Illuminations: An Anthology of Welsh Short Prose

By Meic Stephens | Go to book overview

On Drowning a Cat

T. H. Parry-Williams

I was helping a friend drown a cat one gloomy evening in November — or rather I was keeping him company in order to lend him a bit or moral courage and provide him with support — and everything and everywhere was exceedingly dismal. We were more fortunate than the Red Cobbler of Rhuddlan 1, because the cat, which was in pretty poor shape, had died in the sack as we went along, if that were a matter of any consequence. But coming back across the field from the river's bank, my companion remarked that he would sooner be hanged than ever again drown a cat, or at any rate a cat he knew like the one that had just gone to its doom, a cat which had shared his hearth, one of the family. I didn't feel any pang of grief that evening, but then there was no close connection between me and that cat, and so there wasn't a sudden emptiness in my life as there was in his, although I too could not but feel a certain sense of loss at seeing a creature that was likeable enough, as I knew from casual acquaintance, meet its end, while still fairly young, in sackcloth and waters. By dint of careful enquiry, I came to understand that it wasn't his fondness for that cat as much as an association with something that had occurred earlier in his life, of which drowning a cat had been part, that caused the distress to be so intense in his heart. The association, the connection — that, in fact, was,what mattered; and it's astonishing to think how everything of significance and every eventful period and special time in life, however brief it may be, is tied to and connected with something that has gone before or is presumed to be yet to come. That is what causes the particular events or circumstances to imprint themselves so deeply on the spirit. Unless there is such a connection, the thing is too new and too unfamiliar, and we do not experience it fully because there is about it no aura of our own making.

I know a sensible, level-headed man who is fascinated by the patter of cheapjacks at the small sixpenny shows to be found here and there in fair and circus. But he can't bring himself to enjoy these things without being able to conjure up some circumstance that occurred in his boyhood when he first heard the hubbub of the stall-holders and the voices proclaiming the wonders of those little shows when he went to a fairground holding his brother's hand. He

-18-

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Illuminations: An Anthology of Welsh Short Prose
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • The Village School 1
  • Fear of the Sea 7
  • A Windy Night 9
  • The Late Lemuel Parry, Esq., J.P., O.B.E. 12
  • On Drowning a Cat 18
  • The House Across the Way 21
  • Weobley and St. Emilion 25
  • The Man in the Street 28
  • Old Dent 31
  • On Collecting Roads 34
  • 'their Land They Shall Lose' 42
  • The Red Flag 46
  • Strolling Players 50
  • One Sunday Afternoon 57
  • Salem 61
  • A Trip to the Circus 63
  • Thoughts on Coronation Day, 1953 68
  • From the Pulpit 72
  • How to Choose and Treat a Wife 77
  • To the Mountain 83
  • The Imperative Upon Me 88
  • Disenchantment 92
  • The Hiring Fair 94
  • The Man at Chapel House 97
  • Question and Answer 102
  • The Little Llandeilo Boots 105
  • My Last Day in Prison 108
  • A Discovery 118
  • A Land of Romance 121
  • Hi-Ho! 129
  • Ancestors 133
  • While Shaving 138
  • Of Time and Distance 141
  • A Methodist Deacon's Advice 146
  • Of Violets and Bells 148
  • Remembering Mrs Newbould 151
  • Good Morning, Lloyd 156
  • In Modesty and Trembling 162
  • Christmasn in the Valley 166
  • On Stammering 169
  • Butlins 172
  • A Millionaire 176
  • A Scene from Military Life 178
  • An Exile 180
  • The Fox Under Glass 183
  • A Doctor's Medicine 186
  • The Little Huts 189
  • Three Heads 191
  • On Memory 198
  • Uncle John's Boots 202
  • The Fur Coat 207
  • An Holy Kiss 214
  • Notes on Authors and Texts 217
  • Acknowledgements 238
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