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The Tale of the Catman.

Short story By: Jonathan McQuillan

This is loosely based on a real person in a town called Greenock on the West coast of Scotland.
He lives rough and is known to dine on rats, hence his nickname, The Catman.

Submitted:Dec 23, 2012    Reads: 86    Comments: 9    Likes: 4   


"Where ur ye Catman, dae ye no want yur tea?"

Outside the Bus Depot, some of the nightshift workers were having a break, a smell of chip fat and gravy oozed out their grubbily wrapped packages into the thin crisp winter air.

"C'mon Catty mate", the men chuckled as they waited for their curious show.

"Awk he's no real, it's aw a load a pish", muffled one of the shorter men to the others through a mouth fully filled with foul fried fish.

"Jist you wait wee man", said the other, confidently as he started to make kitty noises as the rest of the workers continued to laugh. Their childish sniggering was cut short by the sound of bottles falling over from the bins. They all stood still.

A man came crawling out from the darkness. The workers all stood beady eyed as he came closer to them. He looked to be in a terrible condition, not looked after at all. His face was deeply dirty, his white eyes shone through his sorry looking exterior. The moon light danced playfully on his baltic bald head as the men carelessly threw their fried food down to the strange fellow to forage. He hungrily wolfed down his meal off of the sparkly frosty ground.

"Look'it eh state 'o him", one of the workers said disgustedly as he wiped gravy from his hairy chin.

His clothes were in a dismal state, damp moss lifelessly clung to his wooly jumper, his trousers were ripped and he wore no shoes, his feet were as black with dirt like his face which was continuing to gleefully munch away at the discarded fish.

All the workers took in their entertainment, watching him freely like a zoo animal.

"Wit dae yeez call 'im Catman fur?" piped up the youngest of the on lookers; the others simply turned to each other and smiled.

"Wait here", the man threw his rest of his supper in the bin and wandered off into the darkness there plaything came from.

The tramp was just finishing his late night dinner and started to crawl to his audience. One of the older gray haired workers batted him away with a brush to stop him coming closer; the other threw more chips in the opposite direction which the vagrant man chased after.

Not before long the wandering worker returned with a cheery smile.

"So ye want tae see how they call 'im eh Catman", he boasted with a hint of pride.

The workers stood and watched as there collogue threw a dead rat over by the tail to the feasting man, who immediately dropped the now soggy chips and lunged at the deceased rodent and sunk whatever teeth he had left into its parasitically festered fur.

"Aw clatty bastard!" shouted the young worker repulsively, turning a different shade of white.

"Aye he's a minging ol git, look'it 'im go, no even stopin' fur breath."

The so called Catman viciously lashed away at the vermin before stopping to chew the fleshy meal. He crammed what was left of the rat into his trouser pocket for afters.

"Right we're better getting' back tae work", one of the men said bored.

They've had their fun and were now grown tired of their Catman. One of them picked up the brush and batted him away off the bus depot grounds. Cowering away, the Catman hurried off the property and once again, into the bitterly cold darkness in which he came.


The Catman crawled through the bushes looking for shelter for the night, the icy air nipped continued to nip away at him. Tomorrow he would make way to his favourite place, Pottery Street Recycling Centre. He could salvage all sorts of vital material to craft makeshift shelter and get through what was to become one of the harshest winters in recent times. However for now he had to make do with what he could find. After scraping though the back streets he found a dumpster which looked it could provide ample cover for the night, he lumbered himself up and lunged in, pulling the lid down behind him limiting the draft slightly. He had long forgotten what these sort of beds smelled like.

The following morning he thudded thunderously against the unforgiving ground. After feeling slightly dazed he pulled out last night's furry dinner and continued to gnaw away at it for breakfast. Catman threw it away and set off down the alleyway.

He could hear laughter. It was different from the laughs he heard the previous night, these where more high pitched and much less cruel, against his better nature he decided to investigate. After reaching down to the bottom of the alley he perched himself under a parked van and looked out into the morning sunlit street.

He could see a group of boys, all dressed the same, standing at a bus shelter and they seemed in some form of deep conversation. He gazed towards there joyful smiling, failing to recall the last time he dawned such an expression. As he tried to muster up a similar expression to the boys at the bus stop, the van above him started to grumble to life. Before the Catman could comprehend what was happening the van took off, leaving him exposed in the middle of the street.

Terror overtook him, he was always cautious about showing himself in public during the day. The innocent laughs from the boys turned rather sinister when they saw him.

"Aww wit is at," shouted one of the boys.

They ran over and circled him, one of them pulled out his mobile phone and started to film the pathetic looking critter as they took turns in jumping over him, chucking cans at him and prodding him with sticks that were lying nearby. Catman couldn't care less about the abuse he was undergoing, he only felt severe shame at being so out in the open during this time of day. Using his surprisingly strong arms, he dragged himself back into the alley with all his might but the kids were having too much fun to let him go that easily.

They followed him into the lane. At last he was away from the public, away from more prying eyes and pointing fingers, only the three kids could see him now and he could handle that, like he could handle most things that came with living rough.

But they weren't going away. It was rare for Catman to feel such a level of unease form the sanctuary that was the solitude of an alley. Cans soon became stones and his unease soon grew into severe pain. The boys, apparently making a game of who could make him let out the strangest squeak laughed horrendously at their ventures. Looking for cover Catman could only see the dumpster he slept in and sought to hide under it, he edged closer as stones struck his body, trying not to let out a squeal of pain since it only seemed to fuel the boy's brutal nature.

