The Chill Out room.

Jeff sat at the bottom of the stairs with a concerned frown, conscious that the days next task of lying in the hallway for a bit was being disrupted by copious amounts of too-ing and fro-ing by people he’d rather not have to put up with.
There were men in the house, men in cargo trousers and polo shirts splattered with paint. Men carrying boxes of stuff from a van to the living room. Men standing around having tea and banter whilst their anal crevasses slowly revealed themselves as if they were the subject of investigation during a game of Guess Who?
Men talking about current affairs and news with information gleaned from a newspaper sprinkled with comment and analysis from a pair of tits every few pages. Men whose limited knowledge and skill set extended to to knowing exactly what it takes to get the best from a professional footballer despite being lazy, overweight Sunday Leaguers whose only ability on the pitch is being able to “snap that cunt in half”.
Jeff saw this and he didn’t like it. He found them to be entirely disagreeable and had no desire to be touched or petted by rough hands with cracked skin filled with dried oil. He was recoiling from hands all over the place as he was forced further and further up the stairs to avoid being molested by these grubby individuals.
As a cat, Jeff understood the value of personal hygiene and grooming. He would spend upwards of four hours each day just licking his own balls so, in his mind, it’s entirely reasonable to expect anyone else who wished to touch his pristine coat to have paws as immaculate as his. He continued to observe the movement of the men and their objects, perplexed at what all this newness was for but quietly excited by the prospect of empty cardboard boxes and bubblewrap.

Susan was also in the house, reading a book she’d picked up from a Facebook buy and sell group called “Stars, Crystals and You”. It was in great condition, a bargain for 20p, almost as if someone had read the first page, dismissed it as utter bullshit and put it up for sale at the same price as a Freddo. This book was also responsible for the hubbub that so concerned Jeff. The men were delivering flatpack furniture destined for Susan’s new ‘Chill Out room’. Recently, Susan had begun to feel overworked; she’d spent four consecutive days at the stationary shop and it was starting to get on top of her so she decided the best way to remedy that was to divide her living room in half using what looked like a wall from a Dojo and fill it with sand, crystals, pillows and candles and sit in it listening to a buskers mixtape of panpipe covers as advised by the book.
Clearly, Susan found it difficult to think for herself and would often seek out trends that confirmed her rather vague understanding that “there must be something but I don’t know what”. The chill out room was just another fad in a whole embarrassing line of fads that she’d entertained over the years.
She opened up a box that had been delivered in the post this morning. it was fairly heavy as it contained an assortment of crystals and stones as well as a set of Tibetan chimes; a small set of bells that had set her back by over £75. She picked up a Quartz stone and placed it on what she believed to be her “crown chakra”, she had no idea what she was doing, in fact, in the instructions it clearly states that in order to purge your mind of stressful intrusions, an amethyst stone should be placed on the crown chakra, but given the half arsed approach Susan had to almost everything in her life, she’d already discarded the instructions and had jumped in with both feet expecting the spiritual power of a bunch of rocks to sort her fucking life out.
She retired to her beanbag, pleased with her newfound set of delusions, balancing an incense infused crystal on her head believing that she could feel the souls of ancient witch doctors passing through her, cleaning her mind.

At this point, Jeff wandered slowly into the living room and began chewing on some bubblewrap, he was satisfied by the smoothness of the plastic but also by the popping sensation of the air bubbles; a welcome treat given the chaos of the morning so far.
Susan was less impressed. She felt that she was beginning to enter a trance like state only to be disturbed by a popping cat, she picked up an enchanted cushion and threw it in Jeff’s direction. It hit him in the face, he stopped chewing, sat up and looked at Susan spread eagled on the beanbag.

