A strange thing happened last night. It was about 9:15, Rach and I were sitting in our darkened living room watching ABC iView on the laptop when a noise at the front door caught our attention. (We usually leave the door open of an evening, to let in the cool breeze.) We both turned towards the door, and standing there, silhouetted by the lights from next door, was Frankenstein’s monster. He was breathing heavily, making laboured huffing and puffing noises, while his huge frame rocked to and fro, blocking the doorway. Nothing stood between him and us except for a few flimsy pieces of hanging fly-screen.
“Just wondering if I could have a word, eh?” said the monster.
Relief flooded through us. Our nocturnal visitor was not a monstrous apparition from early 19th century literature, but just our neighbour, Mr Takalua [not his real name]. The fact that we and Mr Takalua had never previously exchanged words in the two-and-a-half years we had been neighbours hadn’t deterred him from popping by at 9:15 PM for a chat.
I went out and greeted him with a friendly “What can I do for ya, mate?”
He first apologised for being out of breath, but he and his family had just returned from an evening stroll, and the last section up our steep street and driveway had just about done him in. Mr Takalua is a big bloke, you see. As he caught his breath I wondered exactly what the hell he wanted to talk to me about. It didn’t become much clearer as he began to speak.
“Was just doin’ the mowin’ this afternoon, eh?” he said, pausing to make sure I was following. I nodded for him to continue.
“And I was just mowin’ the bit down here” – he pointed to a section of grass where our properties meet – “and there was a lot of, uh, cat poo there, eh?” He chuckled at his use of the term “cat poo”, and perhaps also to put me at ease. This was a friendly visit after all. “So when I put the mower through, all this dust from the cat poo” – he chuckled again – “went everywhere, eh?” He waved his hands wildly around in the air, miming the movement of millions of tiny particles of dessicated cat shit.
I think I was getting the picture now. What Mr Takalua was hypothesising was that one – or both – of our cats had been shitting in his grass. Then when he mowed the grass he churned up the dried cat poo, which was a most unpleasant experience. Even though I was pretty sure that our cats were not entirely responsible – the Takaluas also own a cat – I quickly decided that the best thing to do would be to accept the blame gracefully.
“Gee, sorry ’bout that, mate,” I said. “Look, don’t worry about that bit of grass, I’ll look after that bit from now on.”
Mr Takalua nodded. ”Yeah, because as I was putting the mower through, all this dried cat poo came up, eh?” He chuckled and did his little mime again. “Big clouds of cat poo.”
“Right, well just leave that bit next time.”
“We’ve got a cat too, eh? But he poos over there most of the time.” He gestured toward the opposite side of his yard. “And when I put the mower through down there” – the cat poo zone – “all this dried cat poo went everywhere, eh?”
“Right. Well, next time I mow I’ll do that bit too.”
The conversation went around in circles like this for a few more minutes, Mr Takalua chuckling occasionally so I wouldn’t think he was having a go at me. (And really, I don’t mind. I’m happy to do the extra three square metres of mowing rather than start a feud with the Takalua family over some old cat poo.) Eventually, when Mr Takalua sensed I had fully grasped the finer points of his argument, and after I’d agreed another four times to assume custodianship of the affected area, he changed tack.
“So what do you do, eh?”
Ten minutes later and we were still there, standing on the driveway in the pitch dark. Maybe Mr Takalua needs a friend. He’s a nice bloke, really. Still, I’ll be the one picking up the fossilised cat shit from now on.