Here's to you, Mrs Robinson
“Eric, it’s only been an hour.”
My mother was trying her best to bargain with my growing worry but she should have known better than to reason with that which can’t be reasoned with. If it could, I certainly would have struck up a deal with it minutes ago.
“I’m not being unreasonable, I’ve just never known Mrs Robinson to just wander off.”
I knew I sounded desperate, as if my whole world had come crumbling down but in a way it really had. My cat, named after my late father’s favourite Simon and Garfunkel song, had been missing for one hour and seven minutes. She was the closest thing to a friend that I’d experienced these past few weeks. After I’d lost my job a few months ago and then got dumped by Sabrina, it felt like I was abandoned by all of my friends, although I should’ve seen it coming.
I’d met Sabrina on a night out with some mutual friends and when the day came that she had decided to leave me, her newfound freedom took a lot more of their time. In fairness to them, when there’s a breakup between friends you’re more likely to choose the one who’s rising from the ashes of a burned out relationship rather than the one who’s left trying to sweep it together, filling the void with as much food and wildlife documentary watching as possible. Even if the former was somehow more inviting, my incessant blubbering at the happy animals would surely drive them away.
Still, even while I spent days at a time attached to the sofa, the only one to tear me away from it was Mrs Robinson, mainly because I had to feed her and change the litter tray. Not only that, whenever I was feeling particularly down, her little tongue sticking out of her mouth while she was cuddled up to me always brought my spirits up a little, even when I’d found out Sabrina had cheated on me with some meathead called Frank. Mrs Robinson, like me, had grown very accustomed to our new reclusive lifestyle choice, so to not have her present for more than 10 minutes definitely felt like my world in its bordered state was falling apart.
“I have to go mum, she probably hasn’t got very far.”
I hung up before she had a chance to respond and made my way outside. There was a strange sensation looming over as I approached the front door. Sure, I had been up numerous times to welcome the regular takeaway deliveries but this was the first time in weeks that I was actually going to be passing the doorstep. I looked to the right at the old, full-length mirror with its white, wooden frame peeling away. Flashbacks of Sabrina appeared, pointing to the blank wall that had been there before, excitedly revealing the plans for our new car boot discovery while I lugged it through the door. She was proud of her idea that we would now guarantee ourselves a glance in a mirror before we left the house, especially if we were running late. I’d installed a shelf for the post that was at risk of being trodden on but it ended up housing various deodorants and perfumes, mainly for me as my lateness became more frequent. A contributing factor to my firing no doubt.
Now looking back is a slob, brushing the Doritos crumbs away from his groin and pretending that the ambitions of one of the nearby deodorants was enough to mask about 14 days worth of body odour. I concealed my stained, vest with my favourite red hoody, thinking back to my small victory of keeping it out of Sabrina’s hands after the break up. Despite her claims, it was one of many garments whose allegiance had been forcefully obtained through theft under the pretence of “what’s mine is yours and vice versa”. If she’d had anything that wasn’t two sizes too small or didn’t expose my cleavage, I probably would’ve been happy with this unwritten relationship condition. I shook off the creeping feeling that I could have put a little bit more effort into my appearance and turned back to the door with just enough determination to enter the outside world.
I shielded my eyes in preparation for the blinding sun like a vampire being forced from his lair but I had clearly lost sight in my hibernation at how typically grey British weather is. It was when I felt the spitting rain that I regained the urgency to find Mrs Robinson. I looked out helplessly to the passing cars and closed my eyes, trying to picture where I would go if I had left the confides of my abode and got lost in the wilderness. After a few seconds I re-opened them and nearly slapped myself at how ridiculous a notion that I, a 31 year old and apparently logical human could think like Mrs Robinson, a 9 year old tabby cat. Some of that elusive logic did surface though when I let my eyes follow a passing white van until they landed on the local park at the end of the road.
