“Well, that’s enough fighting for racial equality for one day.”, Robert Sherman said to himself as he signed yet another Change.org petition that had been emailed to him. He then logged off his laptop and decided to see how the first beer he’d brewed in a few months was doing.
Robert probably had the most peaceful lockdown of everyone in Lower Strangling, as he lived on the site of Lower Strangling’s large brewery in the middle of the countryside, just a few miles outside of the village itself. It was also particularly peaceful because he was living alone.
The hydraulically powered machinery was whirring into action after having been silent since March as Robert waited for the lockdown to finish, like a Bear waking up after hibernation. The machinery was turned on as soon as Robert got the call from John to say that the Hangman’s Noose was getting ready to reopen. Robert was delighted to be getting back to work, mainly because he had nothing to do as his “to be read” pile of books only took him so far.
Robert looked at his watch; it was 21:20pm.
“Right, time to shut up shop for the night, me thinks.”, Robert said to himself before he turned off the machinery, once again making the brewery fall to silence.
Robert decided to taste some of the freshly brewed Throckmorton Ale that was still in the barrels. It was beautifully refreshing.
But, just as he was tasting the ale, he heard the sound of a big cat roaring, not something you’d expect to hear in rural Warwickshire.
“Huh? That’s strange.”, Robert muttered to himself as he heard the noise. Robert turned round to the entrance of the brewery and walked outside to check where the sound was coming from, making sure to pick up a bottle of Throckmorton Ale on his way.
He walked outside and searched the premises, but all he could see and hear were the wildlife he was used to; the birds chirping in the trees, and the various waterfowl swimming in the river.
Believing he was just imaging the roar due to his tiredness, Robert decided to sit on a bench outside the brewery and watch the sunset whilst drinking his beer. Being British, Robert tended not to do the Aussie tradition of having a sundowner, but sometimes he just felt like slowing down whilst watching the sun go down.
The brewery overlooked the River Avon, which he could look at whilst he was brewing beer or, as he was doing this evening, before he went home after work. Tonight, the river was burning orange as it reflected the sunset.
The brewery’s resident Australian black swans swam over to Robert; clearly wanting food.
“No, no, I don’t have any food for you tonight.”, Robert said to the swans, putting his arms up to show that he did in fact not have the Tupperware box filled with swan feed. But the swans just stared at him, waiting for there meal.
“I mean it”, Robert proclaimed, “I seriously don’t have anything for you tonight.”
Just then, the various other waterfowl swam up to Robert expectantly. Robert sighed before standing up, walking to the birds with his arms outstretched.
“You see? Nothing.”, Robert protested before decided to give up as clearly someone had to and the birds were determined for it not to be them.
“Oh, alright. Wait there”, Robert demanded before walking back into the brewery to get the feed.
A little while later, Robert walked back out of the brewery with the box of bird feed. All the waterfowl flapped their hands excitedly as he sat back on the bench.
“Ok, here you go.”, Robert said as he sprinkled the bird feed to the ducks and swans. Deciding after a while that the birds were fed well enough, Robert put down the Tupperware box and was about to finally drink his ale, when he was stopped once again by the sound of a big cat roaring.
“Huh? I’m sure I’m not imaging that”, Robert muttered to himself as he looked up from his bottle. He gasped in horror. There, on the other side of the Avon, was a large, black, cat with bright green eyes, like a Panther, or a Puma.
“A panther?!”, thought Robert as he stared at the beast with disbelief, “but how can that be? Bodmin’s 221 miles away.”
There had been reports of large back cats in other parts of the country, especially during the lockdown. Almost every county had it’s own beast, but there definitely wasn’t a Beast of Lower Strangling. At least, not until just now.
“Oh no!”, Robert exclaimed as he saw the beast. The beast then saw him, growled, and began to walk very slowly around the River, towards Robert.
Robert stood up in horror as the beast snarled at him with its sharp, white, teeth.
Realising what he had to do, Robert smashed the bottle of ale on the bench, wincing in pain at the thought of the ale he’d just wasted, and pointed the jagged end at the beast.
“Don’t come any closer, I’m warning you, I’m armed”, Robert defiantly said whilst pointing the bottle at the cat,
“I’ll slash you, I mean it!” The black creature showed its teeth at the brewer, almost likes it was smiling sardonically. It then prepared to pounce.
“Oh shit!”, Robert declared before dropping the bottle of ale and running inside to safety. The beast pounced but narrowly missed Robert, who’d luckily managed to close the door in time.
Inside the quiet brewery, Robert sighed with relief, before hyperventilating for a bit whilst he heard the cat growl outside. Robert then walked up the stairs to his main house. Clearly it was time for bed, but there was something he needed to do first.
“Hello”, Robert said to the person on the other end of the phone line as he rang Twycross Zoo inside his cosy living room, “a massive black cat seems to be prowling around the brewery, almost like a panther or a puma. I believe it must have escaped your zoo so I’d very much like you to come and pick it up.”
“Sorry, sir, no can do”, replied the person at the other end, “we don’t have any black cats here.”
“But surely it belongs to you”, Robert responded, “the only other nearest zoo I could think of is West Midlands Safari Park, and it surely wouldn’t have come from there.”
“Perhaps you were just imagining it, being locked up for a few months can do weird things to a man, very weird things”, reassured the person on the other end of the line.
“Are you insinuating that I’m insane”, Robert proclaimed, “because I most certainly am not!”
The person on the other end of the line just chuckled, mainly because Robert was beginning to sound like a crotchety old woman threating to contact the council about some very trivial thing.
“Bye, sir”, concluded the person, before hanging up.
“Don’t you hang up on me”, the brewer shouted down the line, “we still have unfinished business!”
But it was too late, Twycross zoo had ended the call. Robert sighed exasperatedly. He then decided to look out of the window, just to be sure.
But all Robert could see were the swans, and the ducks, and the River. Not a black cat in sight. Deciding that maybe the COVID-19 lockdown may have made him go insane, Robert called it a night and went up to bed.