Man in the Middle 82: The cost of fixing kitty

Man in the Middle is the fictional diary of a Boomer coping with the demands of an ageing mother with dementia, his millennial children and his own impending obsolescence. Bowed down by Brexit, Covid and self-pity, all he wants is more ‘me time’. Will he succeed? Or is he destined to be stuck forever in No Man’s Land in the war between the generations?

If you’d like to begin at the beginning and missed the first instalment, you can read No. 1: The Letter here

No 82: The cost of fixing kitty

Our cat has been bitten by a fox. The wounds on his leg are weeping yellow pus and the skin around the teeth marks are receding like a sneer. I’m at the vet with my daughter waiting to be told what the cost of fixing Kitty will be.

‘We found two fractures in his pelvis,’ says the vet with an Irish accent as unruffled as brandy cream.

He points at an x-ray of our unconscious cat manspreading his thin, ghostly back legs.

‘You can see them. Here. And there.’

His fingers circle the fractures on the x-ray.

‘And what is that there?’ says my daughter pointing elsewhere.

‘Oh. That. Yeah. That’s a dislocating kneecap.’

The vet recites the long list of injuries to the cat as undramatically as the clerk of a court reads out the charge sheet against a multiple murderer.

I feel a wave of nausea sweep over me. My knees tremble. The cat is uninsured. What will be the final cost of fixing Kitty? I knew there’d be a price to pay. Nothing comes free these days except the wallpaper at No 10.

I was expecting to fork out for a shot of antibiotics, the x-ray and a band-aid or two. I thought I’d be in for £150? Maybe, £250? But a dislocating kneecap and a double fracture of the pelvis sounds like enough injuries to fill an entire series of ‘Casualty’ and equally expensive to fix.

I don’t admire myself for thinking this way. But every time the vet moves to open his mouth, I hear a till register ringing in reception and my bank account squealing like a pinched pig. Behind the look of concern which I’ve nailed onto my face for the sake of my daughter, there’s a sour faced accountant in the banking department in the basement of my brain throwing his calculator out of the window and shouting: “I told you to get insurance, years ago, you dim-witted, dunderhead.”

‘A dislocating kneecap you say?’ I ask.

‘Two of them,’ replies the vet.

Two dislocating kneecaps. I hear another ring on the till, another abacus bead sliding in the wrong direction. My blood freezes a little. I know the government has introduced legislation to recognise animals as sentient beings. But at what point does my responsibility to finance a new pair of bionic kneecaps for the kitty end and my need to save up for this summer’s tour of Italy’s vineyards begin?

‘I’m not worried about his kneecaps, though. They’re only a one on a scale of one to four,’ says the vet. ‘So don’t need any intervention.’

‘Praise be,’ I mutter. My relief doesn’t pass by my daughter unnoticed.

‘I’ll pay for him, if that’s what’s worrying you.’

The vet looks at me. Parent shaming. He’s seen it before, I suspect.

‘Maybe you could make a contribution which we could offset from any future inheritance?’

Suddenly, the vet peers at the x-ray as if he’s seen an alien.

‘I hadn’t noticed that before. Can you see that?’ he asks.

‘Is it a speck of dirt or dust?’ I say as my wallet sags like a winded boxer.

‘If you look just here you can see he’s got a fractured sternum, too.’

‘Poor cat,’ says my daughter.

‘Sours on the paws. Nobbled knees. Pelvic fractures and a shoddy sternum. That’s like a Full House in Poker, right?’ I say.

‘Dad!’ says my daughter. ‘This is serious.’

‘You’re telling me,’ I say. ‘I’m going to have to put back my retirement by a decade.’

The vet straightens up and turns from the x-ray. He’s well over six feet and looks down on me with kind patient eyes. Like any half decent animal psychologist, he knows that at this moment I need a sedative more than the cat.

‘The good news is that we don’t need to operate. On anything,’ he announces.

‘Brilliant’ says my daughter.

‘Two grand off if we did,’ he says, looking me in the eye.

‘Booosh. Barolo here I come,’ I say, while my inner accountant lifts his shirt over his face and runs around like he’s scored the winning goal at the World Cup.

‘So, the pelvis heals itself?’ asks my daughter.

‘It should do. In a month or so. But you’ll need to keep him in a cage or restricted space, so he can’t jump on tables. And don’t let him go outside. He’s been hit by a car.’

‘The fox looked at him limping and thought: ‘That’s a very slow moving double cheese burger, I’m going to have a go at that,’ I say.

‘I don’t get your drift,’ says the vet.

‘Ignore him,’ says my daughter as she eyes the floor of the surgery. ‘He’s just excited the cat’s alright.’

‘You’ll be wanting some anti-biotics before you go,’ says the vet.

‘No, thanks’ I say. ‘Just a glass of wine if you’ve got one.’

Read more blogs by James Thellusson

Read the next in the series – Man in the Middle – The lady of the lake

Read the previous one – Man in the Middle – Fathers and Sons

See all James’s Man in the Middle blogs here

Read more on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Chiswick Calendar News & Features

See also: Chiswick Calendar Blogs & Podcasts

Support The Chiswick Calendar

The Chiswick Calendar CIC is a community resource. Please support us by buying us the equivalent of a monthly cup of coffee (or more, if you insist). Click here to support us.

We publish a weekly newsletter and update the website with local news and information daily. We are editorially independent.

To subscribe to the weekly newsletter, go here.