Harrowing thoughts found their way into my already rattled mind; flashing images of Mrs Robinson laid out on the road appeared with the swishing sound of every passing vehicle. They only subsided once I’d reached the grand entrance of the park and crossed the blood and corpse-free road. It didn’t phase me as I walked in to the local park that it would be empty, especially on a grim day like today. The only occupants were two young lads, about 7 and 9, kicking a football to each other and it dawned on me that I didn’t have the option to ask passers by if they’d seen Mrs Robinson. It was especially frustrating in a park more occupied, I likely would have had several young witnesses eager to tell the story of how they’d spotted a wild feline prowling across the plains of the football field.
Still, I started a perimeter of the park, becoming more aware at how mental I probably looked in my very casual attire calling into surrounding bushes. It wasn’t enough of an alarm for me to think about how exactly I would approach and talk to two unsupervised boys in the middle of a quiet park. My greeting felt as awkward as it came out.
“Good afternoon boys. People call me Eric.”
The older of the two didn’t hesitate for a second. If it had been my kid approached by a random stranger giving oddly worded salutations, I would have been very pleased at his dealing of the situation.
“Dad!” he called out behind him. “Nonce!”
My chance to explain was now aimed at the rhino who had charged at me across the field in under 5 seconds. The rain feebly attempted to penetrate his large, red muscular shoulders which were exposed due to a tight, black vest he was wearing, even on a day like today. Of course I would have no grounds to stand on if he’d ripped off my hoody right there and then.
“What the fuck did you just offer my boys?”
I nearly laughed at the fact he had used the same word for his sons as I had but couldn’t see a way of explaining my outburst without getting pummelled into the damp ground.
“I didn’t offer them anything,” I pleaded. “I was just going to ask them if they’d seen my cat.”
He grimaced at the last part of my excuse, probably thinking I was mocking him with some hidden innuendo. I debated whether to make a run for it at this point but after seeing him scaling the field so quickly I didn’t want to chance it. It was then that I thought back to the past few months and how this beating would be a fitting chapter to such a miserable and pathetic life story. I closed my eyes and accepted my fate.
I turned to see my guardian angel in the form of Sabrina’s friend from the gym jogging towards us in workout gear. It was then that I placed the nearby gym that Sabrina used to go to with this friend, although I was struggling to find her name. It also made sense why this monster of a man was wearing a vest on this grey day. Fortunately, he held off his attack, leaving room for negotiation over the terms of my punishment.
“Is there a problem here, Dan?” She looked up to the brute.
“This nonce was chatting up Romeo and Archie,” he blurted out. “Pretending he’s looking for his cat.”
“Mrs Robinson is missing?” She asked me. I nodded in response, too afraid to say anything else in front of Dan.
“Come on, let’s go look for her.” She turned to Dan and smiled at the kids. “Don’t worry, Eric isn’t a paedophile.”
“Maybe he should stop approaching young kids looking like a hobo then,” Dan replied in defence, escorting the boys away. “And have a fucking shower mate.”
I didn’t bother responding but instead turned in the direction the woman was now headed. My head was finally clear enough to give her a name.
“Thank you, Judy,” I said, “I really thought that was the end then.”
“It’s Jade.” She laughed at my reddening face. “He’s right you know. You do fucking stink.”
We approached a small residential car park and Jade unlocked a shiny, black Audi with the touch of a fob, gesturing for me to get in. I did without hesitation though I was questioning whether Mrs Robinson would have got far away enough that we would have to drive around the town. Jade seemed to read my voiceless concerns.
“We’re starting at the vets,” she said. “Maybe someone would have dropped her in if she’d been wandering around with a collar.” I remained sceptical, confirming that my face could speak a thousand words or that Jade was exceptional at reading people’s body language. “My brother’s dog went missing for a couple of hours once. They only realised when the local vet called to say she’d been dropped off by a random.” I didn’t respond, although judging by Jade’s change in conversation, I didn’t need to.
“So you’ve not been handling the break up very well?” She asked.
“What gives you that impression?” I replied sarcastically, something that was amazingly lost on Jade.
“Well for one you look and smell like a drug dealer,” she said looking out to the quiet road. “And secondly, you’ve been put in charge of Mrs Robinson. Sabrina told me that you guys used to look after her sometimes.” She paused for my protest but she was right. After failed attempts to get me out of the house, my mum had decided that looking after the family cat was a productive use of my time, freeing up her own responsibilities of Mrs Robinson. Jade waited for my confession.
