Category Archives: Animals

A Painless Death

No attribution foundHere’s a short story I wrote for Miranda Kate’s Mid-Week Flash Challenge – Week 56, inspired by the picture on the right there.

A shadow crossed the cave mouth. Wolf raised his immense head and eyed the newcomer. A boy, draped in the red cloak of a supplicant. Wolf gave a low growl, and the boy stepped forward. Wolf nodded his permission for him to speak.

“I am looking for a painless death, Uncle Wolf,” he said, eyes downcast, looking at the sandy ground.

“Ain’t no such thing, sweet boy,” said Wolf, his voice deeper than summer thunder. “All death causes pain, even if that pain ain’t your own. How would your ma feel?”

“She died bringing me into this world.”

“Your friends then?”

“My knife is my friend.”

“Well, then, me? It always hurts me when one of my subjects dies. What of my pain?”

The boy looked him in the eye, a brave move. “If the pain is not my own, then I do not care.”

Wolf smiled at the temerity of the lad. “Well, now, there’s a selfish point of view.”

“You say that as though selfishness is a bad thing.”

“Oh, I make no judgements, sweet boy,” Wolf said. “I ain’t a creature worthy to set his self above others. If those same others choose to lift me above ‘em, who am I to argue? But don’t ignore what I’m saying here – death is pain. That’s its … what’s the word, now … essence.”

“Pain is my friend.”

“That’s told plain by the scars that criss-cross your arms. But you’ve named two friends, now. Knife and pain are …” Wolf’s low rumble quietened as the boy’s grey eyes glared angrily at him. It would be a pity to waste such furious passion. The boy’s rage, if harnessed in the correct way, had the capability to do great good. Of course, such refinement would take time. Wolf sighed, a sound like a dying hurricane.

“Yes, you’re right,” he said. “Metaphorical friends don’t figure. Tell me then, why do you now seek oblivion, rather than, as you have before, the exquisite release of slicing your own flesh?”

“There’s no point.”


“To any of it. To existence. Or at least, if there is a point, it is to gain pleasure from the things we do, for as long as we breathe the air.”

“And now you gain no pleasure? Not even from cutting yourself?”

“None. I enjoy nothing. I do not laugh. I do not smile.”

“Does the warm sunshine not make you glad?”

“No. And before you ask, a spring breeze is nothing to me, nor the laughter of girls. All the world is empty and dying.”

“Then, sweet boy, I pity you. And … I grant you your pain-free end.”

The boy smiled, and bowed his head to await a killing blow from Uncle Wolf’s massive paw.

“My decision pleases you?” The boy nodded. “Then you can still feel pleasure. Yes, I grant you a painless death … when you are ninety-seven years old.”


Cats and Dogs

This week's prompt is a photo taken by Gen Harris. These are her dog and cat.You’ve heard the expression “raining cats and dogs”, right? Here’s a little thing I wrote for Miranda Kate’s Mid-Week Flash Challenge – Week 51, inspired by the picture on the right there. The cat’s real name is Willow, and the dog is Lily, but I think Abigail and William work better for the story.

mnc divider

<the light tattoo of rain on glass>

“Go on, then.”

“In that storm? No. You go on, then.”

“Nuh-uh. I’m a cat. Cats don’t do rain.”

“Cats don’t do anything.”

“We do! We do sunshine and warm laps and high places.”

“Don’t forget selfishness, you’re the best at that. Cats don’t do anything useful.”

“Tell me, of the two creatures here, which one can work the window latch?”


“Which one, William?”


“I can’t hear you.”

“You can, Abigail. It’s you, OK?”

“Then we are agreed. My job is to open the window. Your job is to go out in the rain.”

“And get soaked.”

“One job each, William. That’s fair, isn’t it?”

“Hmph. I suppose.”

“Oh don’t sulk. Let’s get this over with. There, the window’s open. Off you pop.”

“I don’t think I can carry both bags of treats. I only have a little mouth.”

“Then fetch mine and go back for yours. Then we can work on opening them.”

“That’s two trips, Abigail! I’ll get even wetter!”

“Once you’re wet, you’re wet. And you can shake yourself dry. Dogs are good at that.”

“We are, aren’t we? Dogs are good at stuff just as much as cats.”

“They’re certainly good at being gullible. Off you pop, William.”


<the hiss of rain on the path between greenhouse and kitchen>

“I’m back! Here’s yours, Abigail. I’ll just pop back and get mine.”

“Take your time, William, take your time.”

“Gosh, this rain’s cold.”

<the cadence of rainfall and a soft click>

“Abigail! Abigail! Abigail!”


“You’ve shut the window again. Let me in, I’m soaked!”

“Not a chance. It is cold. And who wants to eat with the stink of wet dog in the air?”

