Story by Bertie.
Read by Richard.
Proofread & audio edited by Jana Elizabeth.
Duration 23 mins & 40
Our Wicked Uncle stories are a tribute to our friends at Wicked Uncle the world's greatest online toy shop.
this is Richard, and I’m here with a Wicked Uncle story. For those of you who are new to Storynory, Uncle Jeff isn’t that wicked, but he is a touch irresponsible. He is something of a hero to his niece and nephew, Jeremy and Jemima, and these days he has a steady girlfriend called Jessica. Yes I know, an awful lot of J’s for one family.
The instruction to “Fasten Seat Belts” was illuminated in red. Mum sighed deeply before imploring, “Jeff, can’t you sit still for just one minute?”
Her brother-in-law was sauntering down the aisle of the plane. “Naaa, there’s no time to waste,” he said. But just before the wheels bounced on the runway, he jumped into a seat and plonked himself down into it.
The cabin steward, who was firmly strapped into his own seat, glanced over at the irresponsible passenger and smiled. Mum shook her head. If they had been on a normal flight, Jeff would have received a good ticking off, and rightly so. As they were on a private jet, lent by one of his millionaire, or possibly billionaire, friends, he got away with his antics.
The jet came to a halt. The steward opened the door of the cabin. Jeremy was the first onto the top of the stairs. The sunlight bouncing off the tarmac dazzled his eyes. The aggressively hot air smacked him in the face. The creaking sound of the cicadas in the bushes gave him the creeps. It was awesome. They were on holiday.
Uncle Jeff’s friend was called Stephanos. He had been born into a wealthy family, but by the time he had worked in banking, and then set up his own advertising and public relations company, he had made his own fortune. Even when Greece suddenly became quite a poor country, he seemed to do better and better. Like Jeff, he was good friends with that elusive person - Lady Luck.
Stephanos was in Los Angeles, hanging out with Jerry Jefferson, the lead singer of the Gobsmackers. By the way, if you’ve never heard of Jerry Jefferson, that’s because you’re too young - back in ancient times, when your mum and dad were stepping out together. He was way cool. Nowadays you can mostly see his wrinkly face on late night chat shows. Anyway, Stephanos regarded this rocker as his hero, and that was why he personally handled all his PR.
His villa was on the Island of Plusios, and he had lent it to Jeff for two weeks of the summer. By road, his place was quite a long and windy way out of town, but by speed boat, it took just five minutes to get there. A people carrier picked up the family from the airport and whisked them down to the harbour where the boat was waiting for them.
The villa was like a cross between a luxury hotel and an Ancient Greek temple. Everything was made from marble, and was in the best possible taste. It had two swimming pools, its own private beach, and a games room with table tennis, snooker, and the latest thing in virtual reality gaming. The grounds were covered with lemon trees and the scent was simply gorgeous. They could have spent the whole holiday staying at the villa, but Jeff said they had to venture out to the town to taste some ‘real’ Greek atmosphere.
The most chilled Greek way of life was to be found in the cafes along the waterfront where the old men sat playing backgammon and making a little cup of strong black coffee last all morning. You could climb up the steep steps and walk among the white-washed houses admiring their little gardens and the colourful flowers growing out of old olive oil cans. In the evening, the most lively place to go was the restaurant in the square with the big plane tree. There you could eat Greek Salad made from tomatoes bursting with freshness and flavour, and you could order lamb souvlaki or fried calamari or baked sea bass and listen to live music. Later on, the more adventurous diners got up to dance sidestepping in a line, Greek Style.
Every night, the hungriest of guests include a number of furry customers with imploring eyes. Occasionally, when they are especially tantalised, they meeow pathetically. Those diners with soft hearts, like Jeremy, Jemima, and Jessica, slip a sardine or a piece of lamb below the table where it quickly vanishes.
One ginger cat was particularly asking Uncle Jeff for a piece of souvlaki, but he steadfastly ignored him. “He’s got a heart as cold as flint,” said Jessica. Jeff was unmoved.
“I’m being generous with my tough love,” he said. “If that cat’s got to die of anything soon, it will be overeating. Look how fat he is! There are some poor mogs in the back streets that are just skin and bone, and then every winter the cat exterminators come round and put poison down to kill them off. If they didn’t, the place would be overrun with cats and kittens. So these restaurant cats, they are the ones that have got it lucky. No need to feel sorry for them.”
What, they poison cats?! You must be making that up,” said Jessica in alarm. And she turned to Jeremy and Jemima and said, “Don’t believe him. He’s got a wild imagination.”
After dinner they took a late-night wander through the streets. Well, “streets” is perhaps a grand word for roads that are just about wide enough for a single donkey and cart. They climbed up to the top of the hill, and spotted the lights of the fishing boats. On the way back down, Jeremy said, “Hey look!” and he pointed to two bright green eyes.
“Here, kitty, kitty,” said Jemima.
The cat emerged out of the shadows. She was completely black apart from a spot of white on her right, front paw. She was a winner in the looks
department of life, but in other regards she wasn’t so fortunate.
“Meeow,” she said pathetically.
