Abortion, Abortionist, Adam House, Bad Cat, Cat, Cats, Christianity, Edinburgh, Edinburgh University, Edinburgh University Careers Fair, Humor, Morality, Protest, Protesters, Starting a Business, Waverley Station, Youtube
In the distracted, half-aimless way that she does these things, Tori had decided to set up a brand new company. In Tori’s world, money has always been a plentiful and entirely unremarkable resource, shifting constantly around her in unnoticed theoretical cycles like water on a landscape. Yet the prospect of sitting down to start work on her company always left Tori feeling as forlorn as a schoolgirl with twenty maths exercises to complete before she could go out and play in the snow. Confined before a bare, drab section of her computer, in the tiresome company of spreadsheets, Tori’s thinking would typically slow down until it got completely stuck, like an irresolvable game of patience. She would sit and stare helplessly at the spreadsheets, a bell ringing silently in her head, the peals shed over a yawning cavernous emptiness.
Tori wished to establish herself as a sort of abortionist for domestic cats. Rather than merely spaying the cats, her company would abort the unwanted kittens but leave the cat’s reproductive equipment undamaged. This, Tori had explained to me, would be a revolution. The busy professional could now decide at which stage in their career was the best time for their cat to have kittens. Only when one questioned Tori a little further did it become apparent that the science was rather ahead of her. She had stolen several briefcases full of pills from the office of an ex boyfriend who was half way through a postgraduate in biomedical engineering. She had then patented the pills under her own name.
“Have you tested any of these pills? For one thing, are you aware of the necessary dosage?”
Tori glared – did I not realise how unhelpful these questions were? “Oddly enough, I don’t seem to have a laboratory full of pregnant cats to experiment on. I also don’t want to waste any of my pills.”
“But you could end up poisoning your customers’ pets?”
Tori cackled with exasperation. “I don’t see what the big deal is. Surely, it’s logical that the correct dosage would be contained within each pill? My ex would have arranged it so that the customer requires a single pill – not two or three.”
“Your ex still hasn’t noticed that this particular stockpile has gone astray? If he abandoned the product, it’s probably a sign that it doesn’t work very well. And how can you possibly be licensed for this? A desperate pregnant woman might take half a bottle of your pills in order to induce an abortion…”
“There’s nothing illegal. And by the time that the government has realised and legislated to ban this sort of pill, I will have sold all my stock.”
Tori’s company would trade entirely on the internet, but as her business model grew ever more torturous, she realised that she would require staff to answer emails, process sales, and post the orders. For this reason, she had secured a stall at the University of Edinburgh’s careers fair in Adam House. She had told the University that KittyFix was an accountancy firm based in Hampshire with over seven thousand staff, and that it was launching an exciting new graduate recruitment programme. When the day came, however, Tori stood behind a display of brochures and leaflets with a colourful variety of cats rolling on her stall, and wandering about underneath it, mewing to potential recruits.
Everybody stopped to admire the cats, or else they stopped because a cat had got tangled up in their legs and they could not take a step without treading on its toes. The careers fair officials watched the cats with pronounced suspicion. If there had not been quite so many health and safety regulations, I am sure that they could have found one which forbade the attendance of cats at such an event.
Suddenly there was a great noise in the corridor outside the hall – a sound of chanting and booing and whistling – and it seemed to be approaching. Tori was filled with a huge, tense coldness and she squared herself up for a confrontation. I should explain that prior to the careers fair, Tori had confided to me that a crackpot, moonbat church based in West Port had come across her website and that they were predictably outraged by some of the more “unethical” aspects of Kittyfix.
“They believe that a kitten has a “right to life,” and that my customers would be playing God.”
I laughed. “I think that you have enough scope to seize the moral high ground. Any right to life is negated by the absence of any quality of life. If a cat is completely retarded – and you can establish this just by observing their behaviour – then a kitten foetus is truly beyond stupid. Besides, many kittens end up being drowned because their owners cannot afford to keep them, and so you could promote Kittyfix as a sort of responsible animal welfare family planning.”
“It isn’t that straightforward,” Tori warned. “If one of these Christians wrote to their MSP – who would naturally be a spineless populist – then parliament would immediately legislate and Kittyfix would become a seedy backstreet abortionist rather than a responsible pharmaceutical leader.”
