(Here’s the third segment of Gnocchi. I think you probably know the best way to read this – if you haven’t read part two, read that first. If you haven’t read part one, go back even further and rest your eyes on that before the others, for maximum comprehension)
LEG THREE: WILL
Later in the summer, during a lull in riots and with Gnocchi growing a little more confident, Will decided they were probably just about due to hold some kind of social event at the house. With approval from Rebecca and Pietro he began to send out invitations and to prepare the house and barbecue. Gnocchi nosed around, nuzzling Will’s hands as he tried to get on with his tasks.
On some days Will even worked through the siesta, leaving Rebecca and Pietro to get on with it alone as he gently remodelled the hallways, formed sausages and burgers in the kitchen, checked and rechecked the invite list. It was not that he particularly wanted to host a party but he felt in some way that they should be sociable and extend their boundaries, even if it were only for one night. The state of the outside world was unpredictable, from one day to the next – it might rain or the streets might sweat with the trembling of riotous hands again. Gnocchi kept an eye on it all from her catflap.
Pietro and Rebecca had devised a two person play that they used to entertain Gnocchi when she was restless. This was wheeled out whenever Will was busy shifting party furniture or hoovering the floor. Gnocchi would watch what they were doing and then as soon as it was over, turn around to look for the disturbance, as if she had noticed it and filed it away to investigate later. Of course by then Will had finished his chore and there was nothing for Gnocchi to find.
The day of the party arrived, like a steam train into their lives.
Before the guests arrived, Pietro enticed Gnocchi into a quiet and sparse room at the back of the house, made sure the window was closed and there was the right strength – not too much, not too little – of catnip toys to keep her entertained for the evening.
And then the fun could begin. Rebecca leant against the fridge and played the mandolin as the partygoers began to drift in. Rod and Melanie were the first couple, quickly accosted by Will to talk about accounts. Pietro busily introduced himself to arriving parties, Sergio, Gerrard, Josie. Waves of guests became a flood – Kevin, Samantha, Simon, Simone, Pierre, Tamsin, Andy, Michelle – and in this ocean of people bottles bobbed and clinked like secret messages in the crowd. The mass of people swigged and swayed with the rise and fall of an alcoholic tide, their bodies and minds becoming something else as time passed.
Upstairs, Gnocchi lay on her back on the floor, rolling over and over in self-contained glee. Then she stood up quickly and pounced and pounced and pounced again at her catnip toy. Then she stayed still. Then she rolled over again. Eventually she found a seat with a cushion and curled up.
The party continued, relentless. Rebecca was persuaded to create an ice sculpture in the bath. Pietro entertained with his magic tricks. Will disappeared for a nap with Rod and Melanie upstairs. All seemed to be going well. There was little trouble out on the streets, it was not that kind of night, it was the other kind of night. Like there was valium in the air and xanax in the water.
Gnocchi, locked away upstairs, was out of sight but not out of mind and Pietro held court, explaining the little cat’s every little foible and habit to Tamsin, Pierre and Samantha. She was, he explained, the metronome of the house, the beat around which the three of them worked. At some point the formations in the party changed as the various guests mingled into new combinations.
Will and Rebecca found themselves together and stepped outside for a breath of fresh air, lying on the pavement in front of the house and watching the night happen around them. Neither of them said anything. There was no need. Both of them were thinking about another night, earlier in the summer, when a stray cardboard cut-out had wandered into their lives.
The party slowed to a halt – hosts and guests slumping one by one into sleeping positions. Drinks were discarded on tabletops and mantelpieces, some guests even fell asleep with their glasses still in their hands. Somewhere along the way, someone must have opened the door to the spare room and not closed it behind them, for soon came the soft steps of a little cat intent on re-exploring the rest of the house. She miaowed as she walked, making noises at what seemed to be random intervals. The noises were not so loud as to wake the partygoers.
Gnocchi ambled around, exploring these new human lumps, climbing on their chests and licking their bare skin. She discovered some drinks and tried licking these too, lapping the surface like they were tiny ponds. Most of them tasted slightly different and she concluded a survey of her options before settling for a dark red drink in a glass which somehow remained upright in the hand of some sleeping lady or other.
When Gnocchi finally fell asleep, curled up on the chest of a passed out reveller, she began to dream a strange dream of being a cat with thumbs, able to pick things up, open doors, write, throw, catch. Furthermore, the dream began to spread through the minds of the sleeping humans, directed, dictated and disseminated by Gnocchi. Dreaming drunk and out of control, they all shared thoughts of a world in which cats snuck around, quick-witted and able, learning how to dominate their human masters.
In the morning, Rebecca awoke with just this dream in her mind and, concerned, she climbed over Sergio and Rebecca to get out of bed. When she found Gnocchi, dozing thumbless in the living room, she was relieved. The house clanged and tripped with the sore heads of weary drinkers as they fumbled to consciousness like milkmen trying to find their way through the fog. Will grilled bacon and furnished the party with mid-morning sandwiches, which Gnocchi did her best to seem uninterested in. Soon after that, people began to depart.
They put the flat back together again, re-assembling the peace piece by piece. All the while the dream played in Rebecca’s mind, forming stories and art ideas. At teatime they ate dinner together, still a little sluggish as if their insides were made of glue. In the streets outside the house, fights tumbled again down the streets. This had not been forecast. They made sure Gnocchi was in the house, and then locked the door and drew the curtains and settled in for the night. Will rubbed Pietro’s toes whilst they watched a film, and Rebecca sat at her desk and began to work on some panels of a comic strip.
She was busy imagining a world in which cats wandered around attending to their every day business whilst wearing human-shaped clothes. In fact, she had decided that there was some petty revenge to be had in building a world in which cats had everything but opposable thumbs. In one panel, she drew some well-dressed business cats sitting at a roadside cafe, each of them trying desperately to pick up their cups of tea and only succeeding in chasing their drinks around the table, and eventually upending them. In another, a nefarious criminal cat tried desperately to pick bundles of notes out of a suitcase.
Rebecca showed Pietro and Will, and the three of them laughed about it. Gnocchi frowned as she tried to read the little comic, unable to reach out and turn the pages, but took it all with good humour. The happy scene seemed to go on forever, and when Will and Rebecca thought about it later it seemed as if there had been someone there recording it all, making a commemorative video of a unit at the peak of its powers.