By the time Bran Caughan was forty five years old he had been married for fifteen years, ten of which in this childless, empty relationship had been the most miserable, lonely existence he could ever have imagined. Not that they hadn’t tried for children in the early days …. the first five years, for instance. No, however hard they tried to go forth and multiply …. as instructed by Moses …. the Caughans came fifth and lost their beer money.
It wasn’t him, he knew that once he jumped the phsycological hurdle set up by his father. “You’re no good, you can’t do it” he used to say. In fact, he set up a bloody athletics track of such hurdles that Bran continually had to jump in his life …. until the change that is …. when Bran discovered he wasn’t a factory second after all. After the first five years Bran grew tired of uni-sex in the bathroom and sowed his oats elsewhere. Bran was a man who was deeply concerned with animal rights, and couldn’ t bare the thought of all those little tadpoles going down the plug hole. Then there was the question of the twenty five milligrams of zinc that was drained from his reserves every time he had
Anyway, once he pulled himself together and pulled the women he was able
to give those ever so vulnerable tadpoles a sporting chance in the warm
juicy chambers of delight. He didn’t mind the extra cost of the vitamin
and mineral supplements to replace the lost zinc. The pay off was almost
instantaneous. Within nine months of starting an affair with Kirsty
Morris he was the proud undercover …. in more ways than one ….
father of Cheryl. Not that his wife Sarah ever found out.
A year later Kirsty gave birth to Saff …. the result of a condom with
the tiniest of pinprick holes. Still, it only needed one S.A.S. tadpole
to get through and tough little buggers they certainly were.
Circum-navigating the globe in a bath tub offered fewer obstacles.
Coils, sponges, and birth pills were a piece of piss to those determined
little critters. In the end there were several other offspring from
numerous illicit affairs. He began to think that he only had to throw
his trousers on the bed to get someone up the spout. One thing was sure
though, never again would he buy factory second condoms from JJ in the
Yes, even all those years ago JJ was there. He seemed to dog him
wherever he moved. Within weeks of moving house to a new location ….
sometimes hundreds of miles ,,,, JJ would be there with a market stall.
It’s not just that he sold him an eight track cartridge tape player or
even a Betamax video player. No, the final straw was the “How to nail
jelly to a tree kit”, complete with instruction manual. He’d been trying
to nail jelly to trees all his life …. just to please his father ….
and this seemed to be the answer. It wasn’t, of course, it was just an
other JJ scam. In fact, if he thought about it, he’d only bought one
thing from the old fart that he could describe as worthwhile. The cheap
pseudo copper alarm clock, but even that only ticked and tocked when it
felt like it. Still it had been useful in his life.
His wife moving in to his tiny flat, after the enforced separation
caused by the donkey dead housing market, made the affairs more
hazardous. That was six months ago. Rachel his lover, and all his plans
for the future, had to go. Sarah, his wife had drained all his positive
energy in that time and he was unable to do anything but exist as a mere
shell of his former self. No more reaching into those special places
that positive thought could lead …. no, not even those warm juicy
Sarah, three years younger than him, was an attractive woman. Petite and
dark haired she was …. well, she was nice. She was ever so nice ….
nobody had a bad word to say against her, absolutely nobody. That was
the trouble, she was too nice. She was too nice to be nasty and that was
not stimulating enough for him. Not that he wanted to be nasty, he just
needed confirmation that he was alive, an argument here, a heated
discussion there. He wanted to be able to fart in bed without feeling
guilty. In all those years of marriage he’d never known a squeak of a
fart from his wife. Until he slept with other women he thought that only
men farted. He needed some passion and excitement in his life and so he
went out and found some.
It wasn’t the loving kind, well, not that time anyway. It was the
passion of believing in something. He got involved in his first protest
campaign. The water company were poisoning everyone by adding aluminium
to the water. It helped to clear the brown discolouration picked up as
the clean, sparkling moorland water filtered through the peat deposits
on it’s way to the treatment plants. Aluminium sulphate was a cost
effective way of dealing with that problem. The trouble was it turned
people into senile, dri bbling, cabbages, a travesty of the people they
once were. The authorities denied that it was the cause of Altzheimers
Disease, but then they would wouldn’t they.
