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. He was last seen on Oct 4th. He may have wandered too far, got lost, maybe adopted or transported by mistake. Please call with any information or possible sightings. Substantial reward offered.
Sunny late autumn is raucous with children. They squeal and shriek in nearby gardens. Open windows broadcast arguments, radio music, the clattering of pans at dinner time. Our good weather lives spill over the edges, their outlines blurring with others. So different to the coming colder months when we cocoon ourselves, wrap our walls around us and descend into chilly silence. I’m lying on my front on the hill behind our street. It’s not even a hill really, more of a grassy slope, one which hasn’t yet been covered in shoulder-to-shoulder houses. Pylon wires vibrate above me. My face against the cool green, my fingers rummaging
in the earth, spears of grass finding their way a little way up one nostril until I sneeze. Snail’s-eye view. So much more interesting than bird’s-eye view. A worm cast nestling against the fleshy stem of a thistle. Slivers of stone hiding from the clouds. A dandelion lifting its gentle spikes of light to the wind. And me. Hiding from myself. But he’s found me. Somehow I know this, though it’s been some days since I saw him last. I feel him panting up the hill now, his great head swinging from side to side with the effort, tongue drooping from the side of his jaws. The top of his yellow mane appears above the gentle rise of the hillock and I watch him from beneath a curtain of hair. I knew he’d find me. I also knew he’d find the walk a problem. I intend to use this against him. ‘Nice walk?’ He doesn’t grace this with a reply, or even look at me as he throws himself at my side. It takes him a while to catch his breath. When he does he bares the tips of his teeth and glares at his feet. ‘Bugger off.’ I turn onto my back and stare at the thick black wires hanging above me. If I fell off the world now all I would need to do is stretch out my arms and catch at them as I passed, and I would be saved. Safe. In the cat’s cradle of pylon wires. ‘What are you doing?’ What does it look like I’m doing? ‘Nothing.’ He snorts into his paws, where he has lowered his muzzle. ‘Actually I was wishing myself off the face of the planet. That OK, is it? You not planning on trying to disembowel me again if I give you the wrong answer, are you?’ He is silent. ‘I mean, if it’ll make it easier I’ll pull up my T-shirt and lie really still. Look. I won’t even scream.’
He does not move. ‘Oh, just try not to get too much blood on my jeans, I’d like to leave them to Jess. She’s always wanted them.’ A tiny shudder ripples through Jericho’s great frame. ‘Be quiet. Just. Be. Quiet.’ Then a deep sigh, as he closes his eyes. He is close. Why so close? Maybe he’s going to lunge at me again. I feel I should get up, walk away. Save my neck. Save myself. But I’m too tired. I’ll just lie here and wait. Watch the clouds. He seems to have exhausted himself. Crazily, I feel like reaching out to him again. And what if he took my hand off? Honestly? I can’t say I care. At least then I would be able to feel something again. I reach out and grasp a handful of mane. He doesn’t pull away. ‘So what are you doing? Why did you climb all the way up here? Just to snort me to death?’ ‘Came to see what you’re doing. Not feeling like running away screaming?’ ‘I never screamed.’ ‘Wanted to.’ ‘I didn’t.’ Jericho doesn’t reply. He settles his head on his paws more comfortably. He does this slowly, and my hand remains clutching his fur. Maybe he wouldn’t mind if I put my arms around him. Maybe he would set his head on my belly, and I would feel the strings of his great throat rumble through my body. I move my fingers deeper in to where it is warmer, close my fist a little tighter. He doesn’t move, breathes deeply, steadily. I would bury my face in his shoulder, feel the swell of muscle against my cheek, if I thought he would stand for it. And now everything in me cries out towards him. Help me. Please. He does not move. And low, so low I cannot hear it, can only
feel the slightest tremor through the very tips of my fingers, he begins to purr. * And I am the doziest old puss around. Lying in the grass with her. With Marnie. Lying here in the sunshine. Warm above me. Cold below me. She smells young and soft and tender. Her hand in my fur. Holding me here. Holding me. It’s warm. It’s.