Joseph's Cat

by Pedro

pedro@awesomedude.com

Joseph thought himself an ordinary boy, living in an ordinary house in an ordinary town, and part of an ordinary family with two point four kids. His sister used to say the point four was the family cat until it ran out of lives arguing with the traffic on the main road.

Joseph was studying the footpath as he walked home from his bog standard school. It had been an ordinary day, actually the wrong side of ordinary. It was Monday for starters, always a bummer after the freedom of the weekend. Then the English teacher, Mr Ellis had called him out for not paying attention when they were set last week's essay assignment. He had completely missed the point of the task: 'I have a dream'. How was he supposed to know Mr Ellis wanted some comment on the Social Condition? Double bummer.

The triple whammy was completed by Drone Cooper. Drone's real name was Tyrone, but he had decided Drone sounded harder. He was totally oblivious to why Joseph and his friend, Paul, thought the name appropriate.

It was nothing out of the ordinary for Drone to 'persuade' the kids in Joseph's year to contribute to The Cause: Drone's Wellbeing. They had all had to pay up several times each term. Nobody refused, or at least not a second time. His size and strength made sure of that. Joseph reckoned Drone was a walking Nobel Prize for anyone studying homo neandertalis.

Drone had decided that it was Joseph's turn to forfeit his week's dinner money for the good of The Cause. Not only would Joseph go hungry that day, but he would also have to raid the fridge for the rest of the week to take a pack lunch. He expected some grief from his mother for 'eating them out of house and home', but that was better than having to explain why he wasn't getting lunch at school. It would have been no use taking extra money with him. Drone would have relieved him of that as well.

Joseph's contemplation of his own social condition was interrupted by a mewling sound. He looked up to see a black cat sitting on the chest high wall at the side of the path. As they made eye contact, the cat stood and took a pace towards Joseph and mewed again as if asking for the boy to reach out and stroke it.

Joseph complied. He put his hand up and stroked the cat a couple of times before starting to scratch that spot behind the ear. Like most do, the cat seemed to enjoy that and pushed back against the boy's hand.

As he fussed the cat Joseph realised that he still missed Mog, the family's old cat.  The other cats in the neighbourhood seemed to keep themselves to themselves. Maybe this one was new in the area; he couldn't recall ever having seen it before.

After five minutes or so Joseph thought he had better head on home or his mother might wonder where he was. He stroked the cat one last time before saying goodbye.

As he walked home, he realised his mood had improved and the world seemed a better place. He also had to put his hand in his pocket and adjust himself. He thought nothing of it. It was something that was part of being a teenage boy.

.oOo.

The next morning, the cat was sitting on the wall, as if waiting for Joseph to pass on his way to school. It stood up and stretched. The action attracted the boy's attention.

"Hi, Snowy."

Joseph, with the unfathomable logic of the schoolboy mind, had decided this was to be his name for the black cat. He reached up, tickled it behind the ear and stroked his hand along its back, then turned to walk on towards school. He would be late if he stopped for longer and that was so not a good way to start the day.  It would earn him a detention at the very least.

The cat walked to the end of the wall, then jumped down onto the footpath and scampered along just in front of the boy until they reached the junction where Joseph had to cross the road to get to school. Whilst waiting for the lights, he leant down and repeated his greeting this time letting his hand run right to the end of the cat's tail.

"You had better go home. It's not safe for you to try and cross the road on your own. That's how Mog was killed."

The buzzer sounded for the crossing and the cat walked away. Joseph set off across the road. He put his hand in his pocket and made himself comfortable.

.oOo.

His encounter with the cat had put Joseph in a good mood for the day. He didn't get embarrassed when Mr Ellis picked on him to confirm he understood the essay task for the new week.

He wasn't even nervous when he saw Drone looking for contributions to The Cause. Not that he needed to be. Paul had told Joseph that everybody, including Drone, knew he never brought money to school other than his dinner money on Mondays.

All in all it was an ordinary day, except the world didn't seem have quite its usual grudge against him.

.oOo.

As he waited for the crossing on his way home from school, Joseph felt something rub against his leg. He looked down and saw Snowy standing there with that air of feigned innocence that comes naturally to cats. The buzzer sounded and the boy noticed the cat appeared to be checking the traffic before heading across the road.

