Wednesday, December 22, 2004

The German

The German has a shop on the corner down from our house. In children’s book fashion he is a peculiar man. Round faced and self-amused he keeps a cat tied to a string under the tree in front of his shop.

He sells us water from time to time and, by the looks of things, makes his living from drinking whiskey. He is Vietnamese but speaks to us in German because, well, we don't know Vietnamese. The poor animal he has mews sad notes to accompany the traffic and in turn looks either forlorn or abandoned. In a place where there are no shortage of ways to diminish your personal space and life’s processes are all carried out within elbows distance of everyone else, the squeeze on a lowly cat gives little room for stately dignity.

In fact the night before last we saw another cat at a party on the roof of a friend's house. The party was small but had three musicians playing in a corner, one had a flute the width of a pipe, one a short square guitar and the third hit a strung box with small hammers. They needed shoes with curling toes and bluish hair teased up into space to become the Dr Seuss characters their instruments meant them to be, but they sounded spectacular. In a corner of the roof was a cage the size of two dishwasher boxes with another cat in it. Dr Seuss, Dr Seuss, Dr Seuss.

The cats though are all thin and meatless like birds. There is not a loose fitting coat amongst them and though there are enough rats for an army, I haven't seen a cat with a paunch yet. The size of the rats might in fact be the problem. I've seen rats that I can only describe as medieval in size and a smart cat who took one on would be wise to do so from a distance, using a rocket launcher.

Cats get taken for walks around here but seem to clamber no human attention. Dogs always look for a meal but never for a pet and chickens are just chickens same sense as anywhere. The traffic blindly hurtles about like sheets of tin roofing in a hurricane, yet you catch chickens that wander through the middle of it, seemingly oblivious to the cascading chaos, imminent death or onrushing dissection in moped form that is pelting towards them.

Sweeping animals aside for a moment, the traffic statistics that I've read are monumental. They speak of fatalities that would blanch a coroner, occurring with the regularity of ad breaks during the cricket. Some of the newspapers print them on the back pages along with pixilated and blurry black and white photographs of the scene. Seeing as how the photographs often include bodies or smears of dark grey matter leading from a spot on a road to under a bus, it is a blessing they are not in colour or distinct. They don't publish the causes, but I'm sure a significant number of them are chickens.


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