Raven Has His Say
(Story 15 in the Building to Last universe)
Our subject was sitting in the sun on the front steps of a London row house, and he was a fine specimen of Felix cattus. His previous interview for Chalk and Cheese (An Interview with Raven by Jane Mailander, published in Chalk & Cheese 14) had proven so popular that a follow-up report was deemed necessary. As I approached, the subject opened large green eyes. They were gorgeous against his ebony fur.
"Mr. Raven, I'm an interviewer from..."
The subject cut me off. "...From that rag Chalk and Cheese? Well!" He gave a disapproving sniff. "I'm much too genteel to tell you where to go." Raven gave us a green-eyed glare. "But you can bet your arse I'll be thinking it!"
"Why, Raven. Whatever do you mean?" I asked.
"The very idea--portraying me as smoking those evil weeds!" Another sniff underlined the subject's disdain. "No self respecting moggy would ever do such a thing. Ruin the smeller, they do. Next thing you know, some Rottweiler's sneaked up behind you and snapped your neck. Or you miss out on the fact that your people have opened a tin of your favourite food in the world and without you underfoot reminding them how fond and all you are of it, the ungrateful gits have polished off the lot.
"And as for the insinuation that I'm an ill-bred mongrel born in some back alley..." Words temporarily failed our subject. "I'll 'ave you know that I was born under the bed in a real house. Semi-detached!" Raven started washing one foot.
"But, Mr. Raven..." I protested, only to be interrupted.
"Every time I think about that moth-eaten, filthy coat they pictured me wearing..." Raven washed faster, then viciously bit at a tangle. "I 'ave never been so humiliated!" He gave me another glare. "I...am...a...cat! That's c-a-t, for you illiterate interviewers. Cats wash. They wash constantly. In fact, if we aren't sleeping or eating, we're usually washing. The only moggy I ever met who had a coat remotely resembling the one portrayed by your artiste was the unfortunate Snowball. Poor thing. She was traumatized at an early age. Two vicious children attempted to flush her down the loo. She never recovered from the shock; and she never washed herself again. After a few months you'd ve been hard pressed to tell that she was a white cat. The poodle next door started calling her Slimeball instead of Snowball. In sheer despair, the poor dear ended her life by dashing under the wheels of an omnibus."
There was a long pause. Raven gave a sigh.
"Now, where was I? Oh, yes. Cataloguing the multitudinous sins of your colleague." He gave me an exceedingly evil glare.
I cleared my throat. "Ummm. The readers would like to know whether your dissatisfaction with the earlier interview is the reason that there have been no recent stories...?"
"What?" Raven exclaimed. "The readers are blaming me for the lack of stories?" The long black back rose in an arc, every hair bristling. Raven hissed like an enraged tea-kettle.
"How cruel!" Raven yowled. "It 'ad nothing to do with that... interview... Merely coincidence." He unruffled his fur and commenced a long period of frantic washing After he calmed down, our subject started talking.
"I 'ave been trying to get our Chronicler to get on with the series for simply ages now. With absolutely no results. The ungrateful b-" Raven stopped to clear his throat. "Pardon me. No well-bred moggy should ever use that sort of language." He sat down in a sphinx pose.
"Let us just say that our Chronicler has been claiming to suffer from a case of massive writer's block. And has been looking for a cure."
Here the subject stopped for a moment to mutter under his breath. It sounded like he said something about writing in other fandoms. "However," Raven continued in full voice. "She has sworn that should the muse return the rest of my story will appear within the pages of Chalk and Cheese. In the meantime, do your readers have any questions? I'll answer anything that doesn't ruin a potential plot."
"Well, the number one question on our readers minds is whether or not Murphy and McKenzie are going to end up...together," I said delicately.
"Interesting question. I 'aven't a clue, mate. At this point the Smurph's love life is so far up in the air it would take the space shuttle to retrieve it--the whole thing is driving our Chronicler round the twist. You see, she really thought that the poor boy was going to end up happily ever after with that Atwood fellow. At least, she did until Bodie started dropping in on her late at night, sitting on the end of her bed and staring at her. Didn't say a word, mind you. Just sat there and stared at her all reproachful-like. Doyle finally got exasperated at the way this little vigil was putting a crimp in his love life. One night, he stormed in, kicked Bodie off the bed, sat down and laid the whole thing out for her--how Atwood was a cheating, cowardly weasel, and how Murphy deserved ever so much better. He then suggested the red-head who was scheduled for the next in-take at CI5. Mission accomplished, Doyle dragged poor W A.P. back to their flat where they threw me out of the bed-room. I don't know precisely what went on, but the old bedframe had to be hauled out next morning--in rather smallish pieces. Next question."
