I am going to put short stories as I finish them on this page before adding them, at various points, to the sequence which is headed My Secret Hove.




        “Which story shall we read?”
        “This one, daddy!”
        “We’ve read it before, many times.”
         “All right.”
Every day he was there, on the seat of a motorcycle at the side of a main road.
      Beneath the seat was a large fuel tank, and from either side of the handlebars there protruded rear-view mirrors while behind there was a topbox. Some people say that a topbox detracts from the smart lines of a motorcycle and hinder the flow of the air around it - but a topbox is very useful.
         He spread out, content with his life in Hove, so much so that he did not leap away when passers-by stopped to stroke his tabby fur and nubble the neck below a head which was somewhere between a circle and a triangle in shape.
        “How happy he looks! And he doesn’t mind the traffic, even that noisy truck coming along to empty the bins.”
           Once in a while, he jumped to the ground. There he spent some time beside a hole at the bottom of an elm. Trees can live even when their inside is hollow, and this provided a home for various creatures, all of whom are far too sensible to come outside when X is sitting there.
            He is known as X because he does not have a name-tag around his neck, only a catcam which must make for very dull viewing, for there is only a motorcycle or a tree to watch. Who does this? Nobody knows exactly where he lives - but live somewhere he must, for he is well fed.
            “But if he’s well fed, why does he sometimes look for other animals?”
           “That’s what cats are like, they hunt, just as we used to do.”
           “Did we? When did you hunt, daddy?”
         “Never. I mean human beings used to do so when we lived in caves, and even did so more recently. In some places they still do.”
          “That sounds a lot of bother when you can buy food, like in this café.”
          “Let’s get on.”
        His tail is like a dog’s - it wags when he is happy, and he is indeed a happy cat whom many think a very lazy cat. Most cats are. They sleep for many more hours than we do, and then they run around, up and down, the stairs - although not up the curtains as they did when kittens.
        “Look at them! Do you think this is a picture of him as a kitten? I wonder what happened to the other one?”
        “They are often taken, or bought, by different owners.”
        “Don’t they miss each other after growing up together?”
       “They might but they are understanding animals, they take things as they come. Unlike many humans.”
       “You mean that neighbour of hours who is always moaning?”
        “Enough of that.”
        “What happens next?”
        “You know, we’ve read it before.”
        “I like to pretend we haven’t. Do you do that with your books?”
        Sometimes. A good book always take you by surprise - you’ve already learnt that.”
       At teatime X usually disappeared for a while. This was when he went back to eat. He saw fewer people in the evening, especially when it was dark. People, too, go home to eat but they often stay there, especially when it is dark. Cats, though, can see well in the dark. Look at one in the daylight and the eyes have just a black slit in the middle.
       “Oh, yes. Look! Our eyes change but I do not think they become slits like that, just smaller circles.”
        “That’s right.”
        “Why? I don’t know. I didn’t do biology at school.”
        “Why not?”
        “I told you, we were asked to cut open a mouse’s shaven belly in the first lesson.”
        “Exactly. Don’t remind me of it again.”
        “Can we get a book about eyes?”
        “Of course. Or we can look them up online.”
        "I like books, I don’t want to be a child with a ’phone all the time, they look silly. There was even one in a buggy outside school the other with one in her hands.”
         “Let’s get on.”
        This particular evening the sun had gone down a while ago - “No! We’re not going to discuss the planets, we did that last time.” X had returned to the bottom of the elm tree where he hoped that one of its residents would be tempted to emerge and crawl about to explore in the dark. He was so absorbed in all this, his head held high above outstretched paws that he did not realise that, along the pavement, a dog was being taken for the day’s final walk.
        The dog’s harness was attached to an extendable lead. He leapt forward before the owner could fasten the lock tighter. It all happened quickly, like a cartoon.
        “Look, it’s like Tom & Jerry. The cat seems to have many more than four legs.”
        The dog was inches from the cat whose legs flapped in the air just as the dog, a small one who was all muscle, now stopped, locked in place by the owner’s thumb on the handle’s button. And, at that moment, unseen by anybody, two small mice took the opportunity to hurry from their tree home - a basement flat - and scurry off in search of grains, bread, anything they can find.
        “But we can see them. So it’s not true that nobody can see them.”
        “But it’s a story. There wouldn’t be one if we were in the position of the cat or dog.”
         "I see, I think.”
       In the upset, X had landed again on the seat of the nearby motorcycle. His heart was beating quickly, he was cross, so cross that he dug his claws into the cover of the seat.
        “We have hearts as well. Do all animals?”
        “I think so, but I am not sure about fish and worms, and...”
        “We must read about that. Doesn’t the heart get tired of beating all the time? No holiday.”
          “No, your heart likes doing that.”
        And then X stretched out, calm again. A cat does not like to be excited for very long.      