"You've got more traffic sense than Mog ever had." Joseph said to the cat when he caught up with it on the other side of the road. The cat rubbed against his legs again before they headed off towards Joseph's home.

When they got to the wall, the cat jumped up and Joseph stroked it as they walked along. Joseph thought he heard a moped coming along the road before he realised it was the cat purring. Loudly.

"You've really got your motor going, haven't you, Snowy."

Continuing to pet the cat, the boy wondered if it was a happy cat just being friendly, or was it turning on the charm in the hope of finding a better life. He thought, if the opportunity arose, he would ask his mother about giving the cat a home.

They reached the end of the wall and Snowy stopped. Joseph stopped too so that he could carry on stroking the cat. In doing so, he noticed the apparently petite cat was actually built. Although it was relaxed he could still feel the strong muscles below the sleek fur.

'You must be well looked after,' thought the boy. But he knew that did not mean the cat would not look elsewhere for extra food and attention. What was that saying? 'Dogs have masters, cats have servants'.

His earlier question was answered, at least for the time being, as the cat stayed on the wall when Joseph decided it was time to stop playing with it and headed off home, hand in pocket.

.oOo.

The next day was much the same as the previous one, except Snowy had followed Joseph all the way to school. The boy caught glimpses of the cat around the campus during the day, but it kept out of the way, as if aware that it would not help Joseph's street image to be seen with the boy at school.

After school they parted company in the usual place. As Joseph put his hand in his pocket yet again, he came up with the idea that this was more than coincidence. He couldn't remember Mog having this effect on him, but then Mog had died before his voice had broken and those other changes to his body had started.

Joseph needed to check if the effect was specific to Snowy or if it was just the sensual act of stroking any cat. He knew how he could test his hypothesis. Paul's family had a ginger tabby. He would ask his mum if he could go round to Paul's the next day. It should not be a problem, they would have maths homework and they sometimes worked on it together. He hoped Eric would be there. He lived near Paul and struggled a bit with maths and science. Paul had offered to help him when they found out he was getting worse marks than Drone.

Eric had difficulty grasping the teacher's explanations of the concepts. It didn't help that the teacher was from deepest Northumberland and half the class couldn't follow a word he said. Eric usually understood once the boys translated and explained things to him. He wasn't thick. In fact he was usually near the top in one subject: English. Joseph thought he would like to get to know Eric better and wished he lived nearer. He might also be able to help Joseph with his English homework. Eric had got the top mark in Mr Ellis's assignment last week.

When Joseph got home he found his mum in the kitchen, checking the contents of the fridge.  He knew she was about to ask if he had been raiding. He thought a pre-emptive change of subject was required.

"Hiya, mum. Do you know if anybody new has moved into the area?"

"Hi, Joseph. No, I don't. Why do you ask?"

Joseph thought he had got away with it. His mum wasn't really a gossip, but she did like to know what was going on round about and this was something she had not heard.

"Well there's a black cat that's been walking with me to and from school all week. It seems to live at the house with the wall. I've never seen it before. Do you think if it's a stray we can take it in?"

Joseph congratulated himself on working that in. He just needed to ask about going over to Paul's and thought the mention of homework would be his cue to escape to his room before she asked about the fridge.

"Some say black cats bring good luck. I would want to see it first and be sure it didn't belong to anyone else. You still miss Mog, don't you?"

"Yes, I suppose I do." Joseph stayed quiet for a bit as he remembered how the cat had been his silent confidant. He thought his sister, Melanie, used to tell Mog her secrets too. But it would never tell when asked, just give him a knowing look.

The pause allowed Joseph's mum to regroup.

"And don't change the subject on me young man. Have you been raiding the fridge?"

Joseph could feel his face colour and he shifted uncomfortably in his shoes.

"I'll take that as a yes. Has that bully, Tyrone Cooper, taken your dinner money again?"

"How did you know about that?" the wrong-footed Joseph blurted out, before he realised he had broken the schoolboy omertà.

"That's for me to know and you to guess."

