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In Which We Sit In A Box, Fly To Australia And Make A Phone Call

Books from WarriorWomanWithOnlyOneBreast arrive in cardboard boxes. This is a law of nature. Cardboard boxes have to be sat in by cats. This too is a law of nature. In our house, Harpo, being junior cat, has been designated as the box sitter. The sequence of events goes something like this.

A courier man bangs on the front door and runs away before I can catch him (courier men are notoriously shy and are seldom observed in the wild). Porgy and Harpo, who are asleep on the bed, wake up in alarm at the hideous noise and stare at me suspiciously as I open the door and retrieve a parcel.

"It's OK," I reassure them. "Just another book."

They settle down and watch me open the box.

"Hurry up," says Harpo, his red eyes gleaming. Harpo is a very impatient cat who belongs to the instant gratification generation. Slowly I unseal the box. Porgy generally finds this boring and goes back to sleep, but Harpo is soon jumping up and down with frustration as I tease him with the prospect of a box.

Eventually the books are unpacked. Porgy opens a world-weary eye and watches as Harpo hops in to the box, turns round three times and settles down. Some boxes are too big and, feeling exposed, Harpo soon gets out again.

"That's a useless box," he says in disgusted tones as he stalks off to relieve his frustrations by beating Bess up. Hisses, spits and squeals from the back of the house indicate success.

Some boxes are too small and the sides bulge as Harpo squirms, seeking a comfortable spot. Eventually, unable to support the strain, the box ruptures.

"That's a useless box," says Harpo in disgusted tones as he stalks off to relieve his frustrations by beating Bess up. Hisses, spits and squeals from the back of the house indicate success.

But just occasionally the boxes are exactly the right size and Harpo snuggles down to snooze in cardboard coated bliss. Bess, let off the hook, sleeps soundly on the back of the sofa.

One such box is currently sitting on the floor of the lounge. Harpo seldom leaves it except to eat. Scruffy though it is, I don't dare throw it away. Bess would suffer too much, and she needs her sleep.

Robin was going to Australia to visit her sister. The plane departed at sparrowfart and check in time was two hours earlier than that. All of which meant that we had to get up at THERE'S NO SUCH TIME o'clock in the morning. The cats were thrilled:

"Hey, wake up everyone," yelled Porgy. "Breakfast is early today."

He bounced into the kitchen, eager for food. Bess yawned and stretched and followed rather reluctantly. "If there's food going," she said, "I want more than my fair share. But really, at this time of day, I'd rather be asleep."

Harpo biffed her on the nose. "Shut up you silly girl," he said. "If you keep saying that, the big apes might go back to bed and then we'd have to wait for hours before we had a chance at breakfast again."

I put some biscuits down for them. Soon their heads were down, their bums were up and the soporific sound of crunching filled the kitchen. I put a pot of coffee on to brew and went for a shower. Perhaps I'd feel better if I was wet.

I washed and dried and dressed. Robin stumbled, half-blind with sleep, into the bathroom, intent on ablutions. When she emerged, I poured coffee into her. Eventually she became capable of speech.

"What time is it?"

"Half past dark," I said. "We ought to be going."

I carried her luggage out to the car and then we set off for the airport. The roads were empty and we made good time, though the closer we got to the airport, the denser the traffic became. Most of the people of Wellington, it seemed, were off to Australia this morning.

As we drove towards the terminal Robin spotted something interesting. "There's an Air New Zealand plane over there," she said. "I know it's an Air New Zealand plane because of the koru design on the tail. But the plane is green all over. Why is that, do you suppose."

"It's feeling poorly," I said. "Those are the recuperation gates. It'll stay parked there until it feels better and its colour improves."

"Oh poor thing." Robin was immediately sympathetic. "I wonder what's wrong with it."

"Air sickness, I should think, " I said.

The telephone in the hall was looking a bit sad. The aerial had been chewed by a cat, the numbers on the buttons were so worn as to be barely legible and the buttons themselves could not be trusted to send proper signals down the wires. For the last three months we had been unable to ring any of our friends who had a 4 in their phone number and we were getting an anti-social reputation as a result, since almost all of our friends had one or more 4s somewhere in their phone number.

"Let's go to Dock Smooth and buy a new phone," I said.

"OK," said Robin.

There were multitudes of phones on display. Big phones and small phones; pink, blue and green phones; slim phones and plump phones; self-satisfied phones and slightly anxious phones. "We'll take that one," said Robin when an assistant came to see if he could help us.

The phone we chose had a base unit with an answering machine built in. It had three handsets the size and shape of a television remote control. Each handset could store an enormous collection of phone numbers. The caller-ID feature could be configured so that whenever any of our friends rang us up their name and number would display on the handset screen in large, friendly letters. We could assign each of our friends their own special display colour and their own special ring tones. We agonised for hours over the correct colour for Robin's mum and the correct ring tone for the president of the science fiction club.

"I wonder who will be the first person to ring us on our new phone?" asked Robin.

"Me!" I said, taking out my mobile phone and dialling my home number. The handset flashed red and played something vaguely Wagnerian involving lots of Valkyries a couple of dragons and a sword.

"Hello," said Robin.

"Hello," I said. "Can you hear me?"

"Yes," said Robin. "What's the weather like over at your side of the lounge?"

"It's a bit cold," I admitted. "What's it like at your side?"

"Much the same," said Robin. "Bye, bye"

"Bye, bye."

We both turned our phones off.

"Well, that was fun," said Robin. "What shall we do now?"

"Why don't we watch TV?"

"Will you pass me the TV guide, please?" asked Robin. I passed it across and she studied it and then picked up the remote to change the channel. She pressed a button. Nothing happened, so she pressed it again. Still nothing happened, so she tried one more time.

"Emergency. Which service do you require? Police, fire or ambulance?" asked an official voice.

"Oops, sorry," said Robin contritely. "I was trying to watch Coronation Street on channel 1." She turned the phone off and tried again, with the proper remote control this time.

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