That, though, was about to change. He did not know what he had done, for cats think of motorcycles only as something to sit on. Perhaps he had touched something..
        There was a roar, a shudder, a shake, the support prop swung up from the ground, the tyres squealed - rather like a cat - and the handles turned several times as the big front light came on and the motorcycle left the space between two motor cars and sped along the road.
         All this had happened too quickly for X to jump off. He might even have been hit by the motorcycle if he’d done so. Cats can cope with heights but, quick as they are, they cannot match the speed of a motorcycle. All of X’s thought and energy had to be given to clinging onto the seat.
         “And he’s not even got a helmet on, he’s in great danger.”
      The motorcycle reached a red traffic light where several motor cars waited. “They’re going to crash, the cat will be killed!”
       But, no, the motorcycle shuddered again, slowed a little, and then took off at a sharp angle into the sky but none of the drivers saw this sensational event as they were busy with dull text messages on their ’phones.
         “Aren’t they silly? They are missing the real thing., they could have taken a photograph of it.”
          By now the motorcycle was high in the sky. X felt better for this. It was quieter, he could not be seen and the journey was smoother. But he did not know where he was going, he was already a long way from his territory, and he missed his Hove pavement. He clung on tightly. It would be a long way to fall, too far even for a cat. He would have shaken in fear but it is dangerous to shake when high in the sky on a motorcycle.
          “What’s the highest a cat can jump from safely?”
          “Depends on the cat, I don’t know exactly but its tail acts as a sort of parachute.”
          “But not a parachute that would work from an aeroplane or flying motorcycle.”
         “Definitely not.”
       On and on went the motorcycle and its feline passenger, above the lights of houses and around the red light at the top of a crane which was helping to build a tall new block of flats.
        “Cats would not like to live there, they couldn’t go out.”
        “There are house cats but it can’t be as much fun for them, can it?”
        “No, a prison. Or, as you say, gaol.”
        “I do, think what a difference the order of the letters makes - it could easily be goal.”
        “If you’re a football a goal is a gaol, sort of. Keep on reading!”
        “All right, it’s usually you that holds us up.”
        A cat can see well but X still had no idea why all the small lights above him in the black sky were there. They seemed as far away as ever. Perhaps the motorcycle was going to take him closer to one. At this speed it couldn’t take long. As it was, even though there are many of then, they were of little use, unlike that big one which went out every night and left behind one which keeps changing its shape. Tonight this was a crescent.
       There were fewer lights below them now as the motorcycle’s beam lit a pathway through the sky. Hills rose at the edge of the town, a few roads curved through these, small villages came and went, and yet nobody looked up to report a low-flying motorcycle though some of them are in the habit of seeing UFOs. Even one of the pilots, at the wheel of a jet soon to land at the airport, was unaware of this rival in the sky.
       X did not know how much time went by, he never needed to do so; when he was hungry, he knew it and made his plans accordingly. He had eaten enough for now and even if he had found some food on the motorcycle he would not be able to keep it down - and cats feel foolish when they are sick, just as we do. It is embarrassing.
       After some while, the motorcycle turned in a circle, its engine changing sound as it slowly descended and the ground came closer, rushing by as they approached it.
If X had almost come to enjoy the smooth flight, he was now very scared, even tempted to jump off but he dug his claws in even deeper, closed his eyes for a second and felt the tyres hit the ground. Wind went past at such a rate that his ears were pressed flat backwards, all pink.
        “Is a cat all pink without fur?”
        “I think so - they get upset if it’s shaved for an operation.”
        X’s heart was again beating quickly - and not enjoying it. Although the motorcycle had stopped, he stayed on the seat.
        He did not know what to do.
       Just then there was a strange sound on the air, a sort of baying, and X’s nose detected a strong smell the like of which he had never known. At the same time, the motorcycle tipped a little to one side, enough for him to fall safely to the ground.
       When he looked up, he realised that he was between two cages far bigger than the one in which he was taken now and then to the vet for mysterious jabs in his side. He twitched his little pink nose several times. He could not fathom that strong smell on the air, it was new to him.
       And then he saw that behind the bars a group of animals had come forward to look at him.
        “They’re monkeys!”
        “Yes, but he does not know that, they’re new to him, he’s never seen or heard of them.”
        X arched his back and hissed, but he need not have done so as the monkeys were friendly creatures, happy to have a visitor, especially as they had never seen a cat. The Zoo did not have one, nor were dogs allowed to visit there.
        The monkeys ran to and fro, they climbed up the bars to entertain X, who wondered for a moment whether he should join in the chase, it looked such fun, but his whiskers told him that he would not be able to squeeze in there. He gave a miaow, and then several more while the monkeys squeaked in reply. Although neither could understand the other, they enjoyed this jolly time.
