The Cat’s Whiskas

I’ve slept in. Nightmare. Red-eyed and hungover, I jump out of bed. My head is banging and my stomach is full of acid; I might boke yet. In a flash, I recall that there was whiskey last night. We’d been in Tom’s for tunes, then up to the Jamaica Inn in Ardoyne for more of the same, then back to someone’s house. I can’t remember getting home. I wonder if it’s worth going busking at all; the good sheltered pitches will be taken by now, and it’s lashing outside. I should go all the same; I’m a first-year student at Queen’s, and I don’t have much of an income. I’m out playing six nights a week, picking up a few quid on some nights. It helps, but it’s still hard to make ends meet.

I put on my dressing gown and go down for a piss. In the bathroom next door I can hear running water. I knock the door; ask if they will be long. It’s Bronagh; she says she’ll only be a minute. I really could do with a shower: my long hair is starting to feel a bit lank. Need to take the scissors to my beard as well. I descend another flight to the kitchen, make tea with extra sugar, and toast, using the last of the bread. My stomach doesn’t like this assault, and lurches. I pause outside the toilet, hold my breakfast in, and go back to the top to get dressed. Dose of Gaviscon and I’ll be grand. Can’t wait for Bronagh; if I don’t get down town soon the day will be completely wasted. She’ll be in there for another half-hour at least. I shout through the bathroom door to her to take her time. She asks if I’m going into town, and can I get some cat food? You know the one she likes, fussy wee beast won’t eat just any old stuff. She’ll get me back later.

When I get into town my suspicions are correct, there are no dry pitches. The rain has eased a little, to a clinging mist of fine droplets. I try and earn some money, but after half an hour I am soaked, and haven’t even made enough for the bus home. Punters don’t want to stop and listen in this weather. It’s a disaster: time to give up. I remember to drop into Dunnes to get the shopping. In my groggy, stumbling, rush I have left my wallet behind me. Only need two things anyway.


I frigging hate working Saturdays. The girls were out last night, and I had to stay in because I was getting up early to come in to this dump. I bet the craic in Pips was brilliant too, good old bop, few wee vodkas, maybe a party after. Bitches’ll all be suffering today, feet up, fire on, watching TV. I know what I’d be doing: nice breakfast and back to bed; sleep it off. Then get up and lounge on the sofa in my jammies and slippers. Maybe bring the duvet down as well. Still, there’s always tonight. Have to get them round the house for a bottle of wine or something before we go out; get them fired up or they’ll be no fun at all. Jesus this is so boring.

Oh My God. Look at the state of him. He must have been sleeping rough: his jeans are nearly through at the knees and he’s soaking. His hair is hanging down to his shoulders in rat’s tails. It’s terrible that people like him have nowhere to go. See so many of them these days. He needs a good scrubbing down, a shave, and a haircut; might actually be quite good-looking if he took care of himself. As he comes up the aisle I can see that his eyes are all puffy – I can almost smell the drink off him from here. He must only be in his twenties; that’s too young to be an alco, surely? But you never know these days, recession and all. He’s probably got nits or fleas or God knows what. Maybe he’s mad in the head; that would explain why he’s out on the street. God love him, but I hope he doesn’t come to my till.

Oh no. Here he comes. Oh flip me, no. That’s disgusting. Can’t believe it; didn’t think people would really do that. He must have spent all his money on drink. This is awkward. I am so scundered. Should I say something? No. Keep the head down and hopefully he’ll go away.


OK: let’s get this stuff and get home, shower, and warm up. I’m going to have to walk, but I’m soaked already so it’s not going to make any difference now. I haven’t enough dosh to get the fancy cat food; the fleabag will have to take what it’s given. I’m sure it’ll eat when it’s hungry; you can’t be picky when you’re starving. So there we are: sliced pan loaf and one tin of Whiskas. I pay with coins, and give the girl the correct money. I smile at her; I bet she’s glad to get the change. She says nothing, and is giving me a very strange look, embarrassed and horrified. I find this very disconcerting, and hurry off back into the drizzle without any further chat. The look on her face bothers me; I can’t work it out. It’s only when I’m halfway home that I realise. I burst out laughing; can’t wait to tell the others.