“That’s not fair!”

“You said it yourself, William. Cats are the best at selfishness.”

Familiarity (part 3)

The continuing adventures of Sebaster the cat and Johannah the raven. You can read Part 1 here and then Part 2 here. The whole story, as far as I’ve written it by then, will appear in the soon-to-be-published “The Museum of White Walls : forty monkeybonkers tales and three poems”

SebasterThe hellbeast sat on the windowsill outside and laughed.

“Sebaster!” Johanna scolded the laughing cat, “you terrified me!”

“God, that was hilarious!” he snorted, muffled by the glass but still audible. “You even did a little crap as you somersaulted gracefully into the ceiling.”

“A polite creature would not mention such things of a lady,” she huffed, returning to the inside sill.

“Cats don’t do polite,” he said. “Come on, shift your arse. Let’s get going.”

“But how? How did you suddenly appear outside? Was it a relocation spell? Perhaps you transmogrified yourself into a mist to slip through the keyhole?”

“Nah,” he said. “Catflap. Come on, buggerlugs, get out here and we’ll set off. We can pick up some food on the way.”

Johanna cocked her head and regarded the cat. He seemed serious about going out into the fog-shrouded world to search for Natty G, despite all the dangers that would entail. For one thing, there was the weather. At the moment it was so foggy that they could not even make out the trees at the far end of the stony lane that led up to the cottage. It was cold, too – and what if it rained? Where would they shelter? Would they be able to find food? Come to that, how on earth would they be able to find Bee Ewe Rye? Above all else, though, one particular thing was stopping her joining Sebaster outside. What on earth was a catflap? She would have to ask, and hope beyond hope that it was not some distasteful habit of his.

“What is a cat flap, Sebaster?”

“Oh! Little door in the big door. Just push it, you’ll see. Get a wiggle on – adventure awaits, JoJo!”

“Once and for all,” she said, exasperated, “My name is …” but the cat had jumped down, and she was speaking only to the fog. She flapped down to the door, and pecked once or twice at the square of plastic that she had always taken for a ridiculously low-set window. It moved in response to her taps, swinging a little on a top hinge. Johanna gathered her courage and bustled through, which proved surprisingly easy. Sebaster sat on the paved path nearby. The air was chill, and smelled of damp ashes.

Johanna hopped to Sebaster’s side, and the two set off, the onyx-feathered raven side-by-side with the powerful ginger cat, his marmalade-and-fire fur glistening with tiny droplets of fog-water. As they rounded Natty G’s herb garden, Sebaster said “I’ve had a thought.”

“Wonders never cease.”

“Go fuck yourself,” Sebaster said jovially. “No, I was thinking – can’t you just do a spell to transport us to Bee Yew Rye?”

“Well, no. You should know that. We are but familiars. We cannot actually perform magic; we simply assist Natty G as servants, spies, protectors and companions, aiding her on occasion by strengthening her magic when she bewitches enemies, or divines information, or turns one thing into a different thing. That is why she created us, after all. Ah, the day she created me was a mighty day indeed! I was mindlessly pecking away at the rotting eyes of a dead sheep when Natty G happened along. She willed me to open my mouth and she blew into me a fairy which gave me self-awareness and a command of language, along with a ridiculously long life-span.”

Sebaster was staring at her. “You’re pulling my plonker,” he said.

“I beg your pardon, I am most certainly not. Why, how came you into Our Lady’s service?”

“She bought me from that pet shop in the village; ‘One Man Andy’s Dogs’.”

“You did not have a fairy blown into you?”

“Like fuck, I did.”

“You do not suckle from the witch’s teat as a reward for helping with magic?”

“The who the what now? Natty G’s tits? Ew!”

“You don’t have a spirit name? The name of the fairy that was blown into you?”

“No, just the usual three names here; my regular name – Sebaster, my fancy name – Zingiber Officinale, and my secret name that only I know.”

“So you are not Natty G’s familiar? You are …”

“Just a moggy, yes. Sorry.”

Feline Groovy

Just found this photo of the time in 1989 that we had seven cats. Meet Malley, Kizzy, Liverpool, Clint, Sherpa, Everton (complete with shaved bum & tail after a leg operation) and Cleo. Readers of my books will know this magnificent seven well, as they all appear in my book Warren Peace. (sorry about the title)

Seven cats

Familiarity (part 2)

The continuing adventures of Sebaster the cat and Johannah the raven. You can read Part 1 here. For Snowflake’s Challenge.

Sebaster looked at her, hard. “A place named after shoving something under the ground to rot? Oh yes, I can see this going well.”

“Perhaps it is pronounced differently,” Johannah reasoned, “In some exotic fashion, as magical places oft are. Perhaps Beeyew-Rye.

