Illustrated by Claudia Pilbeam
Strictly speaking, Sir Fourpaws wasn’t a stray.
Sure, he was clambering up a downpipe and putting his claws in all the same places as last time, going hup hup hup up to a distant third floor, but he had a home. His mother had had a home. Sir Fourpaws had even had a collar at some point, green with a little buckle that always snagged on wire fences. He wasn’t a stray. He had just… moved around a bit.
On the third floor’s poky balcony, Sir Fourpaws scuffled around the overgrown plants for as many long-cold, crushed cigarette butts as he could find. The taste was less than divine but they were a necessary evil. He moved quickly. A hop and a well-practiced little jump delivered Fourpaws to the second-floor balcony and he began nosing the butts around on the soil of Mrs Sherman’s hot pink mandevillas.
Mrs Sherman was an angry old cooch, but not all humans were the same.
Just outside and to the left of his house’s milk-crate entryway was the back door of a boulangerie. Fourpaws knew the rotations. The biggest worker, with the steps like thunder, would toss nibbly little ends just next to the dumpster, blame it on bad aim. The girl with shuffly gait would simply leave the bin’s lid open and watch the comings and goings from the bakery’s side window, and the youngest boy could even be convinced to leave a full (full!) cheese croissant on the pavement if Sir Fourpaws did some meowing and wound around his legs.
Recently, Sir Fourpaws had needed to find ways of getting more than just bread. A swath of threadbare cotton had become the first padding for his cardboard pallet bedroom; three days of nipping at cheesecloths hung to dry at the nearby fromagerie had proven immensely successful. He even brought the wooden pegs that had jumped off the line home as well. They were front-door décor.
Sir Fourpaws had shaken the moist mandevilla dirt out from between his toes and swept it off the balcony’s edge by the time Mrs Sherwood filled her gigantic watering can at the kitchen sink. He took up the usual hiding place behind a pot of rosemary and crouched. Rosemary smelled like the arse-end of a dog, but Fourpaws had learned the hard way that the coriander pot was always first to be watered. He tried not to breathe and waited.
Soon, Mrs Sherman trundled out with the water and spotted the cigarette butts. Her wrinkled, lipsticked lips flattened before slamming open to make way for obscenities that she directed at her upstairs neighbours. She fetched her long-handed trowel to racket against the upper floor for good measure.
But she didn’t notice Sir Fourpaws stealing inside the open door. She didn’t notice the track of paw prints on her memory-foam sofa, either. Nor did she notice her favourite tea towel –sliding off the oven handle and across the carpet and out the door and off the edge of the balcony.
Fourpaws considered that the old lady might be distressed by this all, but she didn’t really need the towel.
Not as much as Sir Fourpaws Jr would.
Sophie Tomassen is a second-ish year Fine Arts student at QUT. She’s never been published before and has no clue what she’s doing but is trying her best to learn as she goes. She writes about the small, beautiful magic we see in our everyday lives and how it can change us for the better.
Glass Fiction Week is an annual celebration of QUT students writing fiction. As part of Glass Fiction Week 2022, we sit down with Sophie Tomassen, author of Home, Foraged, for a discussion about her writing practice. Read our Q&A with Sophie here, and submit your details here if you would like a (free!) hardcopy of Glass: The Fiction Edition, which includes all five stories published during the week.