Monday, 25 October 2010

Rear Window - Michelle Lovric


After a mere fifteen years restoration, the lights have finally gone on in the palazzo opposite ours across the canal. Two of the new inhabitants are cat-owners. I don’t get out much. So who’s going to blame me for investing in a pair of binoculars?

First there was Neil, a handsome black-and-white gentleman, on the first floor window sill. And then, just a few days later, the lovely Samantha appeared on the floor below. The two cats also saw each other. It’s a proper colpo di fulmine, blinding love at searing first sight. Neil gazes down at Samantha. Samantha gazes up at Neil. It’s a wrap.

But it’s also an impossible love – for an entire tall floor of a Venetian palazzo separates Samantha from Neil.

Now Samantha and Neil pass some hours each day in the kind of yearning contemplation that calls to mind John Donne’s poem The Ecstasy. Sometimes Neil cannot take it any more – he makes for the dangerous edge of his parapet. But at the last moment common or cat sense always brings him back to safety. Sometimes Samantha is gripped by the fever of love, and stands on her back legs in her window-sill, scrabbling at the cruel walls.

These are quintessentially Venetian cats and therefore know the value of presentation. Neil’s tapir markings are set off beautifully by his two green cushions, one in each window on the canal. Samantha is probably just a particularly alluring tabby, but the nobility of her palazzo setting lends her the air of an Abyssinian. With apologies to R. Chandler, she’s a cat who would make an ailurophile pope (as we have now) kick a hole in a stained glass window. What amazing kittens they would make together …

But alas, there is another reason why this love is never to be. A few weeks after this love affair ignited. I discovered that Neil is … married! I should have guessed that there’d be a wife somewhere – handsome, prosperous chap like him.

I nearly dropped my binoculars when matriarchal Bessie – big and grey and pear-shaped – appeared on Neil’s window sill. She delivered a sharp cuff about the ear when she caught her man in the act of mooning after Samantha. There followed a Mexican standoff between Samantha and Bessie. Samantha eventually slunk back into her house. And now she and Neil snatch their lyrical moments when they can – but Bessie always appears quite promptly to administer wifely discipline to her husband and give Samantha the death stare.

Samantha is plotting something. She’ll have Neil, if it’s the last thing she does. Bessie’s grown complacent. She thinks Neil’s well cowed. But she’s not seen the glint in his green love-rat eyes lately. If I were Bessie, I wouldn’t be straying too close to the edge of that parapet any time soon.

My deeply embarrassed husband at this point insists that I inform you that ‘Neil’ and ‘Samantha’ and ‘Bessie’ are not their real names. They’re probably something guttingly prosaic. Neil might even be a ‘Maria’; Samantha could well be a ‘Gianni.’ But I swear that Bessie could never be anything else but Bessie. Unless she was a ‘Bertha’.

You’d never guess that I earn my living as a writer, would you?





LINKS
Michelle Lovric’s latest novel, The Mourning Emporium, the sequel to The Undrowned Child, is published on October 28th. Any similarities between the feline characters in this blog and those in the books are purely coincidental.

Michelle Lovric’s website - now featuring new pages and background on The Mourning EmporiumPicture of ‘Stewart’ from the award-winning Book Orchard Press

9 comments:

catdownunder said...

"Neil" wishes to inform you that his actual name is Benvenuto. :-)

michelle lovric said...

Actually I just commissioned some new glasses, to top up my contact lenses, so I could try to read their collar tags. I told Mantovani, the opticians, that I wanted to be able see the whiskers of those cats across the canal. Mr Mantovani informs me that with these new glasses, I will be able to see the fleas on the whiskers of Neil, Samantha and Bessie. So the name tags should be easy. Mantovani, by the way, is where Donna Leon goes for HER glasses.

Linda Strachan said...

Delightful Venetian love story, Michelle.

Leslie Wilson said...

Wonderful! I laughed heartily, especially at the wonderful cat with binoculars piccie - do you have Photoshop, by any chance?
A brilliant read on a Monday morning, mille gratulationi - sorry, my Italian is rather of the Lucia variety, as in EF Benson's Lucia..

Sarah Molloy said...

Oh, what a pleasure on a Monday morning! Bessie is the epitome of the Italian matriarch. Once she was Samantha, but time, children, housework and pasta have wreaked havoc with her bella figura...

Book Maven said...

What's the equivalent of Black Lace for cats?

f "Neil" is a housecat, he will be no good to Bessie or Samantha. All whiskers and no furry trousers.

michelle lovric said...

Mary, I did carefully leave my musings at the shutter door, so this is more Peyton Palazzo than Black Lace. No Boogie Nights for Samantha, Neil and Bessie. After all, this is a blog by writers for children. (No double entendres in 'Benvenuto', I hope, Cat?)

Italians hate neutering their male cats. I doubt if my new glasses will reveal whether Neil is up for playing the Romantic Lead. (I will not call him a Casanova, as that poor man has been sadly misjudged on his attitude to the ladies.)

Leslie, I have photoshop on my computer only as a quaint artefact. I have no idea how to use it. Someone else cleverly made that image - at Book Orchard Press.

Katherine Langrish said...

What a splendid post! The tale of two housecats, divided by water...

catdownunder said...

:-)!