“Bee yew rye, my furry arse,” the cat replied. “Look, whatever the pisspool is called, and whether we go there or not, if nothing else we have to get out of the chuffing house.”

“Why?” Johannah fluffed her feathers to straighten them. “It looks cold and dismal outside.”

“Believe me, Jojo, I love the sun on my bollocks as much as anyone—”

“You do not have any. Natty G had them removed after you started being naughty with the cushions.”

“Shut the fuck up! Personal much?” Sebaster favoured her with a short hiss before continuing. “Look, bird-brain, even if we don’t go to Pisstropolis we’ve got to get outside because there’s no food left in the house. It doesn’t look like Natty G’s coming to give us more any time soon.”

“There is a putrefying rat corpse – well, half of one at least – behind the fridge. And I have found plenty of insects; earwigs and the like.”

“Bloody ew! I’m not eating any sodding insects, thank you very much. I need my tender, succulent chicken chunks cooked to perfection and served in firm, delicious jelly.” Sebaster stuck out his tongue, as if tasting the air. “Perhaps some tasty and nutritious liver yoghurt for pudding. No added sugar, no artificial colours, flavours or preservatives. Mmmm.”

The cat’s eyes glazed over and his tongue quivered. He really was hungry, Johannah could see, and perhaps he was right. She was getting a little tired of her current diet. It would be good to find some fresh carrion.

“Sebaster?” she said, but the cat was gazing into nothing, lost in his imagination. She had to admit, he looked extremely handsome. His flame-coloured fur beautifully accentuated his lithe and muscular lines. His pink tongue still stuck ridiculously out of his mouth. She sighed and fluttered back up to the window.

She pecked ineffectually at the catch, then regarded it with her bright eye. It needed to turn. She grasped the small metal nub in her beak and twisted her neck, but the catch resisted all attempts to shift it. Perhaps they would never escape. She gazed out at the misty world through the drops on the window. Perhaps they would starve to de—

A terrifying dark shape suddenly crashed into the glass before her, all teeth and fire, clearly a demon from hell. She threw herself backwards, struggling to control her flight, and crashed into a roof-beam in her desperation to flee the hellbeast.

Familiarity (part 1)

A very short piece that promises more. For Snowflake’s Challenge.

Snowflake's Challenge logo“It is remarkably foggy out there. What if she is just lost?”

Sebaster gave her a look, then curved his body so he could lick his backside.

“She’s a witch, Johannah,” he said between licks. “Witches don’t get lost. They can do location spells and shit.”

“Well, something untoward has happened!” She eyed the cat with distaste. “Do stop doing that. It’s ghastly.” She gave him a sharp jab with her beak.

“Oi!” Sebaster hissed. “Leave me alone, you scabby old crow.”

“I am, as you well know,” Johannah preened, “A raven. Corvus corax. We are far superior to—”

“Arseholes,” Sebaster interrupted. “You’re all the bloody same, you corvids. Ravens, crows, same thing.” He licked his haunch where the bird had pecked him. “I think you’ve broken the skin, you bag of shite.”

“Oh do cease your foul-mouthed prattle. Are you not worried?”

“I’ll tell you what I am – I’m fucking hungry.” He eyed the bird for a moment, considering, then shook his head. “Nah, you’d taste shite, all stringy and cracking bones. You’d get stuck in my throat.”

Johannah looked down her beak at him, then cocked her head sideways. Her bright eyes peered into the thick fog, searching for movement. It was unusual for the bird not to tell Sebaster off for swearing, and he softened his tone a little.

“You’re really worried, aren’t you?” he asked.

“I am indeed,” she said. Sebaster sighed and stretched.

“Come on, then, buggerlugs,” he said, and jumped down off the table. Johannah fluttered down beside him.

“Where are we going?”

familiar“We’d best go look for Natty G, since it looks like she’s got herself caught up in some shite or other. Do you know where she went?”

“Oh, she was going to a wondrous place of magic! A shining city to the south that o’erflows with mysterious marvels and strange, astounding things.”

“What’s this amazing place called?”



Blogging our recent US trip day by day, a month after the event.

7th December – Farm animals and abandoned buildings

Two red trucksDon’t worry, there’s only one more of these posts to go. Here you go, have my eternal thanks if you have stayed with me throughout. Oh go on then, you can have my admiration at your fortitude, too, to dunk in it. This day began with a lie-in and a lazy morning, and ended with a visit to McDonalds (IKR) for coffee with Janine’s lovely Mom.

GASAfter a good chat we split up – Mary and Janine went to some sort of ‘event’ in Chamberlain, while Barry and I drove out to the farm to feed the pheasants in the fields. On the way I had Barry stop so that I could photograph some of the abandoned buildings out in the flat countryside. One abandoned, rotting old house squatted at the end of a deeply-rutted, muddy track that was FUN to bounce the truck along.

