Church

We should never have called him Church. We thought it was clever to name him after the cat in Pet Cemetery: it wasn’t. He was cute enough as a kitten (all kittens are) but once he could roam the neighbourhood things changed.

That’s when he started bringing things home: found things.

At first they were small: an odd sock, an old toothbrush, half a porn magazine. He would lay them reverently on my bed; carefully consider the final position and then meow once. We all laughed about it. It was cute; we even encouraged him.

Inevitably, the situation got worse.

I wasn’t really worried when he brought in that huge bath towel, it must have weighted as much as him. I took a photograph of him lying among the fluffy folds of pink before I returned the towel to my neighbour’s washing line. At least I assumed that’s where it came from; and the neighbours never said anything so it must have been theirs.

That summer I began to suspect we had a serious problem.

It was one of those perfect orange suburban afternoons, still with a hint of braai smoke and the far off shrieks of children in the air, when I heard Church noisily entering our kitchen window with a chicken. Not a live chicken; nor even a dead pet chicken: a beautifully glazed and roasted chicken – fresh out of the oven.  A fine sage and onion stuffing aromatically teased the senses. I could have gone door to door among my neighbours, but I could hardly return their lunch (Church had helped himself to the best part of the left breast and my housemates had eaten most of the rest). And a sincere apology does little to replace your family’s Sunday lunch.

It was the day we found the money that I started to sweat.

Church brought it back wrapped in a dirty yellow plastic bag. There was about R6000 in all; neatly bundled with elastic bands; the serial numbers in sequence. By the time we realised what it was he had strewn it about my bed and rolled in it with near human glee. We considered calling the cops. We discussed it. But I couldn’t imagine them believing my story and we really needed the money that year.

I suppose we should have told someone; it would have made things easier the next month when Church dragged home a human hand.

2 thoughts on “Church”

  1. This is great – a slow, measured descent into thriller, and then horror. Told with an interesting voice – from neutral narrator he develops into someone a little more compromised, keeping the gifts as they become more valuable, becoming more and more complicit. Great stuff and a good progression of cat crimes.

    A number of smallish niggles:

    “it must have weighted as much as him” – should be weighed.

    “At least I assumed that’s where it came from; and the neighbours never said anything so it must have been theirs.” – This sentence feels slightly clumsy and unnecessary – story works well without it.

    The paragraph about the chicken – I felt a bit of discontinuity there. They hear Church enter with a freshly stolen chicken, but the argument for not returning it is that the housemates had eaten a lot of it. This feels slightly disjointed. Church having chowed it is enough of a reason to not return it; the housemates eating it must have happened after the decision or while they were arguing, or something?

    “I suppose we should have told someone; it would have made things easier the next month when Church dragged home a human hand.” This is a great and alarming ending, but something about the writing does not quite work for me. A full stop instead of the semicolon may help. Calling it “the hand” rather than “a hand” may also assist – the definite article is justified as this is definitely THE only human hand they would come across. Possibly “a severed hand” rather than “human hand” may also work – human is implied in hand?

    I loved the half a porn mag paragraph, and rolling in the money with human glee. Worked for me.

    Thanks!

  2. Our Hero owns a cat, Church. The cat has a nasty habit of wondering the neighbourhood and picking up loose odds and ends to present to Our Hero. This habit worsens, until the cat is bringing home money (hoozaah!) and dead body parts (not very much hoozaah!).

    This was great. The build-up to the last paragraph worked well for me, and was at times humorous (the chicken; rolling in the money) and serious (the money; in some sense the chicken).

    I have a few nits to report on, but nothing major. Most of what I have to say are around semi-colons and commas.

    > He was cute enough as a kitten (all kittens are)[,] but
    Might want to have a comma there.

    > home: found things.
    I think a full-stop instead of the colon might give more of a punch to the second sentence (which, yes, does not have a verb and so is not technically a sentence, but it’ll still work).

    > reverently on my bed; carefully consider
    I suspect this semi-colon should be a comma. Unless you’re separating elements of a list or some-such, the semi-colon will usually separate things which can stand as sentences in their own right (like it’s used later with, “It was cute; we even encouraged him.”).

    > got worse.
    Pet hate verb warning. Maybe try “grew worse” or “worsened”.

    > in that huge bath towel, it must
    I think this is a good place for a full-stop, semi-colon, or even a colon. The phrase after the comma (“it must …”) feels a bit jammed on to me (it could also stand alone as its own sentence).

    > have weighted
    Typo: “weighed”.

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