George looked at his wife. She had grown podgy since their
honeymoon. It didn't bother him - her weight. He was glad to
have some one with him. Tonight he didn't like the look of her.
She was pale and withdrawn, it seemed - almost as if she was
carrying the world on her shoulders. Also, she smelled like
stale perfume and cigarette smoke and it was worsening his
headache. All he could feel for her was the sharp pain in his
chest and the throbbing, hammering in his head. He wanted to
pull his eyes out to have a good reason as to why he was feeling
"I'm going for a walk," he said, and gently touched her shoulder.
It was not her fault, a voice pleaded somewhere in his mind.
"Can I come with you?" she asked, eager to get out of the house.
It was stifling hot and a walk was the most welcome horizon that
had interrupted her thoughts the whole long day.
"A walk!" thought George's wife excitedly. It was more than she
could dream of. Well, not exactly more than she could dream of.
She dreamt of a lot of things, mainly that George would love her
forever and that they would have enough money to do anything that
they wanted. But a walk, it was like heaven. It's really going
to happen she could have been shouting from the rooftops. "I'm
going for a walk with my husband." She threw a cotton shirt over
her skimpy top which was bursting with voluptuousness, unlocked
the security gate and felt the night air caress her face. It was
cooler outside than inside the house.
She left her keys in the gate for George to lock up while she
waited for him and plopped down on the steps…
It was around eleven in the evening. The night must be still,
dark and thick outside these walls, George's wife thought to
herself. And full of criminals… I must take my 'phone with me.
I'll hang it on my pants in the small of my back, and, put it on
silence, she added, smiling to herself. And some water…
Patricia sat outside on the step looking into the distance
through a crack in the buildings surrounding her. She could see
the lights of a suburb twinkling like stars on the horizon.
While she was waiting for her husband to get ready for the walk,
which involved him donning a pair of
jeans-to-take-a-belt-to-take-the-holster-for-the-gun, she mused
at the insignificant differences between the stars, diamonds and
the horizon. In her mind, she formulated the idea that the
closer one got to any of them, they would just turn out to be
ordinary and familiar, like a lamppost…
George struggled with his sandals. She was sitting outside on
the step. He could hear her. She was calling the cat…
He hated the cat. It always messed up his neat garden. How
close he was to kicking the cat in the gut…
The cat looked at the old woman sitting on the steps. What was
she doing, calling him? He didn't know her and had no intentions
of getting to know her. His belly was full and he needed to keep
pulling at the soil so he could relieve himself. He knew she was
a 'lovely cat lady', but he had business to attend to, so he
finished covering his scent and slunk into the darkness…
George's wife looked at the cat. She was too tired to walk over
to her little friend at the far end of the garden, so she called
The cat didn't come.
"It looks like Mixen…" she thought to herself. She strained her
eyes through her glasses.
Mixen was black and white and silhouetted on the window sill in
her room in the adjoining block of flats. She could hear her
friend calling her, but she was a prisoner - like every night
that had passed since one of her boyfriends had marked his
territory and her mistress became distressed beyond
She longed to sprint down the stairs and bounce into the loving
arms of the cat lady. Her mistress left the kitchen window open
on some occasions, and Mixen would wait anxiously to hear
movement from the house next door, then she would happily know
that she could slip out the window and be petted and stroked
until little spools of delight plopped out from her ever smiling
Trixie - that was George's pet name for his wife, looked long and
hard at the black and white cat poised in earnest contemplation
and wondered if it was indeed Mixen that she was seeing.
"Mixen would've come," she thought, but was still indecisive when
George's footsteps became louder down the passage to the front
The cat was forgotten and Trixie thought of her husband.
"So much pain, and there is nothing I can do about it. Oh, God,
please help me to help him…" she pleaded to the Great Unknown,
while smiling pleasantly at her husband's back lest he should
turn suddenly and see the concern etched into her round features…
"I must be strong for him." It was a mantra-like thought that
she repeated to herself day in and day out. The uninvited
disease ate at her heart's desire, lapping up her resolve like a
thirsty tongue - spooning away her reserves, and somehow, always,
leaving her just enough hope to carry one. Where she found the
inner strength to stay focused, she could only guess.
George slipped on his one sandal. He winced with excruciating
pain as a knife sliced though his innards and out his side. He
pursed his lips in tight resolve.
"Fuck this! I can do it."