“What a mess” thought Jeff as he climbed into a cardboard box and peered out of the handle hole. He intended to use the box as a base from which to do his days hunting but inevitably he fell asleep. As did Susan, with a stone still stuck to her forehead. The delivery men took a few pictures on their way out and uploaded them to Facebook under the heading “look at this hippie bitch!! #ladsbants”

Susan’s Stationery Shop

Susan liked to think she was passionate about stationery, she’d even decided to use that phrase as the subheading beneath her sign over the front door but given how her sales had been steadily declining over the past few years, it was difficult to think that she was passionate about anything other than failure.
Susan knew what the problems with the shop were but she couldn’t be bothered to address them, it was far easier for her to spend six hours a day playing an agriculture simulator on Facebook and blame the Staples megastore that had just opened in a shopping centre four miles out of town.
In fact, she’d accumulated so many hours playing FarmVille, one regular customer remarked that if she’d spent the same amount of time actually cultivating a real farm, she might have something to show for her work besides a digital coin purse full of gold coins she couldn’t use and a bunch of friends who were so enraged by the countless invitations to join her in this epic waste of time, that they’d opted to delete her out of their lives.
For Susan, it was the same old story, it wasn’t the first time she’d been deleted and it probably wouldn’t be the last.

There she sat behind the counter, arched over, resting her chin in the palm of one hand in the little grey bubble she called a business, clicking away at her computer.
It was a narrow shop with very little space to manoeuvre between the tightly packed rows of shelving. The ageing air con unit rumbled away above her head, struggling to regulate the temperature like it used to when it was younger and the Artex covered ceiling got progressively more yellow as time wore on.
Her counter, upon which sat her till, computer and a picture of Jeff as a kitten was messy and disorganised. The keyboard and mouse had been almost completely consumed by grime save for the little clear spots on the most frequently used buttons and the bin was overflowing with empty Dr Pepper cans and crisp packets.
The number of stains on the tatty carpet were as varied as they were disgusting and, like the boxes of outdated printers stacked in the window, it had begun to fade where the sun shone in during the afternoons.
This was Susan’s livelihood and it was safe to say it had seen better days.

Susan took a brief pause from her online farm, she sat up in her chair and gazed down the aisles of her empty shop, past the rows of shelving and out the window. It was sunny outside and people were rushing by; busy running errands, completing tasks or meeting others on social engagements. She puffed out her cheeks and sighed, she needed to do something about her life. She thought for a brief moment that perhaps it was time to overhaul her approach, she couldn’t keep going day after day without a steady stream of custom, there are only so many packs of paperclips that people need. Perhaps a complete store revamp was needed. She visualised a store reopening with a large pink ribbon across the door and a beaming town mayor with giant pair of scissors declaring the shop open. She heard in her mind hordes of people clapping and cheering, pumping their fists at the prospect of an independently run stationary shop reopening for business.

“Thank fuck for Susan” one imaginary woman shouted “thank Christ I can attach multiple pieces of competetively priced paper together with tiny fragments of metal purchased from this business. Thank the Lord that I don’t have to drive ten minutes out of town when I need a tool to highlight pertinent segments of information in text books.”

Susan imagined people patting her on the back, she imagined several proposals of marriage, she imagined an affair with the mayor leading to scandal and press coverage. She imagined Jeff winking in slow motion, pointing his paw in her direction as if to say “I knew you could do it kiddo”.
She imagined having a business again.

The first rumblings of how to start snuck into her brain but she stopped and realised that it’d be a lot of work. The imaginary mayor vanished from her mind and the crowds of people dispersed grumbling about having their hopes dashed. She sighed again and looked back at her computer. She’d just sold a parsnip to a friend. This was an important development in her game so she pushed the store makeover to the back of her mind and returned to her game. The farm won’t farm itself she thought.

Jeff vs Henry

It was 9:45am, Jeff was already swamped with work. He’d spent the last forty five minutes staring a Henry hoover in the face trying to work out what kind of animal it was, what it was doing inside his territory and whether or not it posed a significant threat. He was frantically weighing up his potential adversary; it’s strengths and weaknesses and one thing he’d already learned was that this was one cool customer with one impressive poker face. There they sat, face to face, locked in a potentially lethal game of cat and hoover. He considered the greatest area of concern to be the the long black snout. As a fairly decent predator himself, he knew that the red colouring around it’s face was a defence mechanism and more than likely just for show. The eyes were a definite weak spot, they were huge and largely unprotected; if it did make a move on him, Jeff knew that he’d only have to get around the snout and make for the face and he’d be victorious. It still didn’t move. Jeff’s ears twitched and rotated listening for even the slightest movement. Then, Susan came in, strode nonchalantly over to the Henry, picked it up and carried it over to the other side of the room.