In fact several mothers had been talking and come to the conclusion there was a bully talking their children's dinner money. Melanie had seen one of the kids giving money to Drone and had mentioned it to a friend within earshot of her mother, so they had a suspect but no confirmation. Joseph had just supplied that. Now they could plan what to do about it.

"Since you have been eating us out of house and home, you can run down to the shops and get some stuff to stock up. I'll make you a list."

"I'll go if I can go over to Paul's tomorrow after school. We'll have maths homework."

"You're in no position to bargain, young man. You'll go because there is nothing for your lunch tomorrow."

"Ah, looks like I'd better go then. Can I still go over to Paul's?"

"Not can; may." Joseph's mother emphasised the amended verb. She handed him the shopping list and some money. "Don't forget to bring me back the change or you can forget about going tomorrow."

Joseph set off to the shops. He didn't like going on his own. Drone lived near the shops and there was good chance of running into him. Because he wanted to get back as soon as possible, he decided to use the alleyway that cut down behind the houses. It was quicker but there would be no escape if he did meet up with Drone.

He had just started down the alley, when he saw Drone and his dog, Chase, turn in the other end. Chase was a Heinz dog, made up of 57 varieties, a high proportion of which seemed to be terrier. The dog was aptly named as it would chase anything, particularly cats. Indeed it was implicated in the demise of poor old Mog, but nobody had been able to identify the dog for sure.

"Go on, Chase" Joseph heard Drone command the dog.

 He realised Drone cannot have seen him and something else had attracted the bully's attention. It was then that he saw Snowy stretching lazily in a patch of sun about fifty feet away. The dog chased up, but stopped dead in surprise, when the cat did not get up and run off. Instead it languidly stretched out a paw and rested it on the dog's nose.

Joseph read the expression on the cat's face. Like something straight out of the movies it could only be 'Make my day, Punk.'

Chase made the mistake of growling. Joseph thought he saw a ripple of the muscles in the cat's paw before the dog yelped and ran off to go to heel beside Drone.

As they closed with him, Joseph noticed that Chase was careful to keep Drone between himself and the cat. Joseph wondered if Drone would kick at the cat as he passed it. He need not have worried for the cat. Drone's mind had difficulty coping with more than one concept at a time and by now Joseph was his centre of attention.

"Oh look, Chase. It's little Joseph. Looks like he is going shopping. That means he'll have some money for me."

Drone's amused tone disturbed Joseph. He felt seriously threatened. There seemed to be no escape in the confined space of the alley. It looked as though he was going to get a beating from Drone until he handed over the money. That would be followed by an ear bashing from his mother when he returned home empty handed: without the shopping or the change.

He closed his eyes, resigned to his fate, waiting for the first blow. He heard thuds like someone being hit but felt nothing. Suddenly he was learning new swear words and some interesting new constructions using those he already knew. Pity they would be unacceptable in Mr Ellis' class. He opened his eyes and looked down.

Drone was flat on the floor. He had landed on his face and smashed his nose. There was plenty of blood. He would sport a matching pair of black eyes for the next week or two. A sheepish Chase looked on at his master from a point safely out of range of feet or fists.

The two boys had forgotten about the cat as they got to close quarters. Chase had not. The dog had spotted Snowy circling round behind him. Still sore from their first encounter, the dog tried to make an escape the shortest way possible; through Drone's legs. Not expecting an attack by his own forces, Drone had tripped over the dog and gone down like the proverbial sack of potatoes.

Joseph did not wait for Drone to recover. He thought it prudent to take advantage of the situation and resumed his trip to the shops.

.oOo.

The shopping done, Joseph decided he would go home the other way in case Drone was waiting for him in the alley. Snowy was lying in his usual place on the wall, the very picture of inscrutable. Of course Joseph stopped to pet and talk to the cat.

"I don't know exactly how you did it but I'm sure I need to thank you for stopping Drone from hitting me and taking the money.

"You certainly gave that dog something to think about. He won't be so keen to chase cats in future."

Careful to avoid spooking the cat, Joseph stooped and hugged Snowy to his face.  They looked a team, the black cat and the boy with the black hair and pale complexion. The cat started to purr and Joseph became pleasurably uncomfortable once again.

By the time he reached home, Joseph had worked out what must have happened in the alley when he had his eyes shut. He had a smile on his face, amused by the idea Drone had been felled by his own dog.

