Cat nightmare makes daytime appearance

Most adults still have nightmares. Surely.

Maybe not the towering screaming poppy-eyed infernos of childhood, but nightmares nevertheless.

Usually they recur.

I only have two, and they're not much chop really.

The first one, aligned fiercely to my fear of water, involves getting on a bus or car, the vehicle then finishing up on a narrow cliff ledge above Tunnel Beach.

There is no way forward or back, and the only way to safety is to jump into the Pacific Ocean, which I do.

But by screwing my eyes tighter than tight and clenching my teeth, I manage to wake up.

Not really a nightmare then, just an irritating slip in my sleep pattern.

The second one, which dates back to my kidney transplant when the doctors said if I got bitten by a cat in the first year, so highly infectious are such bites, it would be very dangerous.

Until that point I had loved cats.

But since then, maybe eight or 10 times, I have had a dream where a cat lunges at my neck and digs the teeth in, and try as I might, wrenching and pulling and shouting and even hitting, I cannot prize the germ-ridden cat teeth loose.

A more scary nightmare.

So, last week, I am setting my breakfast place on the dining table, having just extricated a plastic mat from the sideboard cupboard.

Suddenly there is a noise like a heavy something landing on the floor.

With a miaow.

A new cat has been hanging around our drive, possibly feral, all cats are possibly feral to me now, and I had left the front door open.

I have no peripheral vision, so I have not seen this landing-on-the-floor incident out of the corner of my eye

But I am mindful of the fact I may die if a cat bites me, so I adopt Oscar Wilde's famous social warning of not looking feral cats in the eye, or, indeed, people on the New York subway, and edge my way looking less towards the lounge.

I reason if I move so slowly the feral cat won't notice I am moving, then I will be able to get in there and slam the door and ring the SPCA.

Or a team of doctors if the cat launches itself right through the woodwork of the door, as it does in my nightmare.

I am talking quietly and friendlily all this time with not a trace of fear.

''Hey puss puss, whatcha doin' in here? You want some HAM?''

I tell the cat he or she is beautiful.

I muse philosophically at the changing weather outside, what a wretched summer we have had, and ask how he or she is finding the neighbourhood.

''It's not bad when you get to know the nooks and the crannies. I'm sure you're a smart cat, you are certainly a BEAUTIFUL cat, you will be FINE. And, while I'm at it, where did you live before THIS?''

Three steps to go and I'm safe.

But I don't feel safe.

Everything has gone silent, which is, I am sure, what happens before a feral cat soars through the air and kills a kidney transplantee who really only wanted to be friends.

I continue talking.

David Cunliffe bringing in Matt McCarten is something you would talk to a feral cat about, so I do.

I speak in a voice that is velvet, and rich with threatless calm.

''Oh it's so nice to have a cat in the house again!''

Huge leap. Slam door with both hands. Sit trembling on sofa for 30 minutes. Hear son come into dining room and leave.

No feral cat sounds. Go back in. Note there is a large white vase lying on the floor.

Open cupboard door nervously. Nothing. Let the cupboard door I have never oiled, because I don't oil doors, swing slowly shut with the slope of the floor.


Oscar Wilde again.

He once said you should never trust a man who talks to a large white vase.

But what does Oscar Wilde know about nightmares?

Roy Colbert is a Dunedin writer.

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