The words echoed in and out of his consciousness, egging him
onwards towards the breath of fresh air that he so desperately
needed, wanted, had to have; …and that might take away the pain
for a moment.
Trixie was quiet now. He couldn't hear her loud whispered cat
call. He should end it now … while she was outside and not under
his nose, watching his every move.
It had become unbearable, this helpfulness that she tried to
"There's nothing you can do," he would say, meanwhile he would be
screaming for her to get on with something - her life! She had
her whole life ahead of her. What was she doing hanging around
him like this? It seemed as if she had put her whole life on
hold and had become a Florence Nightingale. It was all
worthless, didn't she realise? He did not want to stop her
living… not on his account.
Trixie thought about telling her husband about the strange cat in
the garden. Perhaps, she thought, he might begin to understand
that Mixen was not to blame for uprooting some of his seedlings
and flowers… And then, perhaps not. How was she to defend her
The other sandal came on easier and the pain had subsided for the
moment, all though not entirely. George had become accustomed to
feeling uncomfortable and relished the moment of peace that
descended upon him.
The gun felt heavy in its holster and George became aware of it,
as if for the first time. He was shocked that he was carrying a
gun. His memory taunted him with visions of his blood seeping
out of his body while Trixie came screaming into the room…
George shook his head, found it too painful, and stretched his
back while he rolled his head around on his shoulders. He could
hear the pieces of bone that kept his head up crunch under the
weight of his head like gravel stones…
He let out a heavy sigh.
"What is going to happen to Trixie? Who is going to take care of
her? She is not as young as she used to be and won't find easy
George managed another small shake of his head and then decided
to stand up. This walk would do him good. It had to. He
couldn't take the pain anymore. Not inside the house in his
favourite room. Not dying there or anywhere, not tonight, he
Mixen couldn't hear her friend's voice calling her anymore. She
strained once more, and then succumbed to the hum of the night.
She could hear the person next door typing sporadically, as if
the thoughts came in dribs and drabs. She heard the familiar
sound of the Trixie's security gate and gave her a long distance,
whimsical smile. Trixie…
Trixie looked at the security gate. When was her husband going
to make his appearance? It wasn't that cold, but if she remained
seated on the cool step and didn't get her blood flowing with a
brisk walk, she would have to go and put on a warmer sweater.
The electronic gate rumbled loudly over the rubble and rubbish
that had gathered during the day and closed behind them.
Trixie didn't know which way her husband wanted to go and stood
still, waiting to see his direction. He turned left and she
quickly got into step beside him. There was no wind to speak of
and only two stars shone like eyes in a cavern watching their
movement with the dullness that comes with knowing the inevitable
outcome of every moment.
George didn't see the stars, or if he did, he didn't mention
them. He was on alert, ready to protect Trixie in any event,
(bugger the pain that had decided to walk with them). He
clenched his jaw and winced. He had lost most of his back teeth.
No one could tell him why; and that loss, great as it was,
wasn't as great as the imminent loss of his front teeth, broken
now because no one had warned him to watch his bite and his
hunger had cost him thus. He was hungry now. Trixie had tried
to make French toast, but had failed miserably and he had had to
ask her to fry them again as they were raw inside. He had tried
to eat, but only managed half a slice.
Trixie was saying something. He knew if he listened a little
while longer that he would get the gist of what she was talking
about and make the appropriate sounds. Poor Trixie, he thought,
she doesn't have a clue as to what I am going through. Sometimes
he wished she would feel his pain, and then he would soften and
touch her gently, allowing his memory of her to comfort them
They turned left again at the garden Trixie always admired, but
she was silent. He was grateful for that, not wanting to alert
any one to their presence. Trixie had worked at the bar around
the corner and had told him countless stories of how people had
been mugged at the auto tellers in the circle. He winced at the
thought of her all alone in the bar with a door open to
temptation. He had saved her from selling her soul over a
counter to drunkards and who knows what, not that he had married
her to save her. No, he had fallen in love with her the minute
he saw her walking down the street towards him, giving one of her
dazzling smiles and a friendly greeting tripling from her curved
Trixie looked at her husband's face as they were walking. She
wanted to hold his hand, to link her arms around him, but, she
knew, she would only cause him discomfort and possibly annoy him
into saying something sharp. It was better just to keep up with
him, although it was easier now than it had been in the
She remembered how he used to walk. That confident, cocky stride
with a bit of a sway and a subtle swagger. You beautiful man, I
love you, she said to him, though her lips remained sealed in
silence. What is happening to us? Why can't you just get better
and smile and joke again?
