Pete walked into the kitchen holding Fluffy like she was a dead cat.
‘What’s wrong with Fluffy?’ I asked.
‘She can’t be,’ I said. ‘I saw her five minutes ago pigging down cat food.’
‘Yeah. And two minutes ago she was sleeping under the front wheel of my car.’
‘Yes Jeff. I’m joking. This is a fake dead cat I got from the joke shop,’ spat Pete. ‘Of course I’m not bloody joking!’
I folded my arms and leant against the chipped Formica bench. ‘What do you think Kylie’s going to do you when she finds out you killed her cat?’
‘She can’t find out.’
‘When she’s back from holiday and yells ‘Fluffy, where are you?’ and a cat fails to ever materialise she’s going to get suspicious, don’t you think?’
‘Oh Jesus. Why didn’t this have to happen to me?’ said Pete.
I pointed at Fluffy. ‘Put that thing down. It’s creeping me out.’
Pete placed Fluffy on the kitchen floor in front of her bowl as if the smell of cheap tinned cat food might revive her.
‘We’ll get another cat,’ said Peter. ‘Kylie won’t know the difference.’
‘It’s a not a bloody hamster. Of course she’ll know the difference,’ I said. ‘And besides, what are the chances of finding a cat with the exact same markings? It’s not like they only come in one colour.’
‘Think Pete, think,’ he muttered to himself as he slammed his hand into his forehead repeatedly.
Pete stopped hitting himself and looked me straight in the eye.
‘I have a plan.’
I shook my head. ‘Oh crap, here we go. I remember the last time you had a plan.’
‘Hey. There was nothing wrong with that plan,’ Pete said. ‘How was I supposed to know you couldn’t swim.’
‘If you’d explained the plan beforehand I would have told you!’
‘Oh shut up. There’s no water involved in this one.’
‘What’s the plan then?’
‘When Kylie gets home I‘m going to be holding Fluffy halfway through the cat flap,’ said Pete. ‘As soon as Kylie sees Fluffy’s bum I pull her through the flap and run off with her. Fluffy then ‘goes missing’ and as far as anyone is concerned that was the last time she was spotted alive.’
‘Pete. That’s a fantastic plan.’
‘You know Jeff, you have a sarcastic streak that not everyone finds appealing.’
I just stared at him.
‘Kylie isn’t home for another week. Isn’t Fluffy going to be bloaty and maggoty by then?’ I said.
Pete stared at the corpse on the floor. ‘I didn’t think of that.’
‘We could stick her in the freezer,’ I said.
‘There’s no room. We’ve got a bunch of people coming for a barbie on Saturday and it’s stuffed with sausages and chops.’
‘And you think that’s more important than Kylie not killing you?’
‘I don’t want to eat sausages and chops for the next week. Do you?’
I thought about it. ‘Fair enough.’
‘Jeff,’ said Pete. ‘What do you know about taxidermy?’
‘Oh, you have got to be kidding!’
‘No seriously. Think about it?’ said Pete. ‘You were brought up on a farm. You must have dealt with all sorts of dead things.’
‘And do you know how many dead things we had to stuff?’
Pete’s shoulders dropped. ‘What else can we do?’
‘We? We? When did this become a ‘we’?’ I said. ‘I didn’t run over anyone’s cat.’
‘We’re talking about freezers and taxidermy, Jeff. That makes you an accessory. You’re as guilty as I am now.’
‘Pete. I am leaving the house now. When I come back I want it sorted. This is your problem.’
I ignored his protests as I closed the front door behind me.
I didn’t go far and only made it to the corner coffee shop where I had two cappuccino’s, one latte and a mocha.
When I got back to the house, with a thumping headache and more energy than I needed, I found Pete lying on the couch watching Channel 7.’
‘How’d we get that? We’ve never had it,’ I said, plopping myself next to Pete.
Pete pointed to the antenna on top of the TV. ‘I’ve improved reception.’
My eyes followed his bony finger and saw the skin of a cat splayed out between the two aerials next to the video recorder.
‘Jesus, Pete. You actually did it,’ I muttered.
‘Yeah. It wasn’t much fun. But it’s done.’
‘What did you do with all the icky bits?’ I asked.
‘And what are you going to stuff her with?’
‘I’ve been thinking about that and I think I’ll use this,’ Pete said, holding up Mr Cuddles – his teddy bear.
‘That’s not cat shaped,’ I said.
‘I’ll take some stuffing out. Don’t worry about it.’
Yeah right. Don’t worry.
There was a can of No-More-Flies on top of the TV we sprayed onto Fluffy’s pelt whenever we walked past over the following week. The flies piled up in front of the TV like slag heaps at a gold mine and we needed three cans of the stuff.
TV reception was better with Fluffy stretched across the antennas although that would only last until Kylie returned from holiday.
When Saturday came and we had the barbie a few people wrinkled their noses as they entered the house but everyone was too polite to ask what the smell was coming from.
Pete decided that once the guests had gone home it was time to finish Fluffy so he retrieved her skin from the hiding place in the his wardrobe and set to work stuffing her with Mr Cuddles.
I saw the results in the morning and I was sure that being full of sausages and beer, especially beer, was not the right frame of mind to be in when stuffing a bear into a cat.
It didn’t look like a cat. It didn’t look like a bear. It looked like a wombat wearing another wombat.
It was frightening. And it wasn’t going to fool anyone.
‘Yeah. I know what you’re going to say,’ said Pete, staring at the creature in his hands. ’But it’s all I’ve got and Kylie’s due home any minute.’
‘Why don’t you just admit what happened. Could it be worst that what you’re trying to do?’
‘No, Jeff’ said Pete. ‘I’ve come too far. I have to do this.’
I didn’t like what Pete had done but I had to respect him. He was no quitter.
We heard the sound of a car pulling up and I peeked through the front curtains to see Kylie stepping out of a taxi.
‘She’s here,’ I hissed at Pete.
Pete grabbed the Frankenstein monster than was once Fluffy and Mr Cuddles and ran to the back kitchen door.
I could hear him making more noise than the operation warranted and I ran to the kitchen.
‘What the hell’s going on?’ I said.
‘It won’t fit.’
‘The bloody thing won’t fit. It’s too bloody big.’
I tried to remain calm.
‘Pete,’ I said. ‘This isn’t the first time you’ve actually tried to put the new and improved Fluffy through the cat flap is it?’
‘Jesus, Jeff. That sarcastic streak really is unattractive.’
As I stared at Pete with a mix of hate and more hate the sound of keys in a door reached the kitchen.
‘Fluffy? Fluffy? Where are you?’ called Kylie.
I waved at Pete to get outside. ‘She’s in here, Kylie.’
‘Hi Jeff,’ said Kylie, as she stepped into the kitchen. She spotted Fluffy’s arse hanging out of the cat flap. ‘Oh there you are my precious little pumpkin. Have you missed mummy?’
Kylie started walking towards the back door with her arms outstretched.
Fluffy was stuck. Pete pulled and she wouldn’t budge. He pulled again. Kylie was getting closer.
When Kylie was a hand away from Fluffy, Pete gave an almighty tug at which point the safety pins holding her together popped. Pete fell backwards clutching a naked teddy bear while the skin of a very dead cat fell to the kitchen floor.
Kylie didn’t stop screaming until I’d given her a hefty slap across the face. Then she cried.
Kylie didn’t stop crying until I’d given her a large vodka. Then she got drunk.
Pete moved out the next day and Kylie needs a drink every time she sees a cat.
Kylie drinks a lot.