By E.D. Wivens, March 2004
Ms Savage's voice echoed around the top floor and down the stairwells. It gathered up the fallen leaves of the pot plants, swirled them along the corridors, and finally blew them out into the street below, where they startled a small child. "Why on Earth would you want another cat?"
Why indeed. Somewhat disturbed by this revelation I abandoned my vigil beside that interesting new hole in the frame room and made my way up to the Boss's office. A quick glance round the door established that this was where the cry had come from. The Boss sat behind his desk with a smug grin on his face while the Human Resources Manager, was gripping her chair so tightly that the arms buckled. She was glaring at him with slightly more intensity than your average lighthouse.
Now Ms Savage and the Boss have, shall we say, differing views over having a cat on the payroll. The boss feels that I do an important job keeping undesirable vermin out of the building. Ms Savage however believes that keeping undesirable vermin out of the building can be tackled by having a better recruitment policy. Her views on the matter have been aired on several previous occasions, often in relation to the IT department. She also objects to me on the principle that, in her mind at least, I am neither human nor a resource. And there was that unfortunate knitting wool incident...
"Well", said the Boss, "it was something you mentioned at the last management meeting that gave me the idea." Ms Savage looked about to say something but the Boss continued before she could do so.
"It was when that IT chap was telling us about redundancy and how important it was, and you said that the only redundancy we needed around here was Edgar."
Ms Savage selected a tone normally reserved for explaining things to two year old children. "That's a different sort of redundancy. It means having two of everything in case one gets broken. I was talking about the type of redundancy where you get rid of things you don't need any more."
The Boss attempted to understand this and failed, but continued anyway. "Well yes, and of course you were quite right." Ms Savage's expression changed to one of total disbelief.
"Your comment made me wonder what would happen if Edgar was no longer with us. We would..."
"Rejoice?", offered Ms Savage. The Boss was just getting into his stride so he pretended not to hear her.
"...find ourselves without anyone to control the mice."
"When did you last see a mouse in this building ? The only mouse I've seen in this building recently is the one that drowned in my water cooler." OK I'll hold my paw up to that one. I must admit it was rather petty, and I wouldn't have done it if I'd known that nervous interviewee would have asked for a drink.
"I would have said that just shows how efficient he is," said the Boss, "and how necessary having a cat about the place really is." Ms Savage snorted. One nil to the Boss.
"But this does not change the fact that Edgar is not getting any younger. I mean he is no longer a kitten, and much as we would not wish to think about negative things, we cannot never not completely dismiss, can we not, the possibility that one day he will no doubt have to, regrettably, be...". The Boss's train of thought stalled as it ran into the wrong kind of simile. He paused to think of a word while Ms Savage attempted to unwind the sentence.
"Put down?", she suggested.
From my point of view this conversation was not going in the right direction, and Ms Savage's next offering didn't help very much either.
"So you want to replace Edgar with another cat."
"I was thinking more of getting another cat to understudy him."
Ms Savage's already wafer thin patience evaporated completely. Undoing several months of anger management classes, she sprang out of the chair, slammed her palms on the Boss's desk and spoke from her, so called, heart. "You mean that you want to employ two cats at the same time? What on Earth for?"
The Boss winced as the blast of icy air struck him full in the face, but he managed to struggle on.
"Well, obviously, the new cat would need to understudy Edgar for a bit to learn what he does. I mean it would take time for it to get to know the ropes and that sort of thing."
Ms Savage clearly had another use for the rope. "Understudy him? Learn what he does? I've had time and motion people trying to find out what he does. You could replace him with a stuffed cat from the toy shop, if you didn't need the smell."
"You had a time and motion study done?", queried the Boss grasping for a branch in the torrent, "What did they find out?" Ms Savage glared at me, "Their conclusion was that at no time was he seen to be in motion."
"Nevertheless", said the Boss quickly, "I have discussed this with the board and we have unanimously decided that another cat shall be recruited. The Finance Manager has already provided the funding and I have asked Mandy to find a suitable one.
Ms Savage concluded that the meeting was now over and I leapt up onto the bookcase to avoid her as she stamped her way out of the room. She paused briefly to glower at Mandy as she passed through the outer office. Mandy just smiled back with the air of confidence that being related to the Managing Director can give a person.
I turned over this new development in my mind as I sat and washed myself. No cat likes another in his territory. It's a predator thing. I mean there's a limit to the amount of food to be found in any given area, and those bacon sandwiches have been getting rarer recently.
To be continued...The author and owner of this work is E.D. Wivens. See http://www.katzphur.co.uk/ for more details.