Bran then found himself embroiled in passionate embraces with Kirsty,
one of his co-campaigners. He was a sort of local hero amongst the
green, trendy, veggie set. The women looked up to him and were attracted
to the charisma that he didn’t know he had. Until then that is. He found
himself representing the protest group, that he helped to found,on
television and radio and in the press. He was good at the publicity and
he enjoyed his new fame and the empowerment that it gave him. It was at
this time that he first sowed his wild oats.
Eventually the campaign went flat and the fizz went out of the Pure
Water Not Poison group. In order to put the fizz back in his life he
embarked on a string of affairs, but although they helped his own image
of self worth there was something missing, it w asn’t enough. He
couldn’t put his finger on it, well, that’s not quite true, he knew
exactly where it was and his finger could hit the bulls eye every time,
no, he felt that something special was lacking. It wasn’t love, he
thought he had experienced that …. or was it lust, he wasn’t sure.
There was something else. He needed to find his soul mate.
As he relaxed on a wet and windy Sunday morning, with a cup of coffee
and the Sunday Times and his wife Sarah reading another Mills and Boon,
Bran put a tape into the music centre. He went into dream-time as the
gentle harp and flute music lapped against the shores of his
sub-conscious and transported him to another place in other times. He
knew he had been a prince. The vision was clear.
It was a warm summers night and the musicians were serenading himself
and his love as they embraced and melted together in the rare blending
of souls that are destined to be one. She wore a long ivory coloured
gown, her red hair tumbled over her shoulders and down the pale white
skin of her exposed back. With his hands on her buttocks he pressed her
tightly against him. It seemed as if their bodies were welded together
as one, their tongues entwined in endless, breathless kisses.They both
had the feeling at the same time, the warm knowing feeling when the
heart seems to melt with another into a common pool of warmth and
everlasting love. A love that knows no bounds, no jealousies, because
when you are with your soul mate you know that there is no one else for
either of you.
The trust is complete in a love that cannot be equalled or surpassed.
Pledging to love each other for ever, they walked off into the sunset
and had two point four children, three microwave ovens, twelve toasters,
eight vacuum cleaners, seven television sets and numerous hair dryers,
because, unlike love, domestic appliances seldom last much longer than
an expired guarantee.
“Bran, would you turn that awful music off please sweetie,”
Bran was snapped out of his dream, out of his past, by the dulcet tones
of Sarah, his wife. God, he thought, that was crap …. must be picking
up the Mills and Boon storyline from his wife’s thoughts. Why can’t she
read something else, something about raping and pillaging for instance?
No, not possible, she was far too nice for that he decided.
She had skimmed through the book and was now bored. She switched on the
television and was instantly embroiled in an old black and white movie
that was at least half way through.
“Must you dear,” replied Bran impassively. “I was rather enjoying that.”
“You know I can’t stand that ethical music, don’t you sweetie.”
“I think you mean ethnical, don’t you dear,” murmured Bran.
“What did you say my love,”
“Oh nothing. I think I’ll go down to the pub for an hour. See a man
about a dog, so to speak,” replied Bran.
“What was that about a dog sweetie?” asked Sarah, absentmindedly.
Bran was already out of the door and flying halfway down the stairs of
their small first floor flat. He knew that Sarah had said something, but
he also knew that whatever it was it was of no consequence, and anyway
he couldn’t be bothered to find out.
He was flying because he had tripped over the latest expired vacuum
cleaner that he had earlier strategically placed at the top of the
stairs in order to put it out for the bin men. He picked himself up and
continued indifferently on his way.
He drove the two miles to the Cottage Inn. There were other pubs much
closer but the Cottage was a friendly place and he could usually find
someone to have a stimulating conversation with there. His lady friends
had found new relationships and Bran was feeling very, very lonely once
His regular drinking partners weren’t there today and the pub was
almost empty. Bran sat down in the corner with his pint, sunk deep in
his thoughts. He thought of having a go on the quiz machine, its
seductive display of lights, flashing and tempting with false promises
of “Top prize Ten Pounds”. As far as pub machines go this was just about
the meanest critter there was. In fact he would could even say it was
meaner than JJ. He’d had a few goes, when he was bored, but the machine
hadn’t come anyway near to fulfilling it’s promise. It was all take and
no give. A bit like some of the women he’d known recently.
He didn’t notice the black cat that came to lie down beside him on the
long leather bench seat until it farted and the unique protein packed
odour drifted past his nostrils. A tiny rasp like tongue gently licked
his hand as it hung down by his side.