“Is this cat skinny enough for you to feel just a tad sympathetic?” Jessica asked her boyfriend.
“Yes, I think she will do,” said Jeff. He took off his knapsack and fished out a little parcel of newspaper which he unwrapped. Inside there were some pieces of meat.
“There you go,” he said to the cat. “Hope you like Souvlaki. Ha, well of course you do, you’re a Greek cat.”
“Where did that come from?” asked Jessica
“I asked the waiter to wrap up our leftovers,” said Jeff, “because I knew we were bound to meet some hungry fellas on the way home.”
The cat was purring loudly and appreciatively.
“Oooh, can we take her back to England?” pleaded Jemima.
“Yes, we must,” agreed Jeremy. “We’ve got to save her from being poisoned in winter.”
“Uh-oh,” said Dad.
“Well,” said Jeff. “You know you can’t save every cat on all the Greek islands. There must be millions of them.”
“But that’s not the point,” said Jessica firmly. “This cat found us. She’s ours now. We have to look after her.”
“Tell that to Smoochies,” said Jeff. Smoochies was Jessica’s dog who was staying with her sister while they were on holiday.
“But this kitty can live with us, can’t she Dad?” insisted Jemima.
“Well,” said Dad. “Er, let’s see if that’s possible.”
Secretly Dad hoped that the cat would disappear into the shadows and merge with all the other cats and they would never see her again. But the kids were very careful to remember that she lived in the little street around the corner from the bakery. The next night, after dinner, they went to find her and feed her again. By now she had a name - Ariadne.
And so it was, every night, they came to feed Ariadne. And Jessica asked around and found an Irish vet who lived on the island and did his best for the local animals. He agreed to vaccinate and microchip the cat so that they could take her home. In the market, Jessica bought a basket, a cushion, and a bowl for Ariadne, and on Saturday morning they came to wake her up early. She was already looking a little less bony. In fact her tummy was starting to look a little rounded. They thought it might be tricky to coax her into the basket, though Jeff was prepared to get scratched. But it only took a sardine to encourage her into the basket, and soon they were carrying her to the vet for her appointment. After that she came to live with them in the villa.
Ariadne was an especially fortunate cat, because normally animals have to travel in the luggage department of the airplane. It is cold, dark and scary down there, and usually they have to be sedated. But as the family were travelling by private jet, they planned to take her with them in the cabin. She could have her own seat if she wanted, just so long as she stayed in her basket, Mum said.
“Naa, I’ll hold her,” said Jemima.
But then disaster struck. Stephanos called Jeff to apologise most terribly, that there had been a change of plan and he needed his jet to fly to Africa with Jerry Jefferson. The rock legend suddenly had a whim to watch a charity football cup in Botswana. They would have to travel home - horror of horrors - on Stingy Jet, as it was the only scheduled airline with seats available back to London.
The kids were disappointed, naturally, but that was before they realised what this meant for Ariadne. Stingy Jet did not allow cats in the passenger cabin. Ariadne would have to travel in the hold. When the news sunk in, they were distraught.
“Dad you can’t let her travel with the bags?” pleaded Jeremy. But the rules were the rules, and there was nothing that Dad could do. Ariadne would have to go with the suitcases.
“Well it’s better than staying behind and being poisoned,” said Mum.
“Only just,” said Jeremy sulkily.
They were on the first flight of the day. That meant they had to get up at 4am in the morning. Even though they arrived at the airport early, six buses unloaded passengers just before them. The queue of sleepy holidaymakers seemed like it was about a mile long. Most people were wearing shorts and sandals or flowery beach dresses. Some were tanned, others lobster red, and only a few fair-haired Englishmen had managed to keep their pale complexions. When they finally reached the check-in desk, the Stingy Jet rep said, “You have to take the cat to our help desk.”
“Where’s that?” asked Dad.
“It’s on the other side of the airport. You have to take the yellow shuttle bus.”
“Typical,” said Dad.
“Don’t worry, I’ll go,” said Jeff.
“We’ll come too,” chimed in Jeremy and Jemima.
They went outside to look for the shuttle bus. When they couldn’t find it, they asked a police officer and he said that the service did not start until 9am.
“This is starting to get a bit silly,” sighed Jeff.
“Why can’t we just take her with us on board?” asked Jemima.
“I really can’t fathom it,” said Jeff. Then he smiled one of his sly little smiles. “Look, don’t even drop a hint about this to your mum and dad.”
And he put Ariadne’s travelling pen down on the ground and opened its door. He reached inside, and pulled her out. He held Ariadne in front of his face and said,
“Shshshshsh,” before slipping her into his hand luggage.
After a little wait, they went back to find Mum and Dad.
“Let’s hurry, we don’t want to miss the flight,” said Dad, even though they had two more hours to spare.
They walked through passport control quite easily, but the real problem was how to smuggle Ariadne past the x-ray machines and security checks.
“What if they see a cat skeleton in your hand luggage?” asked Jeremy in a whisper.
“We’ll just have to meet up with her on the other side,” said Jeff. And he quietly let her out of the bag and put her down on the floor. Ariadne got the idea. It wasn’t hard for a cat to sneak through the barriers. If anyone saw her, they probably assumed she was an airport cat employed to keep mice away.
