Jamie woke up with a hangover on Saturday morning, just like every other Saturday morning. It was nearly midday by the time he managed to make it to the kitchen. He plugged in the kettle and he took a carton of milk from the fridge.
"I wouldn't drink that milk, if I were you," the cat said.
Jamie didn't think there was much chance of the cat ever being him, but he didn't want to offend her by ignoring her advice. Reluctantly, he threw the carton into the bin.
"Even when the fridge door was closed I could smell it," the cat said. "I'm struggling to stop my mind from forming a mental image to explain the smell I get from upstairs."
"The sight is nowhere near as bad as the smell. Maybe you should go and have a look before your mind burdens you with an image that's much worse than the reality."
He was hoping she'd go so he could retrieve the milk from the bin, but she stayed where she was, sitting on a chair next to the kitchen table. While he drank his black coffee she purred contentedly. Jamie said, "I was going to say that you look as if you've just got the cream, but..."
"Please don't mention the cream. You put me off cream for good last Christmas."
"I was just going to say that. Of course, it was a long time after Christmas before..."
"Please don't fill in all the details of that mental image. A change of subject is needed, and fortunately I have one at hand. I've had a vision of something that will happen to you today. You'll meet a woman. She'll be wearing earrings designed by a farmer's wife who beat away a thief with a rolling pin and took up jewellery-making as a way to forget the incident, but instead it's a reminder. Her earrings evoke images of a bloodied thief staggering away into the night, making his way to the lake where the night swimmers go. The woman you'll meet isn't reminded of thieves. When she hears her earrings ringing she sees people swimming at a peaceful lake in the middle of the night. Be kind to this woman and you'll get a pleasant surprise."
After Jamie had finished his coffee and abandoned the mug in the sink, the doorbell rang. His aunt Emily was standing there when he opened the door. The first thing he noticed about her was the extraordinary earrings, even though a voice at the back of his mind was telling him that she had a suitcase in her hand and that he should start thinking of an excuse why she couldn't stay. But he couldn't stop looking at those earrings that looked like miniature chandeliers.
"Didn't your mother tell you I was coming?" she said.
"No. She didn't." His mother wouldn't have asked him if Emily could stay because she'd have known that he'd say no.
"I'll just be staying tonight," Emily said. "I have to be at the airport tomorrow morning."
The pleasant surprise better be good, he thought. He invited her in. He said, "I'd make some tea, but I'm afraid I don't have any milk."
"Your mother told me you wouldn't have anything fit to eat or drink in the house on a Saturday morning. Or afternoon. So I stopped off at the shop on the way. I'll make the tea."
They went to the kitchen and she plugged in the kettle. She took a litre of milk out of a bag, and she poured some into a saucer for the cat.
"Is it just my imagination," Emily said, "or is that cat smiling at me?"
"I can put her outside if she's bothering you."
"Not at all. It's a really nice feeling to win the approval of a cat. Because they're very particular about these things. This one looks more intelligent than the average cat. I can't help smiling every time I see her smiling at me."
"It's probably just your imagination."
She went out shopping in the afternoon. When she came back she insisted on making dinner for him. While she was busy in the kitchen, the doorbell rang. Jamie opened the door and he saw a middle-aged man in a grey suit. "Where's Emily?" the man said.
"Who are you?" Jamie said, but before he got an answer the man pushed his way into the house. It didn't take the intruder long to find Emily in the kitchen. When she saw him she dropped a spoon on the ground and she said, "Dermot!"
"Don't go to Wales," he said.
"I'm visiting my friend Julia."
"It's a lie. You're running away."
"I've no reason to stay."
"Yes you do." Dermot got down on one knee. He put his hand into his pocket and took out a small box. He opened it to reveal a diamond ring. "Will you marry me?" he said.
Jamie was leaving the kitchen as Emily accepted the proposal. The cat followed him out. After he had closed the door he said to the cat, "I hope the 'pleasant surprise' wasn't the scene I've just witnessed."
"Aren't you happy for your aunt?"
"I'm not unhappy for her, but I wish I hadn't witnessed that scene. I could have turned on the TV and found the worst soap opera or film and seen something just like that, but it would have been much easier to forget the scene on TV."
"I wouldn't normally recommend this, but I think you should go out tonight. They'll be busy here for the rest of the evening."
Jamie had his dinner in a restaurant and then he met his friends in the pub. He returned home at two o' clock in the morning. When he went into the living room he saw that the fire was lighting. There was enough light from the flames for him to see Emily and Dermot. He saw almost all of them and he couldn't see their clothes.
An expression of horror was frozen on his face as he withdrew from the room and made his way upstairs. He met the cat at the top of the stairs. "You look as if you've just seen something unpleasant," she said.
"You could have warned me. You knew I'd see that."
"I can easily erase that scene from your mind."
"It's perfectly simple."
"Yeah, but there's a catch, isn't there?"
"It doesn't even qualify as a catch. All I ask is that you put more effort into keeping the house clean and tidy, and that you look at the expiration dates on cream and milk."
"Very good. All you have to do is look into my eyes. Keep looking. Never let your eyes stray from my eyes. They're filling your mind..."
All Jamie remembered was looking into the cat's eyes. He didn't know that the unpleasant scene had ever been shown on the cinema screen in his mind. He went to bed and slept soundly that night. When he got up in the morning he found that he had an urge to clean the kitchen. He went to the shop to get some milk, butter and bread. When he got home he made breakfast for Emily and Dermot. He didn't notice that they couldn't look him in the eye because his mind was preoccupied with the dust on the shelves. He spent the rest of the day cleaning the house. This new-found interest in cleaning seemed completely natural to him. He never suspected that it had anything to do with being hypnotised by the cat.