"Hi mum, I'm back.  I've put the receipt and change on the table." Joseph shouted as he walked back into the house. He started to put the shopping away, something he normally tried to avoid.

"Thanks for going, son." His mother had come through into the kitchen. "What's put you in a good mood? A smile on your face and you're putting stuff away?"

Joseph told his mother about the incident in the alley and how Drone would have black eyes tomorrow. He left out the bit where Drone threatened to take the money, but he need not have bothered. His mother filled that in for herself.

"Have you asked Paul's mother if you can go there tomorrow?"

"Er No." Joseph was a bit surprised at the question. He often went round to Paul's. He hadn't even asked Paul yet.

"OK. I'll let her know. I could do with a chat with her. We haven't spoken for a bit." Joseph wasn't sure that was the case, but thought it better not to question his mother.

"Anyway, don't you think it is time you had your friends over? We haven't seen that blond bombshell Paul for a while...or that other good looking guy, the one with the sexy accent. They could do their homework as easily here. Why not Friday? I could make sure there was some food so they wouldn't need to rush off. "

Although this might look like a suggestion, Joseph knew it was more of an instruction.

"Er, okay mum. I'll put it to them tomorrow." 

Joseph didn't sound too keen. He was squirming a bit at the thought of his mother finding his friends attractive. He squirmed some more as he thought of Eric. For while Joseph knew he was ordinary, as he had moved through puberty and into the angst ridden years of being a teenager, he had come to realise that he was not what society generally considered normal. He too found Eric good looking and that accent truly was sexy. Joseph reckoned both were something Eric got from his Spanish father and Barbadian mother.

Joseph also squirmed at the thought of what Melanie would say when she found out the boys were coming over. After all it is one of the duties of big sisters is to embarrass their younger brothers. He had been embarrassed when his sister had tried to chat up Eric. Subconsciously jealousy might also have played a part, but Joseph thought she was too old for him. He conveniently forgot that he was the youngest in his class and Eric and Paul were two of the eldest. With Melanie only eighteen months older than him, the two boys were as near to her age as his.

There had not been a row but something had gone wrong between Melanie and Eric the last time he was over. That was embarrassing too, so Joseph had put off suggesting the guys come round. Melanie wouldn't tell him what the problem was, saying it was up to Eric if he wanted Joseph to know.

Joseph had had to ask although the only additional comment he could extract from Melanie was that Eric was a bit anal. That wasn't Joseph's assessment of Eric. He presumed his sister was being bitchy. But then Joseph had long ago concluded his sister could to put a boy off girls for life.

Had she not been aware of the influence of genetics, Melanie might have agreed. She could be said to have done so successfully in at least two cases. Her brother, whom she had never seen express any interest in girls at all, and Eric who, in the most gentlemanly way possible, had said to her, should the opportunity arise, he would like to have his ungentlemanly way with Joseph.

.oOo.

Paul and Eric were waiting for Joseph in the school yard the next morning. Snowy, who had followed Joseph into the yard at a discreet distance, gave Paul a cursory glance, sniffed the air and turned to Eric. A quick look up and down, then the cat moved in to rub against the boy's legs a few times before heading off to find a sunny spot for the day. If Joseph had been paying attention, he would have noticed Eric rearranging himself. As it was, Joseph was distracted by Paul bumping his shoulder.

"Mum says you're coming round after school, but what's this about you and Drone? Word has it he's got two black eyes and you were involved."

Joseph groaned inwardly. Paul's mother must have told him. Paul's mum will have got it from his mum. He started to tell his version of the story.

"...So I was pretty much an innocent bystander. It was nice to see him sprawled on the floor though."

"Way! Good Karma." said Eric shaking his fist.

"You should have kicked him in the goolies while you had the chance. It might have made him think that it was you that felled him." Paul swung his foot as if taking a kick.

"It never crossed my mind, I was just too glad it wasn't me on the floor."

They started to walk towards the door into school, but were stopped by a couple of kids asking if it was true that Joseph had beaten up Drone. By the time they got to their room and the bell went to start the day, Joseph had had to tell the story four times and had been 'high-fived' by half of his classmates.