They met up with her again in the Duty Free shop that specialised in selling tins of black caviar. “I bet you’d like some of that cat food,” said Jeff as he scooped her up into his bag.
“Purrrrrrr,” she said back, which is cat lingo for “you bet.”
They squished into their seats. Jeff bent down. It was hard because he was so tall and there was so little space. He pushed his hand luggage under the seat in front. It purred, but only quietly. Jessica winked at the kids.
After a long, long delay, their plane taxied down the runway and soon they were turning to the right, leaning slightly over so that the kids had one last view of the sparkling sea and rocky coast. They even spotted Stephanos’s villa. It was hard to miss as it was so huge.
Not so very long after the pilot turned off the “Fasten Seat Belts” sign, the purring from the bag turned into meowing. An air steward passed down the aisle asking if anyone wanted to buy bacon and egg sandwiches that had been prepared in London the night before.
“Meow” said the bag.
The steward looked over at Jeff and Jessica. Jessica waved and said “Meow.” Jeff explained, “It’s just a little game we’re playing with our niece and nephew over there.”
“Meow,” said Jemima.
“Meow,” said the steward.
And she went on her way.
But the meowing continued. “Better check what’s going on,” said Jeff. He managed to pull out the bag and retrieve Ariadne. Jessica took her on her lap and comforted the frightened animal.
Another steward came along. “Is that a cat?” he asked.
“Just a toy,” said Jeff. “Very realistic, voice activated, made in Shenzhen, and can do all sorts of tricks and even tell bedtime stories.”
“Amazing,” said the steward. Ariadne was at that moment curled round and actively licking herself - just like a real cat.
“I think we got away with it that time, but only just,” said Jeff when the steward had gone.” He wanted to put Ariadne back in her bag but Jessica said that was cruel.
“What are they going to do now if they find out? Throw her off the plane?”
“It wouldn’t surprise me,” said Jeff.
Fifteen minutes later the same steward came back and said, “That really is an amazing toy.”
“It is isn’t it?” said Jemima who was now holding her, much to the embarrassment of Mum and Dad who were no longer in the dark about the smuggled kitty-cat.
“I mean,” said the steward, “who would have thought that a toy, even a voice activated one made in China, could give birth?”
“What do you mean?” said Dad.
But then he took another look at Ariadne and said, “Ah, is that? No it can’t be, but it is…”
Because a small, wet, much licked head was popping out of Ariadne - not at the usual end where you expect a cat’s head to be, but at the giving birth end. Now the meowing grew very loud. People were looking around. The steward went to the end of the plane, picked up the microphone, and said,
“We have a small announcement to make. We have a cat on board that is giving birth to one or more kittens. If there is a vet or a doctor on board, we would be grateful if you could make yourself known to a member of the cabin crew.”
A lady got up and said that she was a midwife. She was more used to working with human Mums and babies, but she thought the general principle was probably the same. In fact, Ariadne was doing very well on her own. Her first furry kitten was fully born and a second one was emerging, encouraged by much licking.
And as it happens, Jessica is a Junior Doctor, and seeing as she had failed to spot that Ariadne was pregnant, she felt slightly annoyed with herself and decided to keep quiet.
Then another kitten popped out, and then another one. Ariadne was now lying on her side. The kittens seemed to know what to do. They were latching on to drink their mother’s milk. She continued giving birth. The midwife helped clean each little delivery before handing them back to the mother.
Jessica and the children were beside themselves with excitement.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” said the steward, “for those of you who are anxiously asking for an update on our in-flight drama, the mother is doing very well and so are the five babies that have been born so far. I’m told that another one is on its way.”
Fortunately, six was the final total. Jessica said, “Yes, Ariadne, it’s sensible to stop there because six babies are more than enough for any mum to look after.”
“You’d better watch she doesn’t try to hide any in a cupboard or under a chair,” said the midwife, “because I’ve heard that mother cats sometimes try to offload one or two newborn kittens.”
But Ariadne just purred. She was evidently very pleased with herself.
The head steward came over to congratulate the mother and her family and only gave a mild ticking off for not obeying the airline’s rules.
And so by the time the family reached London, they had almost doubled in size. There were now four adults, two children, one cat, and six kittens.
After they had picked up their luggage off the carousel they had to decide whether or not to walk through the Green Channel or the Red one that said, “Something to Declare.”
Jeff wanted to pick the green one. He looked at Dad.
“Well alright,” he said. “I know what you’re thinking.”
And so Dad took Ariadne and the six kittens through the Red Channel and told the customs officer that they had six kittens who had been born in flight, as well as one Greek cat with a “pet passport” that was all in order.
“Well, not had that one before,” said the official. He did not really know what the procedure was, but after a call to the airport vet, he allowed them through.
“Well,” said Mum when they met on the other side. “It wasn’t just Ariadne I was worried about. When he saw that Jeff had smuggled a cat on board, Dad almost had kittens.”
And that is the story of The Wicked Uncle and the Smuggled Cat.