Victoria, Cat and the bag of holes, page 1
THE BAG OF HOLES
Copyright 2010 David Elvar
Cat was waiting. And if there is one thing Cat does not enjoy doing, it’s waiting.
He paced up and down, then to and fro, and was just thinking about doing something different like pacing round in circles when he saw her coming. She was taking her time (as usual). Wandering along, admiring the trees, admiring the flowers (as usual). Looking as though she hadn’t a care in the world (as usual).
‘You’re late,’ he called out crossly (very much as usual).
‘I’m sorry,’ said Victoria. ‘I got sort of held up on the way. Anything interesting happening today?’
‘You should know by now that nothing interesting ever happens around here,’ said Cat. ‘There’s someone new, though. Arrived this morning.’
‘Oh? Anyone interesting?’
‘You should know by now that no one interesting ever—’
‘Yes, thank you,’ said Victoria firmly. ‘I think I get the picture. But tell me about him anyway.’
‘You won’t like him,’ said Cat. ‘I didn’t.’
‘Why? What was wrong with him?’
‘If you must know, he was pushing some sort of barrow.’
‘And that’s a bad thing?’
‘A bad thing!’ said Cat. ‘A bad thing! Of course it’s a bad thing! You don’t know what he might be selling from it. Could be flea-powder. Or collars with bells on. Or even flea collars with bells on. Never trust anyone pushing some sort of barrow—that’s what I always say.’
‘Well, you can say it to his face,’ said Victoria. ‘I think this must be him now.’
There was a man walking towards them, pushing (as Cat had so helpfully mentioned) some-sort-of-barrow. There was an open umbrella perched on top to keep the rain off, and the wheels squeaked in the way that mice don’t. There was a round hat with a wide rim perched on his head (also to keep the rain off), and his moustache stuck out either side of his face like the handlebars on a bicycle, but without the bell. As she watched him, Victoria had the distinct feeling that she was going to like this someone new, even if Cat didn’t. But then Cat doesn’t like anyone so that didn’t count.
‘Good morning,’ said the man. ‘Mister Phatt, at your service.’
‘Good morning to you,’ said Victoria, but Cat didn’t. Cat just hid behind her and peered out at him suspiciously.
‘I haven’t got fleas,’ he said darkly. ‘I’ve never had fleas.’
‘Is that so?’ said Mr. Phatt, a little puzzled. ‘Well, since it seems to be important to know these things, neither have I.’
‘Ignore him,’ said Victoria. ‘I like your barrow. Do you really sell things from it?’
‘Indeed I do!’ said Mr. Phatt proudly. ‘A different thing every day. Can I interest you in something?’
‘That depends. What are you selling today?’
‘Holes! Fresh, finest quality holes.’
‘Holes!’ said Cat, emerging from his hiding place to glare up at him even more suspiciously. ‘You’re selling holes!’
‘Is there some reason I shouldn’t?’ said Mr. Phatt, even more puzzled.
‘Of course there is! A hole is something that isn’t there! You can’t go around selling what isn’t there!’
‘Something that isn’t there...’ Mr. Phatt repeated slowly. ‘So are you saying the hole in a doughnut isn’t there?’
‘Don’t be silly, of course it is! It wouldn’t be a doughnut if it didn’t have a hole.’
‘And when you eat the doughnut, do you eat the hole as well?’
‘Don’t be silly, of course you don’t!’
‘So if you don’t eat it, it must still be there when the doughnut’s gone.’
Cat thought about this for a moment, but only for a moment, as Cat always does when thinking about things.
‘Rubbish!’ he said. ‘You’ll be telling me next that the hole was there in the first place just waiting for the doughnut to be made round it.’
‘Ah! Exactly!’ said Mr. Phatt. ‘And where do you think those holes come from?’
Cat shook his head wearily and looked up at Victoria. ‘You talk to him,’ he said. ‘I give up.’
‘Have you sold many holes today?’ she asked.
‘Not a single one,’ said Mr. Phatt sadly. ‘There doesn’t seem to be much demand for holes today.’
‘Why don’t you try advertising?’ said Cat. ‘That’s always good at making something out of nothing. A bit like selling holes, really…’
‘Ignore him,’ said Victoria. ‘I’ll buy some.’
‘Sold to the lady!’ said Mr. Phatt, and he handed her a small paper bag. Cat looked on, astonished.
‘You’re buying holes!’ he said. ‘Holes!’
‘Why not?’ said Victoria. ‘I thought I might have doughnuts for tea.’
‘Doughnuts!’ said Cat, suddenly looking very interested and forgetting all about things that aren’t there. ‘Um…need anyone to test them, make sure they’re...you know...cooked properly and all that?’
‘All right, you can come,’ said Victoria, ‘but only if you eat the holes as well since I’ve gone to the trouble of buying them.’
‘Eat the—!’ Cat spluttered. ‘I keep telling you, a hole is something that isn’t there! You can’t eat what isn’t there! Look, I’ll show you.’
He swung his tail round and knocked the paper bag out of her hand. It fell to the ground and burst open.
‘There!’ he said. ‘See?’
Victoria looked. And she did indeed see. ‘Yes,’ she said. ‘Do you?’
Cat looked, and he couldn’t believe his whiskers. On the ground, little round pieces of nothingness were rolling everywhere, this way and that, intent on escape.
‘Well?’ she demanded.
‘Never mind him!’ cried Mr. Phatt. ‘Don’t let them stop rolling!’
‘Why? Is that dangerous?’
‘I’ll say it is! If they stop rolling and fall over, they make a hole in whatever they land on.’
‘I told you!’ said Cat. ‘Didn’t I tell you? Never trust anyone pushing some sort of barrow—that’s what I said! But did anyone listen? And now look what’s happened!’
