The story so far: Filippo is the new housemate at Mortierstraat, and the first international student to live there. Vera was apprehensive because her English isn’t great.
She paced the room, sniffing. The closer she got to the sofa, the more penetrating the smell became. ‘Eek!’ she cried when she spotted a completely unfamiliar cat. Sitting next to a wet stain. Filled with revulsion, she stared at the dirty animal, and she was just about to chase it off the sofa when Filippo came in, grinning broadly.
‘I see you have met our newest housemate. Ecco, this is Vecino! Isn’t he lovely?’ Vera searched for words, but English had never rolled off her tongue. ‘Uhm, eh. He stinks a bit.’
But Filippo was looking tenderly at the animal. He picked him up and stuck his nose in his fur. ‘I got him from some students in Droevendaal, there were too many other cats there. And we have enough room here.’
Vera froze. Those animals piss all over Droevendaal. To her mind it was a truly filthy creature, but she did not know how to say so with any subtlety. Besides, Filippo looked so happy and she didn’t want to rain on his parade. Then she caught another whiff of piss.
‘Well, I’m really happy you like your cat, but it is piss on the sofa. Not good.’ She tried to be strict and friendly at the same time. ‘And we don’t have a, eh, a cat flap.’ The Italian looked baffled. ‘A cat flap, ’ said Vera. Filippo looked blank. Vera took out her telephone and googled a picture of a cat flap. ‘You know, a little door for the cat. We don’t have it.’
Filippo’s face lit up. ‘A door for a cat, that is great idea!’ ‘We don’t have it,’ Vera tried again. ‘Where can I get it?’ asked Filippo. ‘In the pet store, but the house boss will say no.’ But the Italian wouldn’t be deterred. ‘Maybe we can just install it, and then tell the house boss,’ he suggested. Vera was starting to get a little irritated. Given half a chance, he’d go ahead and do it and, hey presto, they’d have a cat as a pet! Then the house boss would get mad and they’d be stuck with that smell of piss. At that moment, Willem-Jan came in. For once Vera was happy to see his sour face; this guy could be trusted to pour cold water on any idea.
‘A cat!’ he said happily. ‘What’s his name?’