Overhead there is a clunk and a thump and the pounding of little feet across a bare wood floor. There is a scrape-shush-shush as though something heavy is being dragged from one side of the room to the other and a thump and clatter, and more pounding of feet.
I sit at the kitchen table with a steaming mug of tea and stare at the ceiling. It had been a quiet morning, with the crack and tick of the woodstove the only sound accompanying the arrival of the sun peeking up above the treeline, reaching its first rays over the windowsill and spilling puddles of warm light on to the kitchen floor. Peaceful.
I hear a rumbling groan that I imagine must be vibrating through the floorboards, the thump of a tail whipped angrily against the hardwood, a hiss and a clunk.
I take a sip of my tea and try to imagine what the cats are doing. There are just two of them, but it sounds like a whole troupe of acrobats has taken up residence in my living room.
Cats. I expect one of them to come crashing through the ceiling at any moment to plummet into my lap amidst an explosion of fur that drifts silently down in the quiet aftermath, caught in a sunbeam.
They don’t often do this in the morning, lately it happens in the middle of the night, at that fleeting moment when we are just perfectly comfortable, and finally warm beneath the weight of seven layers of blankets, tendrils of sleep swirling our thoughts in to a dull, shapeless hum, when a thump or a clunk or a hiss bolts us awake and we find ourselves pounding on the floor of the bedroom as though the neighbours living below us have the television turned up too loudly.
But this morning, for whatever reason, Chestnut has decided to stir things up. I know it is Chestnut, because it always is. He is the sweetest, cuddliest cat most days, but whenever he is disgruntled about anything, such as being hungry or having a new dog thrust into this life, he becomes a merciless bully and takes it out on Cleo.
I track their movements across the floor as they clatter and thunk from one side of the room to the other. There is an angry kind of growling meow that sounds like Cleo has finally lost patience. She appears then, and I watch her storm down the stairs, hissing all the way followed a few seconds later by a floating tuft of hair.
When Chestnut finally slinks in to view, he has composed himself. He takes his time on the stairs, craning his neck so he can look down to that spot in the kitchen where we have thrown an old quilt on the floor and where Molly often snoozes.
I smile to myself as this mini-dictator, swaggering and throwing his weight around just moments ago in the living room is stopped in his tracks by the mere thought of a dog he can’t quite bring himself to stand up to, a dog who Cleo regularly sleeps near, unconcerned and unruffled. There’s some skewed justice in that, I think, smiling as Chestnut continues his cautious, tiptoe advance into the room while Cleo settles down with the dogs by the fire and I sip my tea, warming my feet in a puddle of sunlight.