‘Oh, stop complaining!’ said Victoria. ‘You caused all this, you can jolly well help me pick them up.’
‘No!’ cried Mr. Phatt. ‘You can’t just pick them up, it’s not safe. Here, use this fishing net.’
‘But won’t they make a hole in it?’
‘No, it’s got holes in it already. They can’t make a hole in anything that’s got holes in it already.’
She took the net and started running after the holes but they were too quick. They were rolling everywhere, across the grass and up the trees, anywhere they could get. One even rolled to a stop right in front of Cat and fell over, making a large round emptiness in the ground.
‘Oh, well done,’ said Cat, poking his head down into it to see how deep it went. ‘Yes, very well done. Just right for some poor moggy to go falling into after a night out on the catnip.’
‘Do stop moaning and help me,’ said Victoria. ‘There’s a spare net.’
‘And just how do you propose I hold it?’ said Cat, holding up his front paws.
‘You know,’ she said, taking a swing at another passing hole, ‘you’ll use that excuse just once too often.’
Even as they were arguing, a particularly large hole went rolling by, almost daring them to chase it. Cat’s eyes seemed to light up.
‘That’s a big one!’ he said. ‘I’d like to meet the doughnut t
‘Too late!’ said Mr. Phatt as he snapped it up in his net. ‘That one is going back where it belongs.’
‘Some people,’ Cat muttered, ‘would like to see me starve…’
‘I’ve caught some, too,’ said Victoria, holding up her net.
‘Well done,’ said Mr. Phlatt. ‘Just put them back in the bag. They’ll be safe there.’
‘But won’t they make a hole in it?’
‘No, it’s got one already. In the top, to get the holes in.’
They shook their nets over the paper bag, careful not to spill any.
‘Is that all of them?’ said Victoria.
Mr. Phatt stopped shaking his net to check. ‘Well,’ he said, ‘if you count the one in the ground that your friend was complaining about, there should still be one left. I wonder where it can be.’
‘I can’t see it,’ said Victoria, looking down and around.
‘Nor can I,’ said Mr. Phatt, also looking down and around.
‘Er…can I ask something?’ said Cat, who had been unusually quiet during those past few minutes.
‘If you must,’ said Victoria, who knew how irritating Cat could be at times like this.
‘Fire away,’ said Mr. Phatt, who didn’t know how irritating Cat could be at times like this but who was about to find out.
‘Um…what would happen if a hole landed on someone?’ said Cat.
‘Then you’d have a hole in that someone,’ said Mr. Phatt, still searching.
‘And if it landed on someone really important?’
‘Then you’d have a hole in that someone really important. Why do you ask?’
Cat didn’t answer. Mr. Phatt stopped searching for the last hole to look at him. They both stopped searching for the last hole to look at him.
‘Oh dear,’ said Victoria.
‘Oh dear, dear,’ said Mr. Phatt.
There was a big round emptiness in Cat’s middle, from one side of him to the other, right where a plump, furry tummy was usually waiting to be fed.
‘Ah, so that’s where the last hole went,’ said Mr. Phatt.
‘Yes,’ said Cat even more crossly than usual, ‘that’s where the last hole went.’
‘Suits you,’ said Victoria. ‘In fact, I’m beginning to quite like it.’
‘Well, I’m not!’ said Cat. ‘I feel like a piece of modern art.’
‘Perhaps we should put you in an exhibition, then.’
‘I doubt anyone would pay to see him,’ said Mr. Phatt.
‘They might pay not to see him, though.’
‘When you’ve both quite finished,’ said Cat, ‘perhaps someone might consider putting this little mess to rights again? Hmm?’
No one moved.
‘Er…you can put little mess to rights again, I take it,’ he added hopefully.
‘I’m afraid it’s not quite as simple as that,’ said Mr.Phatt.
‘You know,’ Cat sighed, ‘I had this strange feeling it somehow wouldn’t be.’
‘You see,’ Mr. Phatt went on, ‘you can put a hole in something but you can’t just take it away again. You have to fill it up with something else.’
‘With what, may one ask?’ said Cat.
‘In your case, how about more cat?’ said Victoria.
‘In his case, exactly!’ said Mr. Phatt.
‘And where do you suggest I get more cat?’ said Cat.
‘Grow it,’ said Mr. Phatt.
‘Grow it!’ said Cat. ‘Do you know how long it takes to grow top-grade moggy?’
‘About the same time it takes to grow bottom-grade moggy, I imagine,’ said Mr. Phatt. ‘Sorry but that’s the way it is.’ He picked up his barrow and started pushing it. ‘Goodbye.’
‘Goodbye,’ Victoria called after him.
‘Come back!’ Cat shouted. ‘Vandal! Hooligan! You can’t leave me like this! I’m too important to be left like this!’
But Mr. Phatt just waved and went on pushing his barrow. Soon, he was nowhere to be seen. Soon, they were perfectly alone again.
‘I think he’s gone,’ said Victoria.
‘Thank you,’ said Cat, ‘I can see that for myself.’
Victoria turned to look down at him. ‘I’m sorry about your tummy,’ she said. ‘If it’s any consolation, it’s not that noticeable and I’m sure you’ll grow it out soon.’
‘That’s all very well for you to say,’ Cat grumbled, ‘you’re not the one feeling all empty inside.’
‘Speaking of feeling empty inside,’ said Victoria, ‘I think it must be getting near teatime. Are you still coming?’
‘Er…are you still planning to make doughnuts?’
‘Well, I did buy the holes for them, and it would be a pity to waste them. Why?’
‘Thank you,’ said Cat, ‘but I seem to have gone quite off the idea.’
‘Yes,’ said Victoria, ‘I wonder why…’
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