Ming is a very friendly white male about eight years old. He needs to be an indoor cat as he is bewildered by the outside world. Sadly his owner has died.
There was a vicious contest to acquire Ming, which we won. Starlight and Ming didn’t get on, however, and the issues involved soon divided us. I attacked Caroline for not taking a magnifying glass to the photo of Ming in the Flyer, in other words for not having been sufficiently thorough before deciding to take him in. In his picture Ming was indeed somewhere outside, sitting on what might have been a letter box. He was next to some kind of cage arrangement. He was tied up maybe. Once we had him home he freaked out. He had Starlight performing twists in mid air and facing snarls and open claws. Romps raged faster than the eye could follow. Dust rose like smoke from the carpets. Poor Starlight. His years of contented purring were over.
Furthermore he disappeared.
Within a month Ming grew to be a big cat. His stumpy legs no longer looked odd once he grew his new graceful proportions. He was highly dangerous too of course, and bearing in mind Caroline’s weakness for him and in the light of the events in King Kong we locked him in the room we originally planned for a study. We kept him there until we found him a new home. It was the nearest we had to a remote island.
Big cat crowd-puller in shining health, twelve last birthday and could live to be twenty. Ming would be an enriching addition to any zoo. To our great regret we are having to sell this major asset to raise funds to keep our much-loved theme park afloat.
Oakhill almost got Ming but not quite. Our zoo’s sealed bid beat them. We don’t tether him but we sedated him and put a locating chip in his shoulder so we can follow him on-screen from the safety of a control unit. Visitors cannot get over his immaculate silken coat. Thanks to our marketing campaign he is becoming a kind of media hero, which is basically why we keep him. He will not have a litter because there is no other cat of his kind. The other cats loathe him.
Stands four feet high, pure white coat, moody, may or may not look ferocious. This animal has escaped and is dangerous. Ming will be consternated by the outside world. On no account approach him or panic. Call 911 immediately, alert your neighbours and stay indoors.
There he is, after all this time. I thought he’d be dead by now. Gone like snow on the water. Surely he hoped to find Caroline. He must have confused her with me, got his smells mixed up, because it’s me he’s found, me who took him long ago. Standing in the garden, as if all he’d eat would be a dandelion. His slow breaths showing in the frosty air. Better I take him inside, before he attacks a member of the public or causes a motorway pile-up. Ming, remember me? Remember Starlight?
John Saul has had three collections of short fiction published by Salt Publishing (Cambridge, UK). The first, Call It Tender, was well received in The Times. He lives in Suffolk in England.
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