How did they all know and so quickly? It only happened last night. He would have known the answer to that if he had mentioned the incident to Melanie at breakfast. She had seen how long their mother was on the phone last night while Joseph had been doing his homework.

Nobody had seen Drone yet, but that was nothing new. He was one of those that lived nearest the school and as such was frequently last in or late. Drone came in as the first lesson began. He looked like a panda with his black eyes and his nose was a mess. As he passed Joseph he pushed him on the shoulder.

"Break."

Joseph mulled over the one word threat during the early morning lessons. Somehow the memory of Drone on the floor made him less worried. Drone was not invincible after all. Joseph mentioned this to Paul in the hubbub between classes.

'Have you noticed how inattentive everyone seems this morning?" Paul was looking around.

"I've been too busy worrying about Drone."

"I'm not sure we will have to for much longer. There's a definite buzz in the room. I keep catching snippets of conversations. I think Drone's reputation may be damaged by this. I can't make up my mind which is worse for him, that you, 'little Joseph', felled him or the truth that he tripped over his own dog."

"I'm still worried."

"We'll be around, but stand up to him. This might be the opportunity to get him sorted."

Joseph wasn't sure he could be quite so positive, after all it was him in the firing line, but somehow he was less apprehensive than he had been in the alley yesterday.

Break time came and the three boys went out into the yard. Joseph was getting all sorts of signals of support from the other kids. That didn't stop him needing the piss he usually had at break time. He headed for the open air urinal in the corner of the yard. This was hardly a marvel of Victorian sanitary engineering but it had been left when the old school had been knocked down and replaced by the current, no longer modern, 1980's, building. A few pigeons were settled on the six foot six high modesty wall around the old urinal. They ignored Joseph as he walked in and stood on the step in front of the urinal wall

Finished, Joseph zipped up and turned to leave. Drone Cooper walked in, and advanced on Joseph trying to corner him.

"Got you. I'm going to make an example of you. I can't have my reputation ruined because of you."

Emboldened by the morning's conversations, Joseph tried to keep calm and focus on Drone's movements hoping to spot a way he could make a break for it. He heard a furious flapping of wings from the wall top beside him. A pigeon flew above Drone's head, close enough to distract him. Joseph shoved past Drone and caught him off balance. The larger boy stumbled and tripped over the step. He fell against the damp urinal wall catching his face on the plumbing on the way down.

Joseph headed out into the yard. He turned to look back in case Drone was following and saw the black cat on the top of the modesty wall innocently washing itself.

Eric and Paul bumped into him. They had seen Drone follow Joseph into the urinal and had come to help if things turned nasty. They extracted the story from their friend. This one was even better. Joseph, the youngest boy in the class had got the better of Drone again, this time with the aid of a pigeon!

The bell went for classes to restart.

In the canteen at lunchtime Joseph ate his ‘pack up’ and Paul and Eric had sausage and mash, the least worst option on the menu. Eric wanted to nip out to the shops, so he finished up quickly and left the other two to listen to the gossip at the tables around them.

Eric was just coming back into the school when he was stopped by Drone.

"Your turn to contribute. Turn your pockets out."

Ordinarily Eric would have complied, but with Joseph's escapades in his head he decided to make a stand.

"Your nose looks offal bad. Do you want me to kiss it better?"

"Do you want me to smack you around?” Drone snapped back. He waved his fist at Eric. ”Get your cash out and stop pissing about you effing daft n..."

Drone never got to complete the word. His nose suddenly hurt so badly he had trouble standing up. He needed his mouth to breathe, not speak. Eric had head-butted him.

"Sorry, Drone. I forgot to tell you I learnt to kiss in Glasgow."

Eric turned to walk on, only to find himself joined by two of the girls from his class who had witnessed the exchange. He knew from their reputation that half the school would know before home time. He wasn't far wrong.

Certainly all of Drone's victims knew. Drone knew there were no Scots in his year, but it was strange how many claimed to be from Glasgow that afternoon. One or two were even bold enough to ask if he wanted his nose kissed better, then followed up. All his authority seemed to have eroded in less than twenty four hours thanks to that damned Joseph and his own stupid dog.

His nose bloody hurt too.