And Tori recalled all of this as the hullabaloo rolled towards her. There were only twelve protesters, although they were making the noise of at least fifty. All of the protesters were well into middle age, with the exception of a bouncy, screaming girl in school uniform who could not have been older than ten. There were three energetic, shiny-faced pastors in dog collars and a furious-looking woman with gigantic tortoiseshell spectacles. They were all brandishing placards with slogans such as “Life!” and “Thou Shalt Not Kill!,” although there were more placards than protesters and this rather inhibited their jumping about. Then, incredibly, Tori saw that the schoolgirl was holding up a huge glossy photograph of a mangled and blood-caked kitten foetus…
Yet Tori found that she was smiling despite herself – one could only laugh in the faces of these bombastic protesters. They were seemingly determined to recite slogans which they had agreed upon beforehand; their protest had an awkwardly choreographed appearance, like a display by embarrassed clowns; but, with the fixed, vacant expressions of animals in rut, it was as if they had dressed in the impregnable armour of their beliefs so that any reason or sense which they encountered would just bounce off them.
The protesters had arranged themselves before Tori’s stall, but as they refused to address her or even to look at her, it seemed to Tori as if she was watching their protest from a great distance. Tori was struggling to bring all of the reasoned justifications for kitten abortion to her lips, but as she surveyed this demented protest, her heart failed. She could not land on their eyes, she tried to capture and hold the gaze of several of the protesters but her eyes slipped off, as if she had an invalid password and had been refused access.
Some of the protesters staged a “die-in,” in which they lay on the floor in a pile to symbolise all the kittens who would be murdered with Tori’s pills.
One of Tori’s cats approached the pile of protestors in order to conduct its own investigation. It looked pointedly unimpressed by all of the shouting, as if this was decidedly vulgar, but what else could one expect from human beings?
Security guards were peeping at the protest from the doors, evidently awaiting the arrival of police reinforcements. The protesters still on their feet were working hard to maintain the uproar, and yet there was suddenly a higher, more panicky note in and amongst the shouting.
“Ouch! Get it off me…”
Tori’s cat was attempting to inspect one of the “dead” pastors, but its claws had got hooked in his trousers. The cat and the pastor were now both anxious to detach themselves from each other, but the cat’s helplessly flexing claws were probing further into the pastor’s thighs. Another protester had sat up and he was trying to extract the cat, but the situation was immediately resolved with the arrival of an outraged Tori, who planted her stiletto heel in the pastor’s scrotum and tore away her cat.
Arriving to retrieve her cat, she had tried to herd the rest of the cats before her, but most of them were too startled by the noise to cooperate. Meanwhile, the rest of the protesters had commenced a mission to rescue the cats from the Devil – and collect them under the banner of “Life!” – but the cats did not wholly go along with this. Soon cats were scrambling for safety, protesters were chasing after them, a pastor fell over and went head first through Tori’s stall and, without wishing to dwell any further on these unpleasant details, let me hasten to the point when a sort of magic occurred…
Several of the delegates to the careers fair had filmed these antics and uploaded the footage on to YouTube. Some of this footage was used in the subsequent television news reports. Arriving back from Glasgow, where I had been drinking with my brother, an extraordinary sight awaited me at Waverley station. One of those vast overhead screens which is invariably set to a rolling news channel had malfunctioned and frozen on the very image of Tori attacking the pastor…
Tori, her face frozen in a deranged sneer – holding a cat high above her head with its little legs dangling – her stiletto heel planted firmly in the balls of a gasping pastor…
I wondered whether to call Tori with this news, but I decided against it. Perhaps the situation could be resolved at the station.
I approached the most senior-looking official who I could spot and I acquainted him with my complaint. “My friend is a professional businesswoman and that image of her – frozen above your station – could wreak incalculable damage upon her reputation.”
The official chortled. “It’s not very flattering is it?”
“There is absolutely nothing amusing about this. Imagine if a huge photograph of you in the middle of a punch-up was stuck above Waverley station. It would be mortifying. Your authority as an official would be undermined.”
The official reflected “She’s winning isn’t she? I’d say that the photograph is more unflattering to the poor guy whose balls she’s stamping on.”
However much I tried, I could not convince the official to take my complaint seriously and switch off the screen. After making it plain that I would not go away until I was satisfied, he radioed the next manager in the hierarchy, the next Russian doll in the nest, who recited the company line to me in greater detail.
“I’m sorry sir, but these screens are hired from a specialist company. We don’t know how to turn them off and, in any case, our contract prohibits us from touching them. We’d have to call in a technician from the company…”
“The company is based in Cardiff. Besides, it is too expensive to call him out on a Friday evening, and it would be a lot more cost efficient – I’m sure, as a taxpayer, you understand sir? – to call him on the Monday morning…”
And so Tori remained hanging over thousands of flowing commuters like a monstrous idol – or a deranged sister to the Statue of Liberty – for the duration of the weekend. One of those commuters was her ex boyfriend, who registered the photograph of the bloodied kitten foetus behind her and duly put two and two together. After establishing that the briefcases were missing from his office, he wrote on Tori’s Facebook wall, warning that the pills caused cats to eat their own kittens immediately after giving birth to them and threatening litigation if they were ever put on the market. Tori wisely conceded that she had lost this one.