Murder in Muckleneuk

© J. Francois Barnard - 18 January 2024

The little six-year-old boy stood in front of his older brother and sister. They pointed at him and snarled their accusation: "Murderer!" Their mother stepped in between them, and by then, all three were crying.

In a pear tree in their backyard swung the corpse of the family cat, Kit-Kat.

Kit-KatIt all started with their new puppy, a grey Weimaraner called Pale-Pete. The pup arrived with blue eyes, but they turned green as he grew up. Kit-Kat was not at all happy with the intruder's presence, and her sharp nails kept him at bay.

The energetic dog loved to play with the children, but when at school, his only companion was Kit-Kat, and she would run away from him and jump into the pear tree. Her Majesty would look down from her throne on high to the barking peasant and then look away - silly dog!

Their dad bought a metal collar and a sturdy metal leash for Pale-Pete. But the fast-growing dog soon outgrew the collar, and the oldest boy pulled the tip of the leash through its leather grip. That way, they could still walk their dog, albeit with a strangling chain around his neck.

The little boy played with Kit-Kat, placed the chain around the cat's neck, and pulled the noose. Pale-Pete spoiled their innocent game and barked at the cat. She ran away as always, but this time with a chain trailing behind her. The dog went after her, and the boy lost interest in playing with pets and instead built a house with his Legos.

High up in the pear tree, Kit-Kat watched the dog and tried to rid herself of the chain. She wanted to move to a thicker branch from where she could manage herself more easily, but in jumping, the chain caught on a branch, and she never reached her destination. The poor cat was strangled to death.

With the help of their uncle, Kit-Kat was laid to rest behind the girl's doll's house. The older brother had a sombre ceremony at the graveside, with flowers and the lid of a shoebox on which he wrote:

Murdered on 5 July 1970

As his younger brother approached, he turned around with tears washing his dust-covered cheeks and said: "Take off your shoes! You are standing on holy ground!"

Forty-four years later, the former six-year-old relayed this story to me and said: "I do not think I got away with murder. I am fifty years old now, and at night in my bed, I still see a black cat swinging from a pear tree."


Editor's note: The above story was the result of an assignment done in the Creative Writing course, Section The Craft of Setting and Description, at Wesleyan University. It is a story retold in English. The original Afrikaans version dates back to 2014 and can be read here.