(This is the fourth and FINAL part of Gnocchi… the denouement. If you haven’t read parts one, two and three, it might not make much sense. They are located just below this. Thank you for your time.)
LEG FOUR: GNOCCHI
The men came for Pietro in the middle of the night. Dragged him out of bed by his feet, pulled him down the stairs.
Will and Rebecca got out of bed, confused and oddly alert, and gave chase, attempting to hit and kick the men and put them off. They were outnumbered. The men broke back through the door, dragging Pietro behind him, his head bouncing off the floor.
Rebecca followed them out into the night, the cold tarmac beneath her feet, the night air on her bare skin. She shouted hard, but all she could catch was a fleeting glimpse of a van screeching off down the road. Will joined her outside, catching his breath. Pietro was gone.
Gnocchi burst past them, tearing off into the night in search of her master. She sprinted, front and back legs stretching out as she hurried through town, following her nose. Past houses and gardens, past the shops, over busy roads she barely gave a second’s glance. To the dock and then down the slipway until the water was lapping at her tiny pasta paws. The little cat stared into the water and then slipped solemnly in, as if transforming into an otter in the moonlight.
This was where the men had left Pietro, and it was her job to bring him back.
The little cat paddled, finding a way of moving in this alien underwater world, a world devoid of weight and hard surfaces so that she didn’t feel the ground beneath her paws, could not leap and land agile. She moved as if in a dream. Fish swarmed around her, strangely curious of this new presence in their depths, but Gnocchi gave them barely a moment’s attention. A brief, distracting flash of a meal which she followed momentarily before pressing on.
Eventually – there he was! The little cat’s heart leapt, and in its leaping was noticed for the first time for there it was, beating, beating away, beating so hard it nearly sent ripples through the water. Gnocchi surged through the water, suddenly better, faster, stronger. Pietro was just feet away, turned back to his cardboard cut-out state but now soaked through so that he was long and thin and flimsy. The little cat nudged at his face, but found him to be unconscious. Her little heart beat like crazy, like someone kicking to get out.
She swam down towards Pietro’s feet and tried to hold onto his toes in her mouth but was left with little more than a mouthful of soggy cardboard. She tried again, didn’t bite down so hard and this time she had him. When she was sure, Gnocchi began to try and swim back to shore. The tide was against her but she kicked all four of her little paws against the water, doggy-paddling as hard as she could.
It wasn’t easy. She was learning all the time and now, finding out how hard it was to breathe underwater, she swam up up up – feeling the weight on her little lungs – up up up up until she broke the surface. Pietro slipped from her mouth for a moment as she gulped in air, and then she relocated him and got him back in her grasp. His soggy cardboard form was heavy and unwieldy. Gnocchi felt as though her fur was crawling with things, unknown sea things, but she had no time to think about that.
The shock of the situation, and Gnocchi’s poor feline memory made it difficult for the little cat to work out how long it took to get Pietro back to the shore. As she swam she kept going with thoughts of the summer she had spent in the midst of that tiny, imperfect family – curling up on top of them as they siestaed, bugging them for food as they cooked, laughing along with them. She thought of the way they had kept her safe from the scrapping cats on the neighbourhood streets and the tumbling riotous crowds charging through town. The thought of men driving around and kidnapping people in the middle of the night made her kick her little legs all the harder.
The waves crashed around her, the night sky ran black overhead, the feeling of sand against her belly. Gnocchi was not sure whether she passed out or washed ashore first.
A calm, restful autumn followed the chaotic summer. The streets were back to their predictable best, the houses were safe as houses. People seemed to have collected their senses, got back to their normal lives. No longer did the streets drip with sticky, sweaty danger.
Rebecca spent her days working on her art, and sending letters to galleries. Will had lots of accounts to work on, and he spread his time between working from home, and going into the city to work in the office.
Every evening they visited Gnocchi in the veterinary clinic and picked some more of the limpets from her fur. She would purr a little and sneeze a lot, lying on her side under a blanket. Soon the little cat would be well enough to go home, and Rebecca could just imagine her wandering around in the waistcoat she had finally started to make.
The house seemed empty without Gnocchi, and without Pietro. Pietro, their hearts beat harder. The summer had presented him and the summer had taken him away, they knew that.
It hurt but they knew that it was… They were just glad that… It was better to have…
They had enjoyed him whilst he was there.
Autumn wandered on, weeks stretching to years as the leaves fell. Christmas strolled around the corner, and the veterinarians decided that it was time for Gnocchi to go home. She had regained her strength, was sneezing less and her fur was now free of sea creatures.
Rebecca and Will welcomed her home to a family Christmas. They exchanged no spurious presents, but presented her with the waistcoat and ate a meal together. Gnocchi wandered around for a while, looking for Pietro but there was something in the way the little cat moved that suggested she did not really believe she would find him. She made do with Will and Rebecca roughing up her fur and stroking the back of her neck with their knuckles. That was enough.
It was a happy ending, not quite an ending, just somewhere to stop and regroup before they got on with exploring the rest of their lives.