“Hello cat,” he said warmly, quickly forgiving it.
The cat purred enthusiastically in reply.
Bran gently stroked the cat for several minutes. He loved cats. They
knew where they were at, unlike most people he knew. The cat turned it’s
head and gazed into his eyes. It’s large hazel eyes seemed to be
penetrating his very soul. He felt a warm, melting feeling of love for
this small creature. Cats were special, he knew that, but this one ….
was different. Cats normally find eye contact threatening, and will
usually turn away to avoid confrontation, but this one seemed to have
something to say.
It was probably going to say “Hey watch out, I’ve farted again”. If it
had a decent bone in it’s body it would have done, but cats were selfish
little sods, after all. And so it didn’t.
After a few minutes of mutual admiration, Bran couldn’t stand the
clinging, persistent farty gas cloud any longer and walked over to the
quiz machine and inserted a coin in the slot. The cat was watching him
intently. The machine simulated a card game whereby correctly answering
questions on various topics, cards could be won to make up a full house.
That would win ten pounds and in addition to that four jokers offered a
bonus of another ten pounds.
Bran first won by accumulating the four jokers. He then went on to win
again and ended with a total of eighteen pounds. That was unheard of for
this machine. He didn’t know all the answers but intuition or something
else guided his fingers to press the buttons for the correct answers.
He went back to the seat and pondered on his good luck. The cat stood up
and with back arched, claws un-sheathed, and tail fluffed she stretched
herself and seemingly gazed deep into his soul with her …. well, ever
so familiar hazel eyes.
Those eyes, where had he seen them before? The dream, his true love, his
soul mate, the warm summers evening. Maybe it wasn’t a Mills and Boon
after all. Was it possible that the cat had reincarnated from his soul
mate long ago. There was certainly a very special feeling between him
and the cat. There was something different, that was for sure.
Hazel was a special friend, an attractive young woman ten years younger
than him. They went to clog dancing lessons together every Thursday
night. They were just getting good at it when the local caged bird
fanciers put in a few influential words and the dancers were banned from
dancing with their clogs on. Down at heel and disillusioned, the
Saltcock formation clog dancing team soon found it wasn’t quite the same
in bare feet, and so they disbanded.
The problem was that the caged bird fanciers held their meetings in the
room underneath the clog dancers. The birds were taking fright and
flapping around their cages. Prize canaries were soon reduced to
nervous, twittering, featherless shadows of their former selves. The
fanciers protested that they had been meeting in that room for the last
ninety seven years and there was no way they were going to change their
venue. Anyway, because they didn’t understand it, and the local vicar
said that if it wasn’t ballroom dancing it must be the work of the
devil, they were banned. After the ensuing publicity they were unable to
find anywhere within the circulation area of the local rag to practice.
Their ambitions to become the best clog dancers in the region were well
and truly clogged up …. so to speak.
Hazel was probably his soul mate. Trouble was, she hadn’t yet recognised
that they might be soul mates on account of the fact that her vision was
of a mountain man with a heart of honey. Anyway, of course he had a
heart of honey, most of the time. Mountain man? Well, he was always
climbing mountains wasn’t he? Nailing jelly to trees was a fruitless
pastime however, but he persisted and Hazel was the very epitome of
jelly nailing. If the truth was known the term was coined by one of
Hazel’s lovers in the late seventies and had gained worldwide use since
Bran glanced at the cat, which was still gazing at him intently. Just
suppose, he thought, the cat was his soul mate. That’d be a bit of a
bugger, much better if it was Hazel. After all, he’d have to be a cat to
gain all the advantages …. be a bit difficult otherwise.
The thought of soul mates and farting cats depressed him so he went
home. He came back a couple of nights later and again sat down next to
the cat on the long leather bench seat. This time she was on her best
behaviour and helped him to win on the machine.
It did, in fact, become a ritual. As long as he gave the cat some love
he always won on the machine. He did notice, however, that if the cat
wasn’t there, or he was unable to sit next to her on the long bench
seat, the machine just greedily consumed his coins. Just like before, it
was a mean critter once again.
It didn’t take Bran long to realise that it was futile to play the
machine without the help of the black cat. He didn’t puzzle too long
over the inexplicable, and accepted that there were many things in
heaven and earth that just could not be explained by intellectual
reasoning. It did occur to him that perhaps the cat wanted him to keep
coming back to give her some love and attention.
