Week eight of Unforgotten Film; a roll of Kodak TMAX p3200.
This week is really a continuation of Unforgotten Film / #4 / The Horse Farm. So check that out first if you haven’t already.
During our time at the farm, I felt a strong urge to shoot some real grainy black and white photographs; hence the 3200:
A Story About A Cat
I don’t click with cats very often. I am allergic to them, so while I might want to stroke or play or cuddle with them, I have learnt not to care too much for that when the situation arises. Or, if I do, immediately wash my hands.
On the horse farm there was a cat that I did click with. It was one of those cats that displays the perfect balance of independent arrogance and curious companionship. It was present but wasn’t in our face, or rubbing our legs, during dinner. It followed us when we were outside but it made its own path. In the week we were there it grew on us, and we grew on it. I liked it a lot.
The owner of the farm had another cat and a couple of dogs, too. The cats and dogs lived together in relative harmony. They didn’t cross paths often. The dogs were old. One would forget we were there and surprise himself before barking at ‘the intruder’ – then remember us and fall back asleep (and repeat). They spent most of the day in a fenced in back yard area, while the cats had the run of the house. Then when the dogs came in for the night, the cats disappeared upstairs. One cat, our cat, was allowed outside and was street-wise. It could handle itself. The second cat was young and was not street-wise; special attention was needed to ensure it didn’t escape the house. It got out twice, leading to a frantic early morning chase into the bushes. It was too dumb to get away, so all was good.
On our last morning at the farm, a friend of the owner of the farm arrived with his dog. This shook things up a little on the farm, as far as the cats and dogs were concerned. The dumb cat, as always, remained inside. Our cat was out and about. And the owner’s dogs were let out to play with the new dog.
This new dog was obviously not an experienced farm dog, and was over-excited by the new smells and sights of farm life. Its energy and near-crazy levels of excitement rubbed off on the usually docile farm dogs. It was play time.
We were having a coffee before getting ready to leave. We sat in the modern, barn-converted-to-house kitchen, watching the world go by through the large windows. We could hear the dogs playing and the owner and her friend joking. Then there was a screech.
It was fast, and short, and it got my attention.
“Did you hear that?” I asked C as she got up to get our things ready upstairs. I could hear the dogs playing, albeit aggressive, and the owner and her friend talking. No screech.
Then I heard it again, this time louder and longer. The dogs got louder, and more joyfully aggressive. I put my coffee down and stood. As I got up to investigate, outside, in front of me, I saw our cat in the jaws of the farm dog, thrown into the air and caught by the new dog. The cat’s screech now was a mad cry of pain, a desperate plea for help. That sound remains to be one of the worst things I’ve ever heard in my life.
This all happened in moments.
I ran to the door, opened it and shouted aggressively at the dogs, ready to hit or kick them to get them off of the cat. The dogs, surprised by the mad human interrupting their game, let go of the cat from between their two jaws – like a pull toy – and backed away. They then ran off when I continued to shout and clap at them. The cat had tried to jump up onto a table, but was hanging off by two paws, trying desperately to cling on to the edge and, it seemed, to life itself. I took it by the scruff and lifted it into my arms; cradling the poor, beaten and bloody cat. I whispered to it and took it inside.
When safe inside it jumped off of me and ran upstairs. I followed and found it, eventually, curled up in some laundry in the owner’s closet.
I was fuming, and interrupted the owner and her friend telling them what their dogs did. They didn’t seem fazed, or to take it seriously. This made me more angry, and made me want to leave the place as soon as possible.
When we were done packing and were ready to leave, there was one final thing I had to do. I found the cat, in the same position, curled up in the laundry, and I told it I cared about it, and that I was sorry. I told it that I’d never forget it, and I kissed it on it’s head.
This sounds like it’s a lot considering I’d only been there a week. I can’t explain it. And as dramatic as it sounds now, I felt like I’d just saved it’s life. I felt connected to it, in that moment.
I had one photo remaining on the roll of film in my camera, so I stroked it’s head, asked it to look at me and took its picture.
I recorded its memory forever.
I said goodbye.
And I never saw it again.
Next week, a roll of black and white Ilford FP4 plus.