Meryl merrily made her way down the alleyway, past the coal sheds and into the street. She sat at the roadside patiently and waited for the big metal things that breathed smoke to ride by.
She sat, licking her lips, and looked onwards past the chugging chimneys of the red terraced houses and the next alleyway before her, and at her destination hidden by homes of the Victoria-lady’s peoples.
When the big-path became silent Meryl didn’t bother to look both ways and hurriedly made her way to the yonder alleyway that promised her path. Her four legs were a happy blur beneath her feline frame as she silently made her brisk pace along the way. Were it not for the rain early that morning her little paws would have made sooty prints in a long line behind her, trailing her journey.
Old Tom’s house was a memory before she even realised that she had passed the ginger cat’s home but she mewed aloud in gleeful nostalgia as she remembered that she recollects this fact every day.
Meryl was an odd cat who liked things to go by a schedule. Meryl loved clockwork, and that’s exactly what made her fleet of paw every day.
Leaving the houses behind her, this peculiarly particular feline made a beeline that would have been curious to any who witnessed her passing. Meryl was now in the place where the humans gathered in compact droves, where they would give each other dull and shiny things for fish, meats covered in thick brown wrapping stuff – wrapping which Meryl had once thought was a puzzle to be navigated with the teeth – weird brown water that makes humans shout and bushy brown stuff that burned in pipes. Once, when Meryl was a but a wide eyed kitten, she would watch the humans here and cock her head in bemusement with their ways.
Of course, none of this bothered her now – it was all terribly familiar – but when she was still the wide-eyed kitten of her youth she turned the corner and found exactly what she wanted to see just now, right this minute, but just after a brief pause where she walked straight up to an almost overflowing barrel of cod and carried a singular wet fish off with her head held high almost in victory were it not for the size of it. Once again, she noted, the fishman didn’t notice.
Strutting along the street and dodging the people with the canes and umbrellas, she quickly darted to the iron wrought fence just off the marketplace and slipped between the bars.
Meryl knew exactly where she was going and had known since she left the meagre rug before the fireplace that morning.
A black cat sat in her spot, with the green eyes she knew well these past years. Albert mewed in greeting and turned to watch the spectacle that the two would meet for every day at noon. Meryl rubbed her head into his side and she too took her spot and saw the fish that Albert had brought along also. Just like clockwork. Again, as Meryl did for long before, she looked up from the bushes edge to see a huge pillared structure right in the middle of the park. This was the spectacle they had both come here for for years.
The clock tower in the middle of the park began its grand chiming at the exact moment the hands struck twelve upon the ornate face of the clock. A grinding of something unseen caused the pillar to break in three places, and with a very familiar churning the tower’s carapace opened up to reveal a series of odd metal things – cogs and gears – that moved the structure and puppeteered the festivities that came out like happy prisoners. A Punch and Judy reenacted their tale for the thousandth time, clockwork pigeons flew out from the broken clock face, escaping the venting steam that disturbed their theatrical nests and a smorgasbord of dozens of puppets each representing a nation under the Victoria-lady’s possession danced and jostled between the chasms of the disjointed clock tower.
It was always so brief, only a minute, but it made up such a huge part of Meryl the cat’s day.
Meryl mewed at the moving figures and unknowingly placed a paw forward in excitement. She gazed at the flying birds as they made their way back inside the huge structure. They were the last to return to their nests behind the antique face and the entire column restored its joints and plates to make it whole again with no evidence to say that this clockwork circus had ever occurred.
One of the mechanical pigeons, brown from rusted feathers, didn’t make it’s way back inside. It was just a fraction of a moment too lat. It jumped scant inches from side to side in mock agitation. It should have been with the rest of the flock. The novelty almost hobbled towards a small niche with a mechanical guile that barely imitated an organic bird’s movement and settled down just next to the clock face.
Eventually, the pigeon stopped moving.
Meryl cocked her head as she watched the bird. This had never happened before.
Reluctantly she joined in the picnic that she and Albert had put aside just as they did every day. Every now and then she would look up at the monolith, just as she always did between mouthfuls, and wonder at how such a thing was made. It was beyond her imagining though, it was best to leave the humans to these technology things.
Time had passed, the fish’s meat gone, and it came to be that Albert and Meryl would leave each other for another day and return to their homes; Albert would leave for the riverfront beyond the long-chimneys and Meryl to the red brick houses.
They both mewed and rubbed their heads against the others to say farewell and Meryl made her way through the bushes and through the gap between the bars.
Meryl crossed the street for the second time that day and, just for a brief moment, turned her head and mewed her farewell to the pigeon on the ledge for the first time before heading home once more.
The clockwork pigeon looked towards the remains of the two fish with a brazen eye and its final ticking. To this day, the lone bird watches the spot where Meryl and Albert sat, and continues to do so even now.
– by Kier Sparey
© Copyright Kier Sparey 2013