Bran and the cat built up a firm, friendly relationship over the next
three months. She waited for him to arrive and would sit on the wall
adjoining the pub. His car was generally recognised when it was some
distance away. Bran would park his car in the car park on the opposite
side of the road to the pub, and cross the little bridge over the fast
flowing river. By the time he negotiated the busy main road to the pub
on the other side the cat would jump off the wall and would be waiting
for him by the door.
“After you, Tizzy,” Bran would say, as he opened the door. The cat would
greet him with the special affectionate trill that all cats give to
their kittens, and then walk in ahead with quivering, erect tail.
One day, Bran drove to the pub, parked his car, and crossed over the
bridge and there was no cat waiting for him as usual. Slightly miffed.
he ordered his pint with a deep sense of foreboding. Actually if the
truth were known he ordered his pint with a lemonade top, but the
foreboding was there all right. Just one look at Lorraine’s face told
him something was wrong.
“What’s the matter Lorraine, you look like the cat that’s lost it’s
kittens,” he said glumly.
It was at that point that Lorraine broke down in floods of
uncontrollable sobbing. Thinking that it was something he had said Bran
tried to console her, without success. After some minutes had passed by
Lorraine finally blurted out,
“It’s Tizzy, she’s dead.”
“Tizzy dead. No, she can’t be,” said Bran fearfully.
“Yes she is. She was run over by a lorry this morning.”
“What was she doing on the road? She never goes near the road,”
“Well, you know we have a little garden over there, and we’ve got a few
ducks and geese?” said Lorraine.
“Yes, well, I’d heard the geese. Most times I hear them creating a racket.”
“We also have a pond for them and Tizzy followed me over when I went
across to feed them. Anyway, she started to chase the ducklings all over
the place. It was chaos. She even jumped from one lilypad to another.
Oh, it was bedlam Bran,” said Lorraine tearfully.
“It’s all my fault,” she wailed. “I told her off, and she ran into the
road …. it was awful …. poor little soul, she was squashed, killed
instantly …. just like strawberry jam.”
Bran brushed away a tear and sat down, devastated. His little friend was
gone, never to be seen again. He sat down and mourned the loss, tears
streaming down his face. His pint of ale suddenly tasted like a mixture
of bilge water and the run off from a farmward slurry pond, so he soon
He didn’t play the machine anymore …. anyway it was replaced by
another one within a weeks simply because Chris, the landlord, was never
able to win on it. The new machine was more up his street …. it had a
joystick on it. Bran decided that he had a better joystick of his own
and anyway, with the cat gone, it just wasn’t the same.
A couple of months later, Bran made one of his rare visits to the
Cottage Inn. There didn’t seem much point now. He was crossing the road
when he stopped dead in his tracks. There outside the door was …. it
was Tizzy. No it couldn’t be, he thought. Hang on, it must be, those
same eyes, the quivering erect tail.
He was oblivious to the lorry that came thundering around the corner.
The driver quickly stood on his brakes, but was unable to stop in time
to prevent the sickening thud as hard metal met flesh and bone. When the
smoke from the screeching tyres had cleared there was no sign of Bran.
At the inquest the lorry driver reported that he had seen a body fly
through the air at the time of impact. It flew over the hedge in the
general direction of the river. They never did find a body, it was
presumed that he had been carried down the river unconscious or dead and
eventually lost at sea. The verdict was a little strange to say the
least but they had no choice. Accidental death by collision with a motor
vehicle or lost at sea. That was one to puzzle over in years to come,
but then Bran always was a puzzle anyway.
That wasn’t the end of the story, however. His wife received a strange
postcard some months later. It wasn’t signed and there was no message.
It was just a picture of two black cats sitting side by side. It was
probably just coincidence, after all she always did receive cards,
birthday or otherwise, with cats on them. Anyway, within three months
she married again.
As for the Cottage Inn, well, that was another story. After the accident
they moved the car park to the other side of the road and turned the old
car park into a garden of remembrance. Several customers reported seeing
two cats sitting side by side on the wall but it wasn’t really taken
seriously especially as one of them, Darth, er …. was a regular piss
head. The ghostly sightings persisted however. Perhaps Bran really had
found his soul mate …. at last?