It was the sad bad dog days of a marriage. The time when you know it is never going to work, but you really can't go through all the pain of a parting. I needed time to think, or gird my loins, or simply to hide from a situation I didn't want to face. So I took my horse to a friends property some two hours north from here, out into the hinterland, amongst the escarpments and wandering valleys and slow moving creeks. It was winter, a subtropical winter. No snow or blizzards, no grey skies and dark brown frosted earth and leafless trees. But cool all the same, with starry frosty nights. In the mornings I could hear Soda, my grey, crunch around the paddock, waiting for me to break the ice on his water so he could have a drink. Typically I couldn’t have bought a normal horse, a quiet hack to learn to ride on. No. I had bought an Australian Sports Horse, a Polo horse, spirited and fast with an eye popping ability to turn in his own length at some speed. I had been thrown a few times ( after one fall I limped for 18 months), but at last mastered the beast, and could now ride with a fair degree of confidence. So the two of us climbed the hills and rode down the timber trails and along the creek beds. And I am still amazed why a horse can be very skittish at some harmless object in a field twenty meters away, but quite happily ride into a creek where he can’t see the bottom. I know they are prey animals, and anything different in their domain could be a threat. But surely an unexpected hole under the muddy water could lead to a broken leg and a certain death just as easily. Another of Life’s fascinating mysteries. Along with Quantum Physics, black holes and women.
So alone in a timber cottage, high set in the
And two other nights, late, dark, windless, thumps on the side of the house. Like a padded ball being thrown at the wall. Irregular, every few seconds. Like a small flock of birds flying into the house. I heard it again, a couple of years later, again late at night, on the side wall of my inner suburban house.
But that is not the strangest thing about the trip.
A few days later, I drop the keys off to my friend, have coffee, say thanks. And then we walk outside and chat at my car. And suddenly I can smell cat piss. Strong and insistent, like a Tom has sprayed my car. I walk around looking for the cat, or wet piss on the side of the car. My friend stands quietly staring at me with a decidedly odd expression. Finally the smell fades. I look at his strange expression. I ask him if he had smelt it. He says no.
Then he tells me the tale. When he and his wife bought the house a year or so before, they had spent some time cleaning etc. And occasionally there was a strong smell of cat piss in the room where I had heard the noise. His wife and his brother could smell it. But he couldn’t. They had cleaned the room several times with disinfectant , but the smell still came and went. It was strange that the smell was there sometimes, and not at others. They had no explanation. And I hadn’t noticed it when I was there.
So what is the explanation? I don’t know. I decide the world is a very interesting place and one could go quietly mad trying to make sense of it. 'There are more things in heaven and Hell Horatio...'