I've been putting this one off all week, because I know I won't be able to do it justice. It's one of those stories where you really had to be there, but I've got to try to make some sort of record of it for posterity—if for no other reason than it involves a dead cat.
I spoke with Carolyn on the phone on Monday, and she told me a story which made me laugh so hard that I couldn't breathe, started to go light-headed, and was seeing dots in front of my eyes. I honestly thought I was going to be sick—which would have been pretty embarrassing, as I was at work at the time.
The problem I have repeating Carolyn's story is the very Carolynish way in which she told it: she started in the middle with what sounded like the punch-line, then went back to the beginning, jumped forward and back a bit, then went off on a complete tangent to an entirely different story that was just as funny, then she returned to the first story to flesh out some more details she had just remembered, and so on. It was all over the place, basically—which is hardly surprising, because it started off as a throwaway comment, which I insisted she explain.
Carolyn has previously accused me of embellishing one or two of my stories about her (which, for the record, I honestly don't think I did), but this time I'm going to admit it up front: I simply can't tell this story as Carolyn told it to me because, like I said, it was all over the place. So I'm going to have to use some artistic licence and write it as a monologue, rather than a two-way phone conversation—as if Carolyn were writing it. And I'm going to have to rearrange the story so that it is told in some sort of logical order.
I might get one or two of the details slightly wrong, but I'll try to keep to the general spirit of what Carolyn said. [Carolyn has now commented on my version of the story and I have corrected some minor errors.] So here goes:
Did I tell you about the old woman who turned up at my door with a dead cat last Saturday? Well, actually, no she didn't: she turned up without a dead cat. I answered the door and she just stared at me anxiously, not saying anything.
"Can I help you," I asked. She looked down at the children, then looked back at me and mouthed, "Can I have a word?"
So I sent the children off to play, and the woman asked me to follow her up the drive. As we were walking, she asked me if I owned a long-haired, black and white cat. Oh good grief, I thought, what's he been up to now? Don't say he's been making lots of kittens! I bet she wants me to take a whole pile of kittens off her hands!
"Well, no, he's not really ours," I explained, in a bit of a panic; "he's a stray really. He just comes to the house and we sort of feed him. He's not really our cat!"
"Well, I've got him in the car," she said. "He looked so beautiful that I couldn't leave him."
She didn't actually say he was dead at first. When I worked out that he was and asked if he'd been in a road accident, she said yes, so I went to get a towel.
Well the cat clearly didn't look beautiful at all, because he was very clearly dead. We looked at him sadly for a moment, and I wondered what on Earth I was going to tell the children. It was only as the woman had half-lifted the cat out of her car that I realised it didn't look quite right somehow. I had a closer look, and said, "Actually, I'm not sure if that is our cat. Do you mind if I pop into the house again for a moment to check?" So I popped back into the house, and found our cat fast asleep on the bed!
So I went back to the woman and told her that it wasn't our cat. She looked slightly disappointed, and said, "Well, I suppose I'd better bury it myself then… I know, I'll bury it next to the horse I buried the other week!" I thought this was a pretty odd thing to say, but I later worked out she must own a stable or something.
I don't know what made me say it, but I said, "Well, if anyone asks, I'll say it's buried next to a horse"—which is a pretty odd thing to say too, if you think about it. Then, the next thing I knew, this woman was showing me loads of photographs of cats on her mobile phone, as if I liked the things. I don't like cats: I'm allergic to them!
WHY DO PEOPLE KEEP WALKING DOWN MY DRIVE AND DOING WEIRD THINGS?
Did I tell you about the five-or-so people who were walking their dog in our garden a while ago? I think they thought it was a park or something. We eventually had to go out and ask them what they were doing.
And then there was that time a few weeks ago when a whole pile of people decided to have a picnic in our driveway. They had deck-chairs and everything. I couldn't get my car out!
(Like I said, you really had to be there.)