7 Days in May
Ollie Harris was running as fast as he could, his breath coming in ragged gasps as he pounded along the uneven track.
He glanced over his shoulder again. The cat’s were nearer, much nearer.
Pumping his legs faster he lengthened his stride, his grey beard flapping over his shoulder. Not far now, he’d nearly
reached the corner of the field, just a few more metres.
Ollie Harris’s day had started out just like any other. The storm had woken him early. He’d splashed water on his face,
combed some tangles out of his long dirty beard, had a cup of tea in his only mug, and left the caravan to look for some
It was raining. In fact it was pelting down, but that hadn’t worried Ollie Harris one bit, he was used to being out in all
kinds of weather. Shrugging his torn coat higher around his neck, he started walking up the track beside Mrs Kavanaugh’s
field. He’d go and offer to cut her some firewood for her winter stock; she was always such a soft touch when he showed
up looking hungry and bedraggled.
As he shuffled along, head bowed against the rain, hands deep in his pockets, grey beard covering the front of his coat
like a dirty scarf, his battered cloth cap pulled low over his face, Ollie Harris looked to be anywhere between twenty and
fifty. Skinny, stooped - and with what the majority of people thought of as a drinker’s nose, but was in fact rosacea - he
was everybody’s picture of the archetypical village tramp.
Nobody knew Ollie Harris’s actual age, but his family had moved to the Isle of Wight in the late „90’s, his mother
dying of cancer shortly afterwards. Then, at the age of sixteen, his drunken father had given him one too many beatings
and he’d retaliated in a blind rage.
The sight of his father’s body lying at his feet, face a bloody pulp, had frightened young Ollie Harris so much that he’d
run off, spending the next eighteen months living rough in the woods until he’d been picked up for vagrancy.
It was quickly apparent to the police that there was something far wrong with young Ollie Harris, and they were
proven right when he was diagnosed with severe bipolar disorder. After a short course of carbamazepine, the hospital
discharged him clutching a prescription for benzodiazepine and an appointment to see the psychiatric nurse in six months.
He’d gone back to living rough in the forest until old Mrs Kavanaugh, perhaps seeing something in the unkempt,
rambling vagrant that nobody else did, took pity on him and let him stay in a broken down old caravan that she kept at the
bottom of her field.
Ollie Harris stopped under the spread branches of an oak tree and stared at Mrs Kavanaugh’s stone cottage.
Something is wrong, he thought.
Ollie Harris knew that Mrs Kavanaugh was house-proud, and grateful that at her age she was still able to take care of
herself and not have to rely on others.
So why was her washing hanging out in the rain, he wondered. And why was her front door standing open?
As Ollie Harris got nearer to the cottage, he spotted the abandoned washing basket dropped on one side of the path.
Picking it up, he walked to the front door and called out. There was no answer. He pushed the door fully open and called
“Mrs K, you home?”
Ollie Harris felt uncomfortable about walking into Mrs Kavanaugh’s house uninvited, arguing with himself that it
But suppose she was in trouble.
“Are you in trouble Mrs K?” Do you need any help?”
Ollie Harris stood on the doorstep, rain dripping from his raincoat onto the quarry tiles in the hallway.
Best if I try again, then go, he told himself.
“Mrs K, I’m going now.”
Stepping back, he started pulling the front door closed, then stopped, head tilted, wondering if he’d heard a voice.
Maybe it was just in my head.
Pushing the door open again, he stepped into the hall.
“Mrs K?” You there?”
Taking off his raincoat, Ollie Harris shook the water off, closed the door, then hung his coat neatly on a row of big
brass hooks farther along the hall.
Hearing a noise from the direction of the kitchen, he nodded to himself.
She must be in the back, making herself a cup of tea. She loved a nice cup of tea. Probably couldn’t hear him what
with the noise of the storm and all. Better just go back and make sure she’s alright.
Ollie Harris’s ceaseless internal conversations continued as he walked down the hall.
Entering the kitchen, he smiled. There she was, sitting in her rocker by the window, her two cats in her lap, both
stretched up, nuzzling her neck.
So pretty, he thought.
Pulling out a chair, Ollie Harris turned it to face Mrs Kavanaugh and sat down.
“Well Mrs K,” he began, pausing when he noticed that her eyes were closed. “You asleep?”
One of the cats turned its head at the sound of his voice. Its white muzzle stained red, bits of something hanging from
its mouth. It hissed at him.
Ollie Harris grasped at once what had happened. He’d heard the rumours - nasty rumours about cats attacking people.
He stood up, casually, in no hurry.