Me: "Good morning, The Bear."
The Bear: "Technically speaking, we're thirty seven minutes into the afternoon, but hello."
Me: "Well, a lot of people these days seem to still say 'Good morning' if it's still any time before lunchtime. Most folk just accept that."
The Bear: "If 'most folk' told you to lick clean the bonnet of Jeremy Clarkson's sports car after he'd driven recklessly through a muddy ford near his Cotswolds hate palace, would you? I'm just saying: accuracy never hurt anyone, and can alleviate a lot of very harmful confusion in the world."
Me: "Ok. I'll remember that. So, The Bear. Readers of Under The Paw and Talk To The Tail know your story now: your humble beginnings, being found in a carrier bag on the side of the motorway, then being rescued, moving to Norfolk with me and my ex, constantly having to put up with Shipley whacking the top of that cardboard box used to sleep in... right up until now, living with me, Shipley, Ralph, Roscoe, my girlfriend Gemma, and that muntjac deer who sometimes hangs around in the garden."
The Bear: "Hold on. So you're saying that I was struggling a bit, and you came along, and made everything better, by putting me in a couple of books and posting photos of me on the Internet for thousands of people to see?"
Me: "No. I wasn't saying that at all. I'm sure if you'd been rescued by someone else, who didn't go on to live with someone who had a career as a writer, you'd also have had a very nice life. I'm just stating the facts: you were once heartlessly abandoned. Now you live in quite a nice warm house. Constant supply of biscuits on tap. Several Peter Ackroyd books within easy reach. Lots of comfy surfaces. That sort of thing."
The Bear: "I would like to point out at this juncture that they were the wrong kind of biscuits until recently. The cheaper brand with the weird green ones in that I hate. I mean, who ever heard of a green cat biscuit? What's in it? Spinach?"
Me: "I'm sorry. These are austere times to be a writer. My house had needed lots of maintenance recently. I admit, however, that trying to save money on biscuits was a mistake. I have now rectified it. Moving on... How do you feel about the way I've portrayed you in the books? Is it accurate?"
The Bear: "I think the best I can say about it is that it is an accurate portrayal of a few aspects of my character: the aspects, perhaps, that face you, or at least those that you choose to see. I have many other aspects, but I can appreciate that you have an agenda, and may choose to ignore them. I'm used to being misrepresented, though. I mean - look at me. I was named The Bear, yet it would be patently obvious even to a myopic person in their eighties who'd neglected to get checked out at Vision Express for several years that the animal I am most reminiscent of aside from a cat is an owl.
Me: "I noticed that on the day that I finished writing Talk To The Tail, I'd only left the manuscript unattended for about four minutes, but came back to find you on top of it. You had very muddy paws at the time. Was that some sort of comment on the content?"
The Bear: "I felt, at first, a little disappointed that I didn't have a bigger role in the book, that you gave a little bit too much time to Shipley's swearing, Janet's thyroid condition, and Ralph's habit of meowing his own name at the top of his voice at 4am in the morning. And those horses? What was all that about? I calmed down afterwards, and saw that I'd perhaps overreacted. Later on, though, I was disappointed with the paperback cover. You've never even met that kitten on it. It was just some actor kitten. Let's face it: the book doesn't even have a kitten in it."
Me: "I've come to kind of think of it as a Trojan kitten whose job it is to sneak all the animals in the book into readers' houses."
The Bear: "We both know that's nonsense. Your publishers chose the cover, and you had more or less zero say in it. You and I both know I should have been on the cover, cleaning my arse, or looking dolefully into the readers eyes and winning their hearts with my torn ear, and that that would have been a truer reflection of the book's content."
Me: "I notice that you caught your first mouse not all that long ago. You're seventeen now. That took you a while, didn't it? At least, I think you caught it. I can't be sure, as I only saw you with it when it was dead. You could have just claimed it, after Shipley or Ralph got bored of kicking it around the front room."
The Bear: "I caught it. It was pissing about by the compost heap, and I happy-pawed the little gobshite senseless. Nextdoor's cat Biscuit will back me up."
Me: "Speaking of Biscuit: How's that working out for you?"
The Bear: "Good, actually. I'm making progress. I pressed my nose against the kitchen window and stared at her the other day and she didn't even do a projectile grass vomit on the tiles. We've had a couple of scraps recently, but it's that kind of play-fighting that you do when you fancy each other."
Me: "Sure. How are your legs today? You seem to be doing that slightly camp walk quite a lot recently."
The Bear: "It's not "camp". It's just arthritis. We all get it. I'm actually in fantastic health, for my years."
Me: "It is true: You've never looked better. Those scabs on your ears have cleared up, and the many expensive tests the vet recommended earlier this year that I shelled out for turned out to be for nothing."
The Bear: "You've not had much luck at the vet's recently, have you? Y'know, what with that, and the feral you took to have his balls cut off and get tested for FIV, who then ran off?"
Me (coughing): "Changing the subject. You're my cat now, b..."
The Bear: "No, I am my cat."
Me: "Ok, I'll rephrase that. You live with me and my girlfriend now, but before that you lived with me and my ex, and before that you lived with my ex's ex. Do you feel there's any kind of stigma attached to that?"
The Bear: "Not really. You're the one who keeps going on about it."
Me: "You get on well with Gemma, though. We sometimes joke that if the two of us ever split up, she'll have to take you, to keep the trend going.
The Bear: I guess that could happen. I like her very much. Plus, she doesn't listen to those terrible 1970s folk albums that you do, or voice what she presumes to be my thoughts in a fake posh accent that makes me sounds like I'm some ageing homosexual ex-presenter of Jackanory who's never done a hard day's work in his life."
Me: "I wouldn't feel too singled out on that front, if I were you. I talk to a lot of animals in a fake posh voice. I'm always saying a braying pretend upper-class "Hellooo!" to that horse who lives down the road.
The Bear: "The one who looks like Todd Rundgren? I know. He told me, and he thinks it's WEIRD."
Me: "Really? I didn't realise you wandered that far any more, what with the arthritis and everything."
The Bear: "There are a lot of things you don't know."
Me: "I'm currently working on my third cat-themed book, to follow Under The Paw and Talk To The Tail, and there is a pilot for a prospective sitcom inspired by the books being written in America. Do you have any hopes for the content of these?"
The Bear: "I would hope that you might not go into too much detail about my irrational dislike of rain, or my more experimental bowel movements, particularly the incident earlier this year with your original vinyl copies of Neil Young's Doom Trilogy. I'd hope that, if such a sitcom happens, the cats in it still have their claws - both metaphorically and physically speaking. More generally, I would also hope that that small novelty Santa Claus hat you bought from Pets At Home the other week will not be coming out of the kitchen drawer at any point in the near future."
Me: "Thank you for your time, The Bear. I'll let you get back to sleep now."
The Bear: "That's ok. I see it's raining out. Before you go out to get me that turkey you mentioned earlier, could you just move that piece of protective cardboard you've had covering the "Y" section of your record collection? No big reason. I just feel it makes the room look a bit shabby."