.oOo.

The boys discussed the day's events as they walked to Paul's house. They greeted Paul's mum who asked the usual questions, like how the day had gone and what they were going to do.

"Okay, I suppose. We're going to do our maths homework then hang out for a bit."

Paul was about to lead the others through to the dining room where they would do their work. His mother had other ideas. She had been struck by the teens’ body language as they came in. Different to usual, definitely not just 'okay, I suppose'.

"Hold up! You all come in here looking like the cat that got the cream and all I get is 'okay'. What happened today that you're so happy? Spill it!"

She had to prompt a bit more but in the end they gave her a synopsis of what happened during the day and answered her supplementary questions.

"Go on, go and do your homework. While you're doing that I'll make some chocolate buns and you can have some when you've finished."

The boys went through to the other room and she went into the kitchen and soon had the buns baking in the oven. She picked up the phone to talk to Joseph mother. By the time the buns were cooked, several more phone calls had taken place and a decision had been made: the Drone Cooper problem looked as though it might have been resolved by the day's events and further action would not be necessary. They would, of course, monitor developments.

.oOo.

Homework done, the buns were being demolished.

"Chocolate buns. We must be in favour for some reason. They are mum's special treat."

"Then we had better remember to thank her again when we leave." Eric mumbled through a mouth full of bun.

"That reminds me." said Joseph "my mum wants you both to come over tomorrow. Like tonight, we can do our homework, and then she said she would put on some eats so you won't have to dash home. We could hang out for a bit."

"I think you just need my help with your essay for Mr Ellis." Eric raised an eyebrow at Joseph, who had the decency to blush.

"Is Melanie going to be around?" asked Paul.

"I suppose so. Why?"

"Well if Eric has fallen out with her, I wondered if I might be in with a chance."

"Eew! You fancy my sister. You must be desperate."

Paul playfully cuffed Joseph's ear.

"Ow. What was that for?"

"Your sister. I should hope she is 'eew' to you, she's your sister. But I think she's nice. Don't you agree, Eric?"

Eric nodded his head. "Discreet too."

"Discreet? She tells all her friends all my business. That's why I don't tell her anything. Doesn't stop her making stuff up."

"That's because you're her little brother. You're fair game."

"Nothing fair about it. Anyway, since we are on the subject, why did you fall out with her? She won't tell me."

"Exactly, she is discreet. I haven't fallen out with her. I just told her why I couldn't be more than just a friend."

"Are you going to tell us?"

"One day perhaps, but not now."

The door was pushed open and in walked Paul's family's ginger cat. Remembering the scientific reason for inviting himself to Paul's, Joseph lent down to try to attract the cat's attention.

"Hi. Nobby, come and say hello."

That earned Joseph another clip from Paul.

"His name is Basil."

"That was before he went to the Vet."

Despite Joseph casting alliterative aspersions about his accoutrements or lack thereof, the cat allowed Joseph to pick him up and settle him down in his lap. 

They chatted for a while, until it was time for Eric and Joseph to go home. Paul's mother was thanked for the buns and the boys went their separate ways. As he walked home Joseph realised his petting the ginger cat had not produced the reaction he got from stroking Snowy. It must be specific to the black cat. Now to find if anyone else has the same reaction and what that might mean.

.oOo.

On his way to school, Joseph met up with Snowy in the usual place. He started to pet the cat.

"Hi, Snowy. How are you today?" Joseph seemed to be in a cheerful mood this morning.

"Are you going to come home with us this evening? Paul and Eric are coming round and mum is going to do some food. I'm sure we can find some titbits for you."

The cat gave a little mew as if accepting the invitation, before settling back into his usual throaty purr.

.oOo.

The school day was back to ordinary after the excitement of the day before. Not for Drone though. The Cause had now become the cause of pain to him. Every time he tried to touch someone for a contribution, the response was another attempt at 'kissing' his nose better. By the end of the lunch break he had stopped trying.

After school the three teens were walking back to Joseph's house. As they turned off the main road they saw Chase, Drone's dog approaching from the other end of the street. They were not surprised to see it; it was often let out to roam on its own. Chase seemed to be looking up at the wall where Snowy was waiting for Joseph. The dog spotted the cat, stopped at the kerb before it crossed the road, walked along the other side until it was past the boys before crossing back to continue on its way. All the time, the dog was carefully watching the cat for any sign it might make an attack.