"What happened to the red-head?" I asked in confusion.
"Well. There was this Welsh bloke name of Cameron Mckenzie. He had this walk-on part in Tell a Woman (Building to Last #8, C&C7) where his only job was to watch Bodie's back. He took one look round and his eyes settled on Murphy. So our Cam started showing up in the Chronicler's bedroom nights. He was a bit more subtle than Bodie, mind you. And ever so much more subtle than Doyle. McKenzie just sat on the floor at the head of the bed and whispered into her dreams. He's romantic, is Cam. It was almost poetry the way he told her as 'ow Murphy was his one true love, that he'd never hurt the lad, that she couldn't just hand 'im over to the red-head, who was the wrong sex, anyway."
"Wrong sex?" I interjected.
Raven polished a bit of invisible cream off his whiskers. "Oh?" he said, feigning innocence. "Didn't I mention that the red-head was female? How remiss of me."
I could swear the furry...subject...was laughing at me.
"Anyway," Raven continued. "The Chronicler fell for the whole line of drivel. She began looking ahead to another happily ever after. Only Murphy wouldn't co-operate. He started getting all moody and sullen on us. The more Cameron mother-henned him, the worse it got. Now he's off dating every unattached female in the Greater London area, and refusing to even look at another man. Cam is getting discouraged. And since he's truly in love with the moody bugger, our Welshman's been acting like Sidney Carton--offering to throw himself on the next bomb, or transfer off the squad. He'd do anything that would bring a sparkle back to Murphy's eyes (whatever colour they are). When Bodie asks him, What about your happiness? Cam just says that the only way he'll ever be happy is if his love is happy.
"It's enough to make a grown cat cough up a fur-ball. And on top of that what's-'isname, the blond trainer bloke..."
"Macklin," I supplied helpfully.
"Yeah, Macklin. Well, 'e's started giving Cameron the eye. Not that our Welsh bloke has noticed, mind you. Cam's as thick as two bloody planks when it comes to his love life. If I were a yappy terrier instead of a well-bred moggy I'd bite that bloke's ankles. Someone needs to shake him out of that martyr routine. Next question."
"What's going to happen in the future?" I read off my notes.
"Well. You'll never see a story about either Bodie or Doyle dying. Our Chronicler says that she recognizes her limitations and truly heavy drama is a bit beyond them. On the other hand, she's hinted on more than one occasion that I'd best not give 'er stick or I'm for the high jump. Cats, after all, have a fairly limited life-span compared to humans. 'S why I was so bloody upset at that interview piece that appeared. Didn't want her thinking I'd been sneaking round behind her back, telling tales out of school." Raven gave a big sniff.
"Personally, I think that your interviewer was taken in by an h'imposter." Raven looked right and then left before continuing.
"See. Ever since that Breathed fellow stopped drawing Bloom County, there's been this certain shabby orange marmalade moggy at loose ends." Raven leaned in conspiratorially, and lowered his voice. "I'm sure I noticed the vaguest hint of stripes on that cat drawn by your artiste. It's my guess that a good forensics lab could prove that the interviewer actually talked to... none other than Bill the Cat, sporting a bad dye-job." Raven leaned back with a smug look of satisfaction.
"Go back and look at the pictures. Note particularly the eyes, the coat, the..." Raven shuddered, "...tongue. You'll see." As this interviewer sat there in stunned silence, there was the sound of a motor pulling up to the kerb. Raven leaped to his feet.
"Sorry, mate. My flatmates've just come home. If I'm not at the door to greet them, they start worrying about me and talking about taking me to the Vet. Anyway, all that material should keep the readers relatively calm for a bit. Say hello to them all for me!"
And our subject hurried away.
-- THE END --
Originally posted in Chalk and Cheese 17, Whatever You Do, Don't Press! (Agent With Style), 1997