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Mr Walk Shorts

by Beverley, Napier, New Zealand


The elderly man in walk shorts was marching up the drive. He was carrying a sheaf of papers. What are walk shorts I hear you shout? In New Zealand white collar workers got sick of wearing long trousers in the hot summers and decided to wear a different uniform. I don't know whether they are worn anywhere else but they consist of a short-sleeved shirt, smart shorts, usually with pockets and long socks that come up to the knee. They are usually white. I don't know, but suspect, that the long socks on thinner legs are held up with garters. Smart shoes grace the feet, no nasty sandals or anything.

I noticed that Ollie was sitting inside the letter-box, watching the man. Mailbox meddling was providing lean pickings this particular day and the cat was searching for extra mischief. Mr. Walk Shorts fascinated the cat. Ollie tore down the drive and galloped up a sock-clad leg. Satisfying screams pierced the air, papers went everywhere and were blown away by the wind.

I was out in the drive-way in a trice going into my routine of abject apologies. "I'm so sorry, I don't know what came over the cat. er er he's never done THIS before." I didn't add that it was probably because the cat hadn't seen walk shorts and long socks before.

The old bloke was examining the bleeding punctures on his hairy leg.

He eyed me pathetically as I dashed around collecting papers. "I've been nibbled by two dogs while delivering census papers, but a cat ......" his voice trailed off.

"I know, it's terrible," I agreed heartily. "Come in and have a cup of tea and I'll get some disinfectant."

Mr. Walk Shorts was still wailing about his lot as we walked around the corner of the drive towards the back door. "You can get infected from cats' claws," he murmured, trying to extend my guilt, "and I'm prone to leg ulcers, I ........"

Ollie bounded out from his leafy hide-away under the camellia bush and sped up the other sock. He clasped the leg in a loving but deadly embrace and gave it the full teeth treatment. Mr. Walk Shorts had a thin, peculiar scream, rather like a startled sea-gull. Walk Shorts tried to kick the cat off but he held on grimly - this woolly mouse was not escaping.

I grabbed the cat and dragged him off. Poor Walk Shorts, he was almost sobbing as he peeled down his other sock and examined the punctures. I wondered if I should tell him he had a 'matching pair' of punctures but thought better of it.

Little was said after that. I clutched the cat and was handed the census papers. I was given a few terse instructions on how to fill out the forms and told the date he was coming back. There was no mention from either of us of him coming inside for fresh assaults, disinfectant and cups of tea.

As I watched him limp off down the drive I wondered whether he WOULD come back. Perhaps the census will do without our contribution this year. And the cat - he was struggling maniacally in my arms as the man turned from the drive-way into the street. Both Ollie's woolly darlings were getting away.


Editor's note:

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