What stands between us and the half-mad woman who stinks of cat’s pee, we wonder: a fall; a house fire; the sudden loss of sustaining, life-long friendships; an ill-advised investment; an unaffordable rise in the cost of rent, power or food?
Once upon a time, when I was a very young woman, and old age was a very distant prospect, I lived in a house in Auckland which was divided into two flats. I lived in one flat and a mad old woman lived in the other. The dank backyard was haunted by countless grey tabby cats distinguishable from each other only by their relative youth or decrepitude. When I went out to put washing on the line, the cats would stare at me balefully with jaundice-coloured eyes and then slink away under the house. During the day the neighbouring flat was still and silent but at dusk when the backyard filled with feline shadows, the woman would begin to stir.
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