intractable

that which is hard to deal with, difficult, stubborn    

Oscar didn’t know what to do. Indeed, whether to do anything at all was the real issue. But then, how could he avoid doing something, anything? How could he do nothing? How is nothing done? He had to do something. Didn’t he?

Oscar, looking out his rear window, cleared his mind so that this particular problem could completely occupy the empty space left in his mind, like so man acres of blank paper, and so give it his full attention. As he saw it, the facts of the case were as follows: there was an immobile cat splayed across the path in his back garden. It was raining, so the cat was unlikely to be sleeping, it certainly wasn’t sunning itself. Oscar didn’t own a cat. Helen certainly didn’t own a cat; she would not have tolerated the existence of another living thing sharing her personal space. Helen had a lot of personal space. Helen certainly didn’t like animals. Leading to the deduction that Helen, in a fit of rage, brought on by the cat’s violation of her personal space, dragged the cat outside, stunned it with a blow to the head, probably using the heel of a high heel shoe, and finished it off with the bloodied stone now discarded three feet away from the cat’s body.

Helen bludgeoned the cat to death. The idea amused Oscar briefly, until he realised that he had gone off on a fantastic tangent and he had left behind the whole Sherlock Holmes side of things.

A dead cat in your back yard certainly was a problem that you had to deal with. It couldn’t be ignored, especially when you had absolutely nothing else to occupy your mind – no job, no prospects, and no relationship with anybody which couldn’t be termed merely an acquaintance. Oscar, despite knowing Henry for nearly twenty years, classified him as a lengthy acquaintance. Though Henry did have the saving grace of an acquaintance who could occupy, waste, or demand your time with relative ease. That certainly was a strength in a good acquaintance. In fact, the main reason that Henry was termed an acquaintance, rather than a friend, was more to do with Oscars irrational hatred of the word “friend”, his sharper hatred of the term “best friend” and his sharpest hatred of all for the term “just friends”. But if he was to calmly reflect on the matter, he would have to accept that Henry and himself were “just friends”. However, Oscar never calmly reflected on the matter.

But he was forgetting about the cat, which wasn’t going away – which was dead.

Passing the buck, picking up the cat’s corpse with a shovel and tossing it one way or another into a garden either side of his, was the first idea which occurred to Oscar, but he didn’t have a shovel. Also, the idea of being seen tossing a cat’s corpse over a garden fence, though there would only be a one-in-twenty chance of being seen if it was done in as crafty a manner as possible (he had worked out the odds with his limited knowledge and vague recollection of secondary-school-maths-class-probability and the two hours he had to spare between a late breakfast and a leisurely lunch), was an idea so displeasing to Oscar that he wouldn’t even consider it. Well he did consider it for two hours, but then he shook his head, actually shook his head, as he stood looking out the rear window, and ruled it out completely, muttering to himself that he wouldn’t even consider it.

The thought of Smith seeing him toss the body of a murdered cat into Smith’s own garden didn’t especially bother Oscar, but the thought of Smith finding the cat and the hullabaloo which would follow made him weary just thinking about it – though it would occupy a large portion of his spare time – the hullabaloo of the dead cat – which had stretched out interminably before him before he discovered the body of the cat that morning.

The solution to this problem would not be based upon the launching of a cat’s corpse over either of his neighbours’ garden fences, Oscar acknowledged to himself, without bothering about any solid process of reasoning to reach that point.

Oscar’s first thought would normally have been simply to ignore the problem. A dead cat in your back garden was a problem that could easily be ignored, especially by someone like Oscar, who prided himself on his ability to ignore things. Oscar ignored many things everyday, the sound of Helen blow-drying her hair for forty minutes at six o clock every morning, six out of seven phone calls from Henry, the repeated knocking on his wall by the old woman who lived next door, the singing, shouting, screaming, and other various noises which emanated from Smith’s house on the other side, the scowling of the man who lived across the street, the buzzing noise the street lamp made outside when he was trying to sleep, and the constant dripping of the gutter, and the manner in which people, all people, pretended not to be looking at him as they passed him in the street – Oscar ignored many things, but since finding himself at a bit of a loose end, what with having no job and little ability to entertain himself, and not being able to lie in bed for longer than eight hours, and having little patience with television, Oscar had little choice but to start getting concerned about things which wouldn’t normally have bothered him – how else was he to fill his life and make it meaningful?

The problem of the cat would have to be solved.

But after a lunch of biscuits and tea, Oscar looked on the matter with a completely altered frame of mind. Filled with the warm glow of quickly digesting hobnobs and the warmth and aroma of two cups of Earl Grey tea, Oscar began to wonder what would happen if the problem of the dead cat remained just that – the problem of the dead cat, a problem artfully framed and laid out on the path in his back garden. It would be a conversation piece. It could be a sizable portion of his life. He could chart its decay. He could point it out to visitors – the gasman, the window cleaner – but Oscar was unsure if either of these two people actually called to his house, never having seen them himself and their only being referred to on television in relation to the lives of fictional characters.

Walking out the back door, Oscar felt good to be out of doors.

“Dead cat eh?” Smith’s head appeared above the fence.

“Yeah.”

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