Copyright 1992, Sarah Hartwell

The sole result of a liaison between a farmyard tom and a precocious Siamese who insisted he had taken advantage of her, Genghis Khan arrived with genocidal instincts. He tackled anything that moved - including a half-grown fox whose face still bore a slightly surprised look. His victims went to a nearby taxidermist who supplied art-classes and museums. Genghis's sworn purpose in life was to depopulate the surrounding countryside and keep the taxidermist well supplied.

Genghis's love of hunting led him onto lanes around the village, normally safe hunting grounds. Normally, but not always. City folk sometimes sped along the lanes in their shiny bright cars with little concern for wildlife ... or for cats.

After 13 tyrannical years, Genghis was laid to rest at the edge of the garden near his favourite rabbiting field so that his spirit could easily reach his favourite hunting grounds.

Life without Genghis was empty, but we could not bear to get another cat so soon. Sometimes I fancied I could hear him galloping up the stairs or exercising those lethal claws on the doormat. Two days after his death, I found a dead stoat on the front room rug. How on earth had a stoat found its way into the front room?

"Genghis up to hs usual tricks?" the taxidermist asked when I passed on the stoat.

I explained that Genghis had moved on to the celestial hunting fields and we both puzzled over the stoat's presence in my house.

A week later I found a weasel in the bathroom. Genghis used to lay out his prey in all sorts of places - many a time I had found moles and squirrels 'hidden' in the bath. Two days after that, I heard something gallop up the stairs. I left off the ironing, half-expecting Genghis to appear. There, by the top of the stairs was a dead weasel.

Over the next few months it was as if Genghis had never left. Rats under the dining room table, unexplained mice in the living room and a frog on the duvet. Sometimes, if I turned around quickly I thought I caught a glimpse of ginger or a flicker of light in that brief instant of seeing something as it vanished.

"Maybe he doesn't realise he's dead," my husband suggested, "It happened so quickly."

The next day, as if to confirm this theory, our moped-riding postman told me he had narrowly missed hitting Genghis that morning. The next time I heard 'Genghis' gallop upstairs I called out to him. I thought I heard a little answering 'brrrp'. Why hadn't we noticed him recently?

"Genghis, old mate," I began, feeling incredibly silly talking to thin air, "I don't know how to tell you this but you should be in the happy hunting grounds."


"Look you great stoat-slaughtering wozzack, you're dead, snuffed it, caput. Understand?" It was beginning to feel very Monty Pythonesque.

There was a disappointed little 'brrrp'. Why were we sending him away? Had he misbehaved? Then enlightenment must have dawned on that furry phantom head and there was a sudden chill in the room as Genghis 'crossed over'. The house suddenly felt very, very empty. There were no more weasels after that.

Back to Index