Susan wasn’t shy about taking days off away from her business, there’s only so many fax machines you can attempt to sell in a world run by emails. That’s probably the main reason it was going down the shitter. She knew this but there wasn’t a whole lot she was prepared to do to fix it; she could remove the boxes of Brother branded dot matrix printers from the window, they’d been there so long the bloke on the box had begun to fade but unfortunately, Susan is to the business world what an abacus is to the world of calculators. Susan was a Windows ’95 girl living in a OSX Mountain Lion world. If Susan was a YouTube video, she’d be buffering. She was shit at her job, she liked the idea of being a business owner but didn’t want to get involved in the business of running it. Her real dream was to sell up, buy a restaurant and run that into the ground instead. She’d decided to take the day off because she wanted to give the whole house a clean, top to bottom. She didn’t let on but Jeff’s cat hairs were becoming a real problem for her. He was a beige coloured cat, he matched the beige coloured walls, the beige coloured furniture and Susan’s beige coloured life and as such, they couldn’t easily be located.

Meanwhile, Jeff analysed the ‘Henry’ situation. He could tell that the thing was as beholden to Susan as he was, the only difference being that there was no way Jeff would allow Susan to roughhouse him like this poor creature. He watched as Susan pulled out what jeff guessed to be it’s tail and plugged it into the wall, she poked it on the head and the thing began to scream. Jeff was startled, whatever it was that just happened, Jeff wanted no part of it. He ran into the hallway and up the stairs, he was shocked to hear Susan laughing like a mad woman at his reaction. The screaming and commotion lasted for a good ten minutes; whatever she was doing, it didn’t sound pleasant. After the torture had stopped for a bit, Jeff tentatively made his way back downstairs to find the creature back in it’s original spot. The floor was spotless. Jeff made his way back to the area he occupied previously and got back to work trying to figure out what this guys problem was. It was clear from all the screaming and the fact the floor was clean that this thing was some kind of slave. Jeff was ok with that fact but what he was struggling to come to terms with is why the Henry looked so happy about it. He had seen Henry stowed away in the cupboard before and considered that they might have some common ground, Jeff himself like to hide away in a wardrobe from time to time so perhaps their instincts weren’t as far apart as he’d initially thought…

Susan and Jeff.

Being a humourless spinster, there were only two important things in Susan’s life. Her cat Jeff and being called Susan. As the single owner of a small shop selling stationary and office supplies, she considered herself to be the only independent and strong willed woman in a community dominated by mindless, gabbling housewives. She didn’t need a husband or a partner because all a woman of forty nine needs is cats and crossword puzzles.

After a hard day selling staples and shit, Susan usually headed over to the local supermarket to find something to eat. She didn’t often keep food in the house because she lacked the capacity to think further ahead than half an hour. She lived day by day, choosing from an assortment of ready meals offered by the establishment. Whilst not caring so much about her own appetite she often spent upwards of half an hour standing in front of the pet food section scrutinising the various brands and types of cat food on offer, she knew Jeff to be an affectionate cat but would often loose his temper should he not get the sort of dinner he was accustomed to: quality meat, cooked by the finest chef and with the sort of variety that a crisp maker would be jealous of. She knew that, for Jeff, only the finest would do. However, staples are pretty cheap and being the expert business woman that she was she also knew that they were in abundance which meant that she couldn’t sell them at a premium even if she wanted to. Business had also been slow in recent weeks and in order to keep herself in a steady supply of £1 lasagnes she knew that Jeff would have to compromise.

Jeff on the other hand didn’t give a shit, he’s just a cat and whilst he may be perceived to be selective by holding out for the best available food, in reality he would readily eat anything when given the choice between that and nothing at all. Despite Susan pressuring herself with her delusional application of human attributes to Jeff and her readiness to believe he was a free thinking individual capable of reason, she realised that she just couldn’t afford the top end pouch. She eventually picked up three pouches of a mid range brand of cat food and headed to the checkout, worried at what the cost might be, about how Jeff might react and how their relationship would be affected.