“In truth I don’t know if it’s about Sabrina,” I said. “She’s with that Frank guy now anyway. I guess when I stopped bringing money in she had no reason to be with me anymore.”
Jade was quick to defend her friend’s honour.
“That wasn’t why she left you Eric,” she said. “It was because you stopped putting the effort in. That’s why you lost Sabrina, probably why you lost your job too.”
She remained quiet, waiting for my rebuttal but I had none.
“Either way I haven’t really spoken to her since you guys broke up,” Jade continued. “I know that you were having issues but cheating on you wasn’t the answer.”
Jade was blowing me away. I thought back to Sabrina coming back from the gym and bitching about how upfront Jade was but I could see now it was just her no bullshit aura that would wind Sabrina up.
“Besides,” Jade said. “I always thought you could do better than Sabrina anyway.” She turned to me and winked. “You just need to get your shit together.”
I only had time to muster up a smile in her direction when she pulled up by the vets.
Jade followed me into the vet centre, presumably because she thought I’d be turned away as some crazy person. By the look the receptionist gave me she was about right.
“I wanted to see if my cat has been handed in?” I blurted out. The middle aged woman looked to Jade as if an interpreter to my frantic outcry.
“A tabby cat right?” Jade looked back to me for confirmation. I nodded. The woman turned her body to the computer but her face remained fixated on me. I could now see her name was Shelly by the golden name badge flittering as she typed.
“When did your cat go missing?” She asked. I looked to my watch.
“About 2 hours ago.”
Shelly stopped typing and stared as if I’d just told her to stand on broken glass.
“I doubt that a missing cat would already be here sir,” she replied.
“Tell her about the dog,” I pointed to Jade. “Your brother’s dog.”
I had to admire Jade for her patience with my evidential uselessness in urgent situations, something she’d now witnessed on more than one occasion.
“My brother’s dog had been brought in once after only being missing for a couple of hours,” she explained. “Is there a way you can just check if a tabby cat has been brought in?”
I turned to see a man stood in a white lab coat, holding onto the lead of a little dog wagging its tail, blissfully unaware of its surroundings. The vet looked a little wary as I approached him.
“Yes,” I replied “Have you seen her?”
“Yes, I saw her on my way back from my lunch break earlier,” he said. I know she doesn’t go out and I realised that she was quite a way out from her house so I brought her back here and called her owner.”
“But I’m her owner,” I protested, my anxiety now working overdrive at how a stranger was now in possession of the family cat.
“What relation?” I looked at him in disbelief and started to think of my kinship to Mrs Robinson. Am I her brother? Father? Or just a depressed friend?
“I just own her,” I said.
“No, what relation to Mrs Halley?” he said. Though he must have realised how puzzling his initial question was, the follow up was still sending me spinning.
“Oh so you’re Eric.” He smiled. “Your mum came and picked up Mrs Robinson about 20 minutes ago.”
The vet realised by my hanging jaw that this was all very new information to me but after no response for a good 20 seconds, he excused himself from the conversation to continue doing his job. I eventually turned to Jade who looked both happy at her successful case solving skills and a little concerned that I wasn’t rejoicing. I pulled out my phone and called my mum who confirmed all of what I’d just been told.
“So why haven’t you called me to let me know?” I asked.
“I’ve only just got back,” she replied. She seemed almost annoyed at my concern.
But for some reason her candid tone only made me think about all that had transpired since leaving my cave. Once the relief faded, I started to laugh at how much energy I had just put in to the last 2 hours compared to the last few months. I could see Jade smiling at me while Shelly was giving her insight into how even house cats need to get out of the comfort of their homes sometimes. Even with my mum asking what I was laughing about down the phone, I still managed to reflect on the receptionist’s sage advice.
“What time do you want me to drop Mrs Robinson back around to you?” My mum asked, apparently oblivious to my inability to contain a 9 year old cat.
“I think she’s done her job,” I said. I could hear disappointment in her voice at being back on cat caring duty but sensed glee at the prospect of gaining a son with enough motivation to take a shower.