One of the smaller lads decided to change positions for a better angle and unwittingly stood between Catman and his dumpster haven, the strikes became continually relentless. He could see all the debris around him as he looked up to see his attackers as he tried desperately to remember the blissful grins on their faces from before. Their laughing seemed non stop, this was much more than what he was used to and he saw no way how it could stop. Catman closed his eyes and reached out and grabbed what felt like a piece of brick and launched it in the direction of the boy blocking his path. It struck him on side of the head and all mischievous laughter stopped. The boy fell to the ground and the other two ran away in panic. Catman pushed his body forward to his fallen menace, blood trickled slightly from the side of his head but he could ever so slight see the condensation of the boy's breath float away in the air. He thought it best to try and take care of the boy, he wasn't laughing anymore, and he was helpless now like himself. Catman dragged the stricken lad to a place he knew they would be safe, away from boys like him.


The boy tried to wrestle his eyes open which took more effort than it should've. He could feel the cutting isolated cold circle around him as he tried to work out were he was. Edging closer out into the light he saw himself in some form of disused building site and he was situated in a giant cylinder tube. He couldn't seem to move, feeling oddly tired he decided to stay put and wait and see if anyone could come. He struggled to remember how he came in this position, the more he tried to comprehend what was happening he realised he couldn't recollect anything and gazed in confoundment at his legs which he was unable to move. He struck them with his weak fists but they were lifeless and limp. All he seemed to have with him was his instincts which at the present moment where telling him to stay put and wait for help. None came for him, ever.


Thirty years later Catman placed the boy within the same tubing he found himself in all those years ago. For once in his life he could sympathize for someone else. Catman made a to-do list in his head which mainly consisted of getting supplies from the rubbish depot to nurse the boy back to health so he could find his way home again. The boy was still fully unconscious when Catman left the derelict building him to hunt down materials to make it through the night.

The recycling centre just a vast rubbish tip, it was the place were everyone in town threw away their litter. Old ovens, cracked cabinets, moldy mattresses and all other sorts of unwanted gems lay in a huge under a guarded pile of wonders.

Often during the day he would hid behind a bottle bank and sit and listen to people throw in their grubby garbage and each time it clattered into the pile a hoard of squeaks would cry out and several rats would scatter, their yelps echoing around the site. It was wonderful to him.

Night was now drawing in and he had waited long enough. Only one solitary guard was left wandering the site. Catman waited till he strolled off to the opposite end of the grounds before squirming his way into the main rubbish tip. Blankets and any form of nourishment was the main thing the insanitary man was after. After several minutes of unsuccessful hunting he found some used bed sheets and jumpers. He swiftly took off his own and placed the newly found, slightly fresher jumper own before grabbing one to fit new patient.

Soon after tying the various sheets around his waist he started to hear the familiar cry of the rodent that was very common around this area. Over the years he had grown quite competent at catching his rather agile dinner. He burrowed himself in the mountain of waste and waited patiently. The security man was nearing closer and peered into the trash pen and meandered off again, rubbing his hands together to stay warm in the chilling night.

Catman picked up what looked to be a broken cricket bat and bashed it around his environment, cries of mice surrounded him and he wrestled his way out the pen to see a rally of vermin scuttling away, he managed to kill two and injure at least three more before they all cleared off. The two he killed he placed in his mangy pocket and the picked up one of the barely alive ones with his teeth before heading back to check the health of the boy.

As he writhed back to the building site he grew excited by the prospect of having a friend. His mind grew infatuated by the idea of having someone else in the world that he could finally depend on. Decades of living in isolation, not on the streets but in the bushes, sleeping in various dilapidated dumpsters, slummy sheds and sometimes sleeping out in the open at the side of a path with the elements slashing away at his face. He had grown to adapt to it, it was what he knew and what he grew up with but it he was now tiring of it and after today's incident we couldn't go on like living like it any longer. It was all about to change however, this boy might let him stay near him, might even leave out a warm meal for him once he nursed him back to health. The idea left the grubby man salivating as he wormed his way into the building site.

He drew himself over to the piping he left his savior and started to untie the bed sheets that were wrapped around his body, it was impossible to tell if they were muddy from being dragged along the ground from the rubbish tip or if it just rubbed off from the Catman, never the less he then proceeded to take his dinner out his pocket and placed it delicately on the ground, slightly petting it as he took his hand away. Catman then began to climb up to where he left the boy, he got up to the last pipe until he was struck violently in the head. He fell to the ground and glanced up to see the boy wielding a spanner. The boy jumped down threw the tool at him and ran for it out the construction site.

Catman convulsed in pain on the ground as he saw his simple dream run away from him, he hissed out and started to weepy wildly. Rage suddenly overtook him; he was filled with such abundant aggression. He picked the spanner up and set off out his shelter for the second time that night.


He found himself back at the rubbish tip; he could hear that his rats had situated themselves back in the rubbish tip. The security guard as still whistling away when he heard odd grunting noises coming from away in the distance. He went to investigate, it took him some time to find the source of the manic mumbling until he saw a pair of legs from up in the distance peeking out the main enclosure, the closer he got the more intense the growl got, he approached with caution until he seen the cause of the bizarre bellowing. He saw Catman lying on his back, in his usual terrible state. Blood dripping from his nose, a layer of grime on his face and the smell was overwhelming. Seeing the condition of the poor man the guard ran down to him.

"Christ sake mate, are you alright?!"

Catman ferociously flung his spanner across the cranium of the unwitting guard who dropped to the ground. The Catman continued to bludgeon the man over and over. After several moments the guard was unrecognisable and was dragged to the front gate of the recycling centre. Were Catman lay by his body and waited for the sun to rise and to be taken away once the morning staff arrived.

While he waited, his belly started to grumble and he pulled out his last rodent from his vulgar pocket and threw it away the distance.


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