"Hi, Snowy. You've definitely made an impression on that dog." said Joseph as he stopped to introduce the others.

“Is this the cat that was around my ankles in school yesterday morning?” asked Eric. Joseph made a confirming grunt.

“I’m not really into cats. Normally they make me nervous but I think this one is cute.” Eric could not resist. He reached out and stroked the cat, any fear now dispelled.

Joseph attracted Snowy’s attention.

"Are you coming with us?"

The cat stood up, stretched, then fell in with the boys as they walked towards the Joseph's house.

They all said hello to Joseph's mum and introduced her to Snowy who was busy rubbing himself against Eric's shins. She bent down to rub the cat’s cheek.

"You're a pretty little thing. We'll get this lot settled doing their homework then I'll get you some milk."

"Okay mum, we get the hint. When will supper be ready?"

"About an hour and a half. That long enough for you to get finished?"

"Should be mum. Will Melanie be joining us?"

Joseph’s mother saw Paul blush at her son's question.

"I think she could be persuaded." She smiled and winked at Paul whose face took on a lovely strawberry hue.

The boys went off to do their homework. Joseph was glad for the help from the other two. Much like Eric had difficulty in maths, Joseph had problems identifying what was required for Mr Ellis' English homework. They spent some time discussing the concepts, so they had just finished the work when Melanie came to summon them to eat. Paul went a subtle shade of pink.

As the final preparations for the meal were taking place, Joseph noticed that Snowy seemed to be fussing round Eric most of the time. The cat did not pay much attention to Paul or Melanie.

At the table Melanie found a seat next to Paul. Snowy sat on the floor in a strategic position for the receipt of tasty morsels handed down. Eric and Joseph soon found they had to chat amongst themselves.  Not that it mattered for they too were busy getting to know each other.

The meal over and the table cleared, Melanie found a pretext for a walk to the shops: did they need milk and food for the cat? Nobody was surprised when Paul volunteered to go with her.

.oOo.

The two remaining boys had gone up to Joseph’s room to continue their conversation. They were interrupted when Snowy had walked in and mewed demanding their attention. So the boys were sat on Joseph's bed, Snowy between them. Both were lost in their own thoughts, and were idly stroking the cat. They had somehow synchronised so they took alternate strokes. The cat purred loudly.

As he had sat down Joseph had briefly put his hand in his pocket to ensure he was comfortable when his expected arousal occurred. He was watching Eric to see what his reaction was. Snowy had definitely gone to him and pretty much ignored Paul. Would the cat have the same effect on Eric?

Neither boy was paying the cat much attention as they stroked it. Had they been doing so they might have been forewarned.

As it was Eric was looking at Joseph. He knew that he found Joseph attractive, and was beginning to wonder if there was a possibility it might be mutual. He started to feel cramped in his briefs but decided to put up with it for now. To do anything would mean moving position on the bed and upset the rhythm of their stroking the cat. Eric felt a tingling sensation in his fingers each time his hand lifted from the cat and passed over Joseph's. He saw that Joseph's eyes seemed to be focused on his crotch. His reaction grew.

Joseph, for his part, missed the movement of the cat's fur each time Eric's hand lifted off. He was far more interested in the definite movement taking place in Eric's trousers. Too late, he raised his head to look at Eric, trying to avoid being caught staring at his lap.

Their eyes met and each realised they had both caught and been caught looking at the other. Both shivered with embarrassment and Eric's hand accidentally brushed Joseph's as he drew back for the next stroke of the cat. They both felt the surge of electricity between them.

"Ow! That hurt." Eric yelped as he shook his hand to relieve the pain.

"Static electricity...er...mm...let me make sure you are fully discharged." Joseph blushed as he took Eric's hand and, being very daring, slowly pulled him in for that first embrace. He was not rebuffed.

His work done, Snowy faded away leaving only his smile, a little trick he had learned from Alice's Cheshire Cat.

The End

My thanks to Nigel and Colin for their suggestions and edits.
Copyright © Pedro October 2015