When Susan arrived home she was relieved to find that Jeff had been sick on the rug. Oddly, she believed this to be good for two reasons: one, because he was unlikely to stick around to help clear it up and two because wherever he was, he was almost certainly going to be hungry when he got back. She figured that if he was famished he’d be less likely to cause a ruckus. She set about preparing the meal.

Mondays were often a busy day for Jeff as it was the day where he liked to sit under parked cars and stare at pedestrians. On occasion, he liked to poke his head out from under the vehicle and meow softly, enticing strangers to kneel down and pat him on the head, only to recoil when they stretch out their hand leaving the stranger feeling silly and inadequate and onlookers concerned at the thought of a potential car thief operating in their community.
Being a cat, Jeff was unconcerned with human concepts such as trespassing and so spent most afternoons sat in his neighbours back garden, staring in through the window at the elderly gentleman, almost out of spite as it appeared Jeff was more than aware that the man didn’t like him in his garden and that he couldn’t do anything about it. Jeff would sit there nonchalantly; slowly blinking and yawning in the direction of the old man, whilst the old man glared back wondering what had made this cat think he could be so brazenly arrogant.
After such a Monday Jeff made his way back to the house to find Susan frantically preparing some food. Jeff knew it was his dinner because the familiar markings on the bowl she was using told him, to human eyes those markings would spell “CAT”. He immediately began to purr and strut a figure-eight pattern through the legs of Susan. This made Susan even more anxious than she was already, Jeff was hungry, he was used to good food and all she had was a mid level brand to give him. Luckily she had already disposed of the pouch and after a minute she hurriedly placed Jeff’s bowl on the floor for him to tuck into.
Jeff waited patiently but followed the bowls transit from the tabletop to the floor with much interest, he liked to glean as much information on what he was about to eat at the earliest possible point and as soon as the bowl touched the lino he was right there stalking it, sniffing intently almost huffing it in like a teen with an aerosol addiction.
Susan attempted to keep the facade of normality up and returned to her copy of Chat! Magazine; in particular the story concerning a small boy with a third testicle hanging precariously from one of his ear lobes. As she raised the magazine to begin reading, she saw Jeff begin eating. She relaxed.
If there was one thing that Jeff knew apart from making lazing around seem like a job, it was how big his stomach was. Jeff certainly wasn’t a fat cat, his stomach was of average size and he would often leave a small portion because he just couldn’t handle a whole pouch. He considered himself much like Susan because she couldn’t handle a whole tin of beans which often made a round of beans on toast relatively pointless. After he was satisfied that he had finished, he had a little sip of water to refresh himself and sat at the feet of his owner anticipating a congratulatory head scratch. What followed next was unexpected.
As Susan become more engrossed in the the kid with a bollock on his ear, she put Jeff out of her mind, as long as he was eating that was all that mattered, the anxiety could stop, the morbid curiosity deceptively concealed as sympathy could start. After a while Susan became aware of eyes staring in her direction, she became nervous and unsettled, she slowly lowered the magazine to see Jeff sat at her feet. She immediately felt as if something was wrong, she drew from Jeff’s demeanour that he was indignant, almost angry at the only thing that he could be angry about: the shoddy meal she had prepared.

Jeff meowed provocatively. To Jeff this sounded like an enticing meow, an inviting “scratch my chin” meow but what Susan heard was quite different. To Susan, Jeff’s meowing effectively said

“you piece of shit, did you really think I wouldn’t notice? Why are you such a failure at everything you do that you can’t even provide your cat with a half decent meal?”

Susan began to weep, even though all Jeff had done was meow, she thought she was just filling in the blanks, she threw her copy of Chat! into the air, rushed into the other room and dove headfirst into a large beanbag and remained there for the rest of the evening mulling over how she might have lost the only good thing going in her life.

After Susan’s outburst, Jeff just sat there blinking at the empty chair, half trying to comprehend the behaviour he’d just witnessed but also because he knew that sitting on Susan’s lap whilst watching Emmerdale was effectively ruled out. After a few minutes he walked over to the doorway of the living room, and peeked inside. The evening was drawing in and the only light that shone into the dull grey room was the orange glow of a nearby street lamp. Jeff looked at Susan, she was still face down in the beanbag wither her arse in the air, he walked about for a bit and decided to go out for the night. Susan heard the door of the cat flap go and fell asleep shortly after.