Sifting through a flurry of invitations that rained upon them with the approach of spring, Keats and Chapman eventually settled upon visiting a dear animal-lover, Geoffrey Malmouth, for what was billed to be the Greatest Cat Show in The North. Away from the blustery, biting winds sweeping in off the North Sea, what on first glimpse appeared to be nothing but a large warehouse had been converted into a true Aladdin’s cave for the cat fancier. Felines of all sizes and breeds, colours and patterns were present, and there were prizes for all manner of category, youthful and old, hirsute and bald, a veritable multitude of attractions to grab the visitor’s attention.
The highlight of the prize-giving ceremony was to be the awarding of the Breeder’s Achievement Award, conferred upon the breeder who had in the eyes of the panel done the most for his or her chosen breed in the course of the year. Whilst Geoffrey was not short-listed for it, he had been given what in his view was an honour greater than the prize itself: that of supplying the model for the so-called AilurOscar, a gold-plated, life-sized cast replica of last year’s champion. Said model, a superb Burmese specimen by the name of Mystique, had been put into a narcosis and taken to the sculptors just a few days earlier, and should have been returned with the unveiling of the prize. The latter now stood gleaming on the prize-winners’ table, but of Mystique there was no sign.
As the day wore on, it eventually came for the prizes to be awarded, the judges having had sufficient time to make their decisions on the vast quantity of fur and claws they had seen that day. Geoffrey started to get particularly agitated that he still hadn’t seen his cat, especially when he noticed the sculptor sidle into the room and take up a place at the back of the crowd, without word or sign of Mystique in tow. His agitation soon took effect on Chapman who, more suo, decided to take the bull by the horns and demand an explanation. Rather pale in the face, he returned.
“Well,” prompted Geoffrey, after waiting patiently for Chapman to begin, “where’s Mystique?”
“I’m afraid our friend over there seems to have gotten the wrong end of the stick about your instructions, dear boy,” came the stammered reply. “He took it that your feline companion was in something, well, far deeper than a narcosis, and the prize was to double as something of a sarcophagus.”
Geoffrey was aghast; his mouth working like a fish, he eventually sputtered out his disbelief. Chapman assured him he wasn’t tugging on anyone’s appendages.
“You mean that little statuette is my Mystique?” came the blurted response, to which Chapman nodded in affirmation. “But this is an absolute disaster!”
“I think,” offered the till-now silent Keats politely, “you mean a catastrophy.”