All The Dead Animals of London

By the time one walked by at quarter-past-eight in the morning, much of the smell was gone. Some still remained, just enough to pique the nostrils. The very earth itself smelled faintly of a butcher’s. Clean flesh, deceased and so meat, yes, but clean. Trading had ceased over an hour previous, having begun at midnight. Were it not for the lingering gulls and the engine-still-running binmen, it might be as though nothing had happened there at all, never, for its aisles and counters, its arches and gates were silent, unstirred. Grey puddles, uncoloured by the sky, smoothed the potholed ringroad. Birds cawed. A wide brush pushed waves along the pavement and small gusts with it.
    This is the new manor. Offices of the past took me through the city to beneath St Paul’s shadow and then a large portion of the ordnance survey dedicated to the meat trade, a series of diagonal rectangles. These are the pins from where I walk my empty stomach.  At lunch I tighten my shoelaces, leaning headfirst into the street. A bluish light comes through the bricks. Our sun has the angles of a TO LET sign. Sir Robert establishes himself down the end of C—— Street, his red flag stroking the wind; everything sacred must be buried. There are the broad avenues that cut, without stitches, towards the Thames, each fighting at the intersection. To and fro, before and after, I walk beneath the Barbican, in a faded golden glow and interrupted lamps, a ceaseless discharge of jus from the bin stores of the brutal apartments, dodging drips and the contained rush of passing cars and inch away.
    Many are on holiday. I am taken round and introduced to my new colleagues, but so fixated am I by remembering my own name, which I very seldom use, that I forget theirs as soon as the handshake is over. It is the adrenaline that belies how little sleep I have been surviving on the past month, especially the evening before. My new office sinks in. There is a radio playing unpleasant music that reminds me of my pleasant childhood. All is clean. The sun comes in strong over the meat market. It is the beginning.
    That evening, an old work friend messaged me—Bro… my mum passed away this morning. He is a single older man by almost a score, politely peculiar, but a confidante who I familiarly referred to as ‘Komrade’. I did not know what to say to him, as I also, in the preparation of ramen, took a moment to ask my own mother what I should say to such news. He took a plane out to the Caribbean, where his mother was laying in rest, and sent me even more peculiar messages at all hours of the day and night. Having confronted my loneliness at my parents’ ruby anniversary not three days previous, I was struck by the poetry of timing, the underlining of his misfortune and our commonalities! Bro… yesterday went to see my Mum in the undertakers…hard to shake that image off.It was him alone with his sister, yes, but it was him alone and he stared back at me. It was raised on my Friday at half-three. How far away was my fate from his? I understood how much he loved his mother; it was that which rendered the futility of my words to him, and still I sent them. Laid Mum to rest today…a real tough gig.
    Yellow grass turns green as soon as the water lands.
    In the middle of the month, the Met Office issued a severe weather warning, giving it a lovely yellow colour on their website, a perfect shade of yellow, a colour God created on the first day, like one of the thickest lines on a child’s fingerpainting. It was The Turn. Few things turn so often as the weather. A mood maybe? One’s mood is likely to turn many times during the course of a weekend. An unseasonably southern wind was likely, and then it came like pornography across the industrial buildings opposite my living room windows.

    The industrial buildings opposite my living room windows had been contributing to my cat suffering some sort of adolescent breakdown. Upon its iron ridges was a nest of gulls and all the chicks calling, learning to fly. The Met Office gave them a chance to practice their flight. The cat stared all day, chirruping, dreaming of sinking her needleteeth into the fledgling plumage of . When I got home she leapt from her crow’s nest and collapsed on the rug in my hallway. ‘You hot, brev?’ She stretched in response. In the flat, it was hot. Between the heat, the gulls and my absence, she was quite upset. She would wait until I emerged from the post-work shower, my skin rosy, disposition calm—before she leapt into the laundry basket and noisily emptied her bladder while looking at me. ‘You little cunt…!’ too scared to move her before she might, of her own accord, spring and dart. On that, too, she had a bone protruding from the bottom of her sternum out like a correct answer.
    Late Friday afternoon it turned. All of the pavements were clear when I held her in a carrier through the rain to the vet. It was an Australian nurse who saw us and, at the time, was open to a chat with me. ‘She’s fine,’ the nurse said, and no U.T.I., and then we just conversed—‘I bet she’s good company.’ ‘She’s suchgood company,’ I said—‘She fuckin hates the vets, though. No offence.’ She never used to. There’s only a certain number of times you’ll forgive people sticking a thermometer up your arse.’ The nurse pulled out a pot of treats, which, upturned, the cat sniffed and snatched. It was the weekend. We walked back home, as the traffic passed in the falling rain, just me and her, a checklist of sanity. She circled her small bones to look upon the traffic, stomaching herself against the sounds of summer.
    From then on, I called her away from the laundry basket. She meant nothing by it. I returned from work, earlier than the past contracts; my friend’s mother was deceased, the track she coursed had ended; my mornings stunk of meat, my afternoons of footfall. The cat greeted me at the door, rolling over and I stroked her belly; vocalising. She gave her own kind of happiness to my return. She was so perfect that on my way home, amongst Chekhov’s Fifty-two Stories, I thought of her, for it calmed me down.
    It was a few weeks later that, by chance, I spoke to Komrade’s employer—‘Yeah, he came back got to work… I told him he didn’t you know have to it’s a big thing… but him he hasn’t he’s single it and it takes  your mind so he was okay to come back cos it takes your mind off it, I guess.’
    At half-three on that Friday, I did not know what to make of everything. I said that without certain counterparts of this species—my mother and father—I saw little reason to continue, and it was something that concerned me. Hah, it shocked me, for it, at once, presented itself as a whole sentence.
    ‘And so you see yourself in your friend?’
    On the roof of the beauty school, the gull chicks practiced flight. As enviously as we looked on, it was not a fluorescence of freedom that would ever be gifted us. The cat and I watched on as the Saturday rain fell. There was a whole feeling in there somewhere. It had been weeks. Soon the infants learned their specialty and aborted the nest that had seen them well the past three months. Sticks, twigs, moss rotted in the shadow. Still we watched on, as she dipped away to entertained herself with intruding insects.
    It was summer now. It is summer then. What I hoped to fall in love with never existed. What I came to be completed by was a semi-feral fuck-up of cockiness and confidence, a beast that dislikes the smell of malbec. Every morning she arises before I want to be awake and puts her perfect claws into me. She nuzzles left. As much as I tell her I do not want to go, she retreats from the food bowl as I leave. I find her beneath the dinner table. Her small skull is like a skill. I follow and wish good-bye. Hours later I return, and she purrs deeply. Both of us are alive, all grievances forgotten. The balance is delicate, but it remains.