The Mixen look-alike melted into the shadow under the car parked
in the circle. He licked his lips, his anticipation of blood now
a thing of the past. He was aware of the other Toms in the
neighbourhood, discerning their scents filtering through the air.
He was almost the newest on the block, having been rescued from
the animal shelter by a childless couple around four moons ago.
George began scanning the area opening up in front of him, and
when Trixie noticed him doing thus, she began to feel the usual
rush of adrenalin at being on the point of danger. They turned
left again, into the circle. George noticed the car with the
tinted windows outside the far teller.
The Tom heard the footsteps coming closer to the circle from one
of the side roads. They were not yet in sight and he stiffened
as the 'some one' in the car caused it to creak. He nearly ran
to the nearest drainpipe, but was glad that he hadn't for the
footsteps had become human forms and he sensed the danger to the
cat lady and the man with her…
"Let's read the notice board," Trixie said in a hushed voice.
She had noticed the second car parked next to the auto teller on
their path back to the house. It was quiet but for the distant
whine of the highways snaking around them.
The Tom had heard the footsteps coming closer to the circle from
one of the side roads. They were not yet in sight and he had
stiffened as the 'some one' in the car caused it to creak. He
nearly ran to the nearest drainpipe, but was glad that he hadn't
for the footsteps had become human forms and he sensed the danger
to the cat lady and the man with her…
Trixie laughed softly at something she read and waited for George
to finish his reading.
George wasn't really reading. He was gauging how fast he could
draw his gun to protect them should they be ambushed…
Trixie wanted desperately to hold her husband. She wished that
she lived in a country where there were no criminals, and if
there were, they were safe in jail…
Every one who was awake in this midnight hour heard the soft, low
whistle. Some even thought, still, that it was a bird, but those
in the know knew it for what it was: a sign from one crook to
another to spot a prospective victim…
The Tom had heard that noise before. It warned him of memories
to avoid, coming to flood his mind: to see his loving owner
whipped across the head with the butt of a gun and falling…
George took his wife's hand. "Come!" was all he said.
Instinctively they both walked on as if nothing was afoot. They
knew the whistle. Many cars had disappeared from the streets
when the "bird" was heard at ungodly hours of the morning…
Trixie noticed the other car for the first time. She was about
to mention it, then thought the better of it. She felt safe with
her husband at her side. She knew that he would kill any one who
threatened them in any way.
George felt the pain return, this time increasing in volume in
his abdomen. A wave of nausea enveloped him and he felt like
falling to his knees… Trixie was foremost on his mind, but the
pain was beginning to win him over, wanting to pin him down on
the ground - wrestled into submission. Something in him wanted
the criminals to come, but only for him. He wanted to exercise
his right to defend himself and at the same time rid the world of
the vermin encroaching on his freedom to inhale the fresh air…
Trixie was glad that she had her husband's hand to hold. It had
felt so right from the first time she had allowed herself to feel
his skin against hers. This is mine, she had vowed to herself.
She knew he was right for her. She knew, more than anything,
that this was the only man in the world she would want to spend
She felt his grip tighten on her and then he released her hand.
The living shadow under the car waited…
The tall, bowed man braving the relentless pain under the dark
The podgy woman didn't wait. She was going home with her
husband. "Fuck you."
The criminals hesitated. The cat poised. The couple walked
passed the auto teller and a wave of disgust swept through the
veins of the criminals…
The cat on the windowsill looked out into the night, not seeing
the building directly in her view, but further and further still,
till she could feel the memory of Trixie's hand rubbing her chin…
The gate shuddered and slid shut behind the couple as they made
their way to the steps leading to the front door of their home.
The woman looked up and saw her friend, the cat, and saw that all
the windows were closed. They smiled to one another.
The Tom had followed the couple back to the garden he liked.
They didn't see him as they closed and locked the doors behind
them. He looked up at Mixen and smiled. He only had a few hours
before the sun came up to stare lovingly into those eyes he
George looked at his wife. She was beautiful. He stroked her
hair. She was the only one who gave him pleasure and he wanted
"Life goes on," he thought. He pondered the thought deeply as
his loving wife began to stroke his back.