how many legs this cat has.”
“Obviously I’m not bringing the toys with us,” my wife says.
“Why bother going to see it?” I say. “Why not just have it delivered?”
The oldest one walks in, transparently hungover, and starts making coffee.
“Are you coming with us to see this cat?” my wife says.
“Yes,” he says.
“So what happens after?” I say. “Do you take it to a vet for a survey?”
“No,” my wife says. “You don’t.”
“So you just say, ‘Thank you, we have some other cats we’re looking at, but we’ll be in touch’?”
“I’ve done all my research,” my wife says.
“Things are moving very quickly,” I say. “Too quickly.”
“What’s he talking about?” says the oldest one to the middle one.
“He’s worried the cat will have no legs,” the middle one says.
“I’m worried decisions are being taken lightly, and in haste,” I say.
“You can always rely on your father to pour cold water over any fun thing,” my wife says. “He thinks it’s his job.”
“At least someone is doing his job,” I say. A few minutes before midday the three of them set off in the car. I sit alone in the kitchen, thinking about the last trip the old cat made to the vet. There was no one home next door when we tried to borrow the cat carrier, so he went wrapped in a towel. I didn’t go on that trip either; I sat in this same chair, hoping for the best.
Eventually the youngest one comes down, also transparently hungover, and makes coffee behind me.
“The front door opened and closed three times last night,” I say. “At one, three and 7.30. Which one was you?”
“I was about three,” he says.
“I see,” I say. I’ve already asked the other two, and they also claimed the three o’clock slot.
“Where is everyone?” he says.
“They’ve gone to look at a cat,” I say.
“To look at a cat, or to actually get a cat?” he says.
“What do you think?” I say, indicating the spread of cat merchandise laid across the kitchen table like a pet shop window display.
“OK,” he says.
After 20 minutes I am impatient at the lack of news. I send a text to the middle one that says: “Well?” Ten minutes later he sends me a photo of a tiny kitten. I think: it’s adorable. I text back: “How many legs does it have?”
A few minutes later he sends me a text that says: “8”.
I write a text that says: “Tell them we’re not paying for the extra legs”, but as I press send I hear a key turning in the front door lock. Looking again at the picture of the kitten, I notice it’s sitting in a brand-new cat carrier, on the back seat of our car.
Three hours later everyone is sitting on the kitchen floor, watching a kitten chase a feather on a length of wire, and the ball with the bell inside, while the dog sits at the edge of the circle having a quiet nervous breakdown. I’m sitting at the table. My wife looks up at me.
“Don’t you want to play with your new kitten?” she says.
“I will later, when everyone else is done using it,” I say. But by then the kitten will have gone to live under the washing machine.