       X wondered if he would learn their language if he stayed here. After all, in Hove he had begun to understand more of what humans said than they realised. And that made him ache to be back there, beside the road where the ’buses and trucks went by. Cats do not cry but they can become very sad.
       As if sensing this, a young monkey did some summersaults and then vigorously scratched himself while X smiled, and gave a loud purr. He would have stayed longer by this cage but the motorcycle suddenly righted itself and began to move away. X ran after it, and was able to leap upon the seat and cling on while the young monkey gave a wave of sad farewell. In a minute or two, though, the motorcycle again fell over and X spread his feet across the ground to break his fall.
       He was really cross with this motorcycle. It was teasing him, just like a dog teasing a cat - or a cat teasing a dog (X himself liked to annoy dogs by rolling over on the pavement just out of their reach, it was great fun). And seagulls never responded to the noise which he made when he saw them nearby, on a window sill or the branches of tree - even at home between the chimney pots with their babies.
       Perhaps all animals tease one another, and this can become war, as human beings have found time and again since they left their homes in the caves. And now it began to rain. Cats, particularly X, do not like it. Unlike dogs, they are not sometimes obliged by their owners to walk through it but instead find a place to shelter.
       “Why do dogs run into the sea but glare out at the rain?”
      “I don’t know - and they do not like to have a bath after getting muddy, their tail curls between the legs.”
        X ran from the pathway and the motorcycle - and came to a doorway. He pushed his head against it, and a light came on. He could not see anything here but, out of curiosity, which a cat never loses, he jumped onto a wooden shelf at the edge of a glass case. All was still inside it. This was only a place in which plants grew, rather like one of those greenhouses in some of the Hove back gardens where he walked along the walls. This was certainly not something for which to have made a long journey upon a flying motorcycle.
         But X thought too soon.
        At this very moment, there was a rustle audible through the glass - a long, thin creature with scaly skin reared from that undergrowth and became several feet high with more flesh stretched in the direction of X who did not hesitate to leap down, run to the door and into the rain. Even this was nicer than that reptile.
         “What makes something into a reptile?”
         “We’ll look into that.”
          “All right, but I think I have worked out what X’s name is?”
           “Oh, what is that?”
          “I’m not telling you, he wants it to be a secret.”
          The motorcycle had not moved. It was used to the rain. X looked at it, wondering what it would do but nothing happened. And then, from the corner of his eye, he saw a cat. This one had similar fur to him - and was behind the bars of another cage. X had to go and say hello, glad as he was to find a friend here if he could not get back to Hove.
          He walked across and looked closer at the animal. Never had he seen a cat exactly like this one, larger than any he had met, with especially big paws which he, or perhaps she, held out in a playful way. X did likewise, and saw how much smaller his were.
           Still, they would be able to have some fun.
          Or, rather, not. From the back of the cage leapt a huge creature, similar in colour to the one he had thought might become a friend.
         No chance of that now! This was, he deduced, a very angry parent who would regard a cat as a mere snack.
          “That always terrifies me!”
          “It’s all right - look!”
         So loud was the lion’s roar that the motorcycle woke up, stirred like an animal, and began to sit up. X again ran towards it as the shower of rain stopped. When he got closer, he saw that the lock of the top box had broken with all these tumbles. The lid was open a little. So tired now, X felt that he needed a good sleep.
           Had he noticed this before, he would have crept into it straightaway but that would have meant that he never met these strange creatures, some of whom were friendly and others frightening, all of them enough to satisfy his curiosity for a long while to come.
            He was now in the box, and adjusted himself as the motorcycle became upright. He was so tired, he had never been awake so long and he fell into such a sleep that, unusually for a cat, he did not wake up at the sudden noise of the motorcycle’s engine.
           This time, X did not see the strange lights in the dark sky, nor the aeroplanes which arrived from the Far East overnight.
            Nothing in the whole world could now disturb him.
        He did not even wonder how many of his nine lives he had used up during this extraordinary night. He was simply glad to be a very lucky cat who was going home.




Several days had gone by and the sun was shining on Hove.
          Although X still hoped to discover the inhabitants at the bottom of the tree, he now spent most of his time on the front wall of a nearby garden. Many people went by and remarked how strange it was that he no longer sat on the motorcycle. But cats are like that, they can change their habits.
            Fickle would be a good name for X.
          And he was never blamed for the state of the saddle. When the owner saw it, he put it down to vandals, and complained to the Council who would not have known about the nighttime journey and said that they would ask a policeman to walk along there when he could.
           “Could it all have been a dream?”
       “But the saddle was so shredded, that’s more than the work of a few seconds‘ nightmare.”
        “And what about the catcam?”
        “I’ve not seen any reports about it.”
        “I sometimes wonder if a story ever ends. We’ll have to read it again.”
        “Not just yet. I have to pay so that we can go home.”