It is well known that cases of mistaken identity abound in St Andrews, and never more so than at the stroke of midnight. It’s dark tonight, and the town is still, apart from the distant, driving beat of grunge music coming from the writer-in-residence flat on South Street, and the sound of someone tapping a spoon against a cat dish from a house next to the ice-cream parlour. Further up the street, sitting bang on the Gregory Meridian line, there’s that small black cat with white paws and a bib again. Like all cats, she has many names: her stage name is that of one of the more attention-seeking members of Virginia Woolf’s outer circle; her gang name is ‘D’eath, Destroyer of Worlds’; her passport reads ‘V. Smith (no distinguishing features), patronymic Katovna’; her nickname is ‘Shiny, the Devil Cat’, or on better days, ‘That Evil Rat’; and her own name, the name she hears in her dreams as she hisses at Begemot – the walrus-moustached, vodka-drinking prankster-cat of Bulgakov’s Master and Margarita – is that purest of monikers, ‘I, Myself.’ Now Mrs Smith in her doorway is tapping again on the cat’s dish with a silver spoon, but she’s using just her stage name as she calls out. And so the little black cat flicks an ear and carries on walking down South Street, past the church, and right into Logies Lane.
A light wind blows the clouds apart at that moment, and the black cat with white paws stops dead in her tracks. There, in a beam of moonlight, is none other than Begemot. He is even more whiskery than usual and he’s as large as a pig. He’s sitting on some sort of pedestal, staring intently over her head with his usual supercilious expression. The black cat puffs up like a bottle-brush. Over the next hour she lifts her front paw by nanometers, moving it backwards and repeating this manoeuvre with each paw in turn, her eyes fixed all the while on on those arrogant whiskers. Begemot doesn’t move a muscle, the cunning beast.
As the little black cat reaches the corner of South Street the clock strikes midnight. She lets out a blood-curdling yowl, turns on her tail, and flees all the way back down the street, past J&G Innes Stationers & Printers on her left, and the School of Psychology and Neuroscience on her right, past Zizzi’s and The Canny Soul, the crystal shop, the bicycle shop, and Janetta’s Gelateria, where she wheels sharply left, bouncing off a wall and in through the open door which Mrs Smith has left propped ajar with a silver cat dish. Up the stairs she goes, like Evel Kneivel in his heyday, leaping over shoes and scrabbling up a curtain, and finally landing on the upstairs windowsill, where she watches for Begemot to come sauntering down South Street, Browning revolver in hand.
But Begemot stays just as he is, a statue on the pedestal that bears his stage name, ‘Hamish McHamish,’ and underneath it, a plaque bearing a tribute to St Andrew’s best-loved cat. And I, Myself? She keeps watch until dawn, unblinking, and then she finally lets out a sigh and goes to sleep.