It’s a cold, rainy winter day. I’ve been indoors all day, except the five minutes it took to get to the bus. This cold snap is a shock to my system, and I find myself wishing for a scarf. As I walk up the driveway there’s a definite meow to be heard. It’s probably just the neighbour’s cat. Nothing to worry about yet. I turn the key in the lock behind me – last one home tonight – and turn to hang up my jacket.
Where did that beach towel – garish, purple and pink – come from? A faint sense of dread trickles down my spine and I pace slowly to the lounge, making sure to pick up a heavy book.
Andrew: Hello! Good to see you again, please sit down. You remember Penelope?
Me: Certainly. I could hardly forget after your memorable first visit. May I offer you something to drink?
Penelope shakes her head.
Penelope: Oh, we don’t want to inconvenience you, dear.
Me: So, what brings you here?
They glare at each other. Andrew coughs none-too-delicately.
Andrew: Well, you see, we had a series of rows. The washing-up, the gardens – I think lilies would be nicer than roses, but someone disagrees –
Penelope: – the proper way to arrange books on a shelf, and possibly the worst of the lot: soup.
Penelope: Oh, yes, of course. You see I’ve been following this recipe for five years, after I decided to stop buying pre-made soup, and Andrew here disagrees with my recipe. So we finally thought to get an impartial opinion – a third party to whom we have very little connection.
She eyes me pointedly; Andrew coughs.
Andrew: Here. Please, try this. Then tell us what you think. Just your honest opinion will do.
He presents me with a bowl of soup, steaming hot. The bowl is from my kitchen cupboard and on a little plate is bread, with a tiny bowl of croutons. I inhale tentatively.
Me: Well, it smells good. Very bacon-y. I see lentils and pieces of bacon. It’s looking good so far.
As if from nowhere a little gray tabby cat appears. It pricks its ears up, watching me intently.
Me: Hey, before I forget, did you bring a beach towel?
Andrew: Why yes. We thought it might brighten the hallway a bit. He appears crestfallen. Do you not like it?
Me: No, I like it. It’s very cheerful. I just… Didn’t remember seeing it before.
Penelope: Good! So, what do you think?
Me: I think I’m allergic to cats, and this soup is quite good. My mum made a similar recipe. Keep doing what you’re doing.
She smiles smugly at him and they stand to leave. The cat darts out the window and I rise to walk them to the door. They pause and snatch the bath towel, then close the door.
Penelope: I notice she didn’t eat any. Perhaps she’s not clueless after all.