One-eyed TurboAt the Farm we fed Tuxedo the cat, BJ & Turbo the horses (Turbo missing an eye – see right) and a couple of donkeys. As we drove around the cornfield, scattering old corn every few yards for the pheasants to find, Barry told me tales of Chamberlain characters. Bozo, the town drunk who collected old whisky bottles from the dump and drank the dregs, setting the dump on firs once a month. Also Fast Jack the barber, who would accept six bags of cans for a haircut. Cans of what? Dunno, I can’t remember. SMH



Blogging our recent US trip day by day, a month after the event.

29th November – return to San Diego Zoo.

RattlesnakeYou won’t be surprised if you’ve read the title that this day we returned to the zoo to cover ALL OF THE THINGS that we missed the other day. I tell you, this zoo is HUMUNGOUS. You really do need two full days – hell, three – to see everything.

Hunning birdFor me the highlights were the humming birds. Beautiful points of bright colour flitting about with blurred wings. Not only in the aviary, but in the wild too. In the aviary, however, they were far easier to watch.

Fennec FoxOther highlights – the underwater view of hippos, a snow leopard pacing above my head, a Fennec Fox that followed me around the edge of its cage, peering intently at me. I can only imagine I looked like its keeper. These are memories that will not soon fade.

Belly porkIn the evening to a restaurant called Urban Solace in downtown San Diego, and the biggest of thanks to V & R for the meal. I had a chicken stew that was indeed “like the warmest hug”, just as the flat-capped waiter had promised. Mary had frou-frou fancy-pants belly pork. Online friend Declan and OH (shamefully I can’t recall her name right at this moment. I’ll edit it in when it occurs to me) joined us, and a merry time was had.

ShipAfterwards we meandered through the night streets gazing at businesses and lights – a microbrewery where you could watch the brewing from the bar above caught my eye – and, leaving the Declans, took a drive down to the waterfront to see the big ships moored there – tall ships, a submarine, and a HUGE FUCKOFF aircraft carrier. Also a bloody awful statue, my photograph of which failed to take, so you’ll have to look it up yourselves.



Blogging our recent US trip day by day, a month after the event.

25th November – San Diego Safari Park

Safari ParkYes, you heard. San Diego Safari Park! What an enormous, stunning place. Sprawling exhibits, few fences, and photo ops galore. Such a splendid adventure on a fine, sunny, Californian day to meander the well-kept pathways, admiring all manner of beastie. And the landscape in which it sits, oh! Rising mountains lift the horizon, hawks soar against the blue sky.

CaracalThere was a huge hot-air balloon, tethered on this day due to what felt at ground level like no more than a light breeze. And a splendid safari “tram” ride (in reality, a brightly painted truck pulling two trailers) that took us in and amongst animals of the plains. We spent the day walking amongst the animals, and taking several hundred photos.

Feeding the lorikeets was an amazing experience. The brightly coloured birds landed on us often; the feeling of being groomed by one will stay with me forever. And then, of course, it pooped down my face. As they do.

lorikeetsIn the evening to a typical diner where I ordered chocolate malt (superb) and, yes I know, fish and chips. The waiter was concerned that I understood that they filleted the fish “in the English style with skin left on one side”. The fish was, as it turned out, excellent, with real chips (not fries), but sadly coleslaw instead of mushy peas.



Blogging our recent US trip day by day, a month after the event.

23rd November – San Diego Zoo

Neighbourhood signI had problems topping up the cash-card we were using, but an eventual chat with a lovely lass from the Co-op Bank sorted me out and reassured me greatly. That done, Valerie took Mary and I for a lovely, lovely, LOVELY day at the incredible San Diego Zoo.

EEK!The weather was average – which for California means sunny and hot – so we bought big hats for the delicate ladies at the shop. A l–o–n-g day, too, and yet we still only covered half the vast stretching acreage of the place. KoalaI’ll never stop thanking V and R for showing us such a place. Of course, there are loads of photographs of the animals, but you don’t want to read a blog that simply lists all the creatures we saw. There’s a link at the foot of this post where you can see many, many photos, the best of which were taken by Mary.

Ladies who humI will tell you of the two women I met in one of the many aviaries. They stood at one end, humming lightly. They told me that the Capuchinbird made such a sound to call to others of its kind. The solitary example kept here had recently lost its mate, and they were calling it to them. It duly came, and perched while they hummed to it, cocking a bright eye.

HighOther highlights included a sprawling, large-bollocked kangaroo, baby capybaras, reindeer, and a high cable-car ride which offered stonking views over the zoo and nearby Balboa Park.


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