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21 Responses to The Cat’s Whiskas

  1. Uncle Brian says:

    Very good piece.
    1. Like the train of consiousness from waking.
    2. Particularly liked the sudden switch to the girl in the shop’s point of view. Maybe she could have thought “Where do he get all this change, does he find it in the gutter or what”
    3. Would have liked more on the act of singing in the wetness. Feeling of the rain getting to various parts, hair, neck,underpants, like a wet cat? What songs you sang, etc.
    4. What did you realise at the end? If it was her attatude, how did you know what she thought?
    5. I thought Whiskas was the best/most expesive food? It’s the owner who cares most!
    Excellent lines!
    Uncle Brian

    • jasonoruairc says:

      Thanks Brian!

      In response:

      1. Cheers!
      2 & 3. I think I did enough to show that she thinks he’s a vagrant, so didn’t really feel the need to develop that any further. Part of the remit of the Vernacularisms is to keep them short and punchy. If I sang in public I would probably get shot.
      4. It was tricky getting the balance right on this: some people got the joke straight away, others had to read the piece a few times. I didn’t want to spoon-feed the reader, but it also had to be explicit enough. Difficult.
      5. I checked the prices when I was writing this, and was surprised to find that Whiskas was actually one of the cheaper brands. It had to be in there anyway for the title to work!

      Cheers, J

      • Uncle Brian says:

        Nice to be in contact! Maybe I should put up some of my stuff rather than have it in a drawer.
        I agree “short and punchy”, less is more!
        2. You mention the collection of change later,”I pay with coins”, just shift it, it’s a very vivid image, maybe use it better.
        3. I don’t know what you do busking, what do you play, what does it feel like to play in the rain?
        4. Still don’t get what you realised and couldn’t wait to tell the others?
        Here is my latest poem inspired by the Donegal little girls, two sisters, who did for them selves. Essentially mourning what they missed:
        I Can Never
        BMA V1-5 9/1/2013
        Never take
        my Leaving

        Never take on
        a problem
        and make the world better

        Never take that
        leap in the dark
        to love

        Never take on a kid or two
        and see them through
        their lives

        Never take a job
        I didn’t want
        for my family

        Never take on my parents
        when they are old

        Never take and keep
        a friend
        for their whole life

        Never take any heed
        of anyone
        ever again

        Never take an apple
        from a tree
        I’ve grown

        Never take a life
        the way I took
        my own

  2. DeafboyOne says:

    I’m hooked… in fact I’m starting to read this in my head with an oirish accent lordy lordy…a funny funny funny tome 🙂 Its good to share – Pete DeafboyOne

  3. Ah ah ah! This is excellent! I have to admit I didn’t make the connection the first time. I thought it was just about your “general appearance”..

  4. says:

    I don’t know if my simple brain can handle your intellectual literature in the early a.m., I’m frustrated …. I don’t have time to read it for the third time, but probrably will. I hope it’s a ‘lost in translation” thing (you know we Canadians, eh?) 😉 Entertaining…

    • jasonoruairc says:

      Thanks for your response. I’m glad you find my writing entertaining, and even intellectual; I’m also sorry it’s frustrating. I put a lot of thought into whether to make the joke at the end more explicit, and compromised eventually. I changed it a wee bit,but maybe not enough. Big clue in the title.

  5. Ernie Swain says:

    Good one Jason! Take it your flies were supposed to be open, lol?

  6. Ernie Swain says:

    Good one Jason! You leave your flies undone 🙂

  7. Anonymous says:

    Tesco, recession. So is this a compilation of old experiences placed in today’s timeframe then?

  8. Rob Paige says:

    Brilliant stuff, Jason. Keep ’em coming.

    Really good to see you last weekend, a truly special night for many, many people.

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