Listen to Jane read from Cat Soup...
Cat Soup was serialised in the Standard's "Goodies" and "Junior Standard" newspapers.
The wind howled and angry water poured down the valley. Underground, in a storm drain behind a high-rise, Mama Mao and her two wild kittens crouched on a narrow ledge.
Runty watched as the water massed and swelled. "We're going to drown," he mewed.
Runty was grooming Stolly when the front door bell rung. The kittens dashed under a cupboard.
"That must be Old Aunt Po,” called Mrs. Tam.
From the balcony, the kittens sniffed the night air, laden with the scent of ginger flowers. Fireflies danced in the dark woods. Frogs croaked.
"I miss Mama," said Stolly, and sang a little song:
Sniff! Sniff! What interesting smells. Runty soon forgot his fears as he climbed the path.
Stolly scampered behind.
Two stone lions stretched comfortably across the opposite pavement. They looked proud and tall but had kind faces. HSBC bank loomed behind them.
A tram screeched to a halt and its angry driver shook a fist at a pizza delivery man crossing the concrete. "Now!" mewed Runty, darting forwards.
Ten feet long, car-tire tough, Boo the Burmese python could squeeze little kittens into bags of bones. Flicking his forked tongue, he lowered his pancake head, ready to attack.
Birds cawed above.
Runty pricked his ears. Noisy feathers, he thought.
Night fell. Hungry and thirsty, the kittens kept running.
Runty, head held high, led the way. For some reason, he thought of June and hoped she wasn't missing him too much. Meanwhile, Stolly imagined licking Mama Mao's kind face and snuggling up to her.
Now cats are not stupid. Like pigs and cows, they know when they're on death row. Snake and chicken meat were sizzling in Cissy's wok. She'd stirred in the tree fungus, black mushrooms and fish glue. Added ginger, scallion, starch and salt. Even sliced the chrysanthemum leaves.
All the soup needed was two more cats.
Two moons had waxed and waned.
Stolly tickled Runty's face with his whiskers to wake him from a cat nap. "I dreamed of her again," he mewed.
The balcony doors were open. For once. Sniffing cautiously, Stolly lowered his paw onto a tile. It felt warm.
"Holy cats!" cried Runty, running straight out.
Stolly followed. The wind ruffled his fur in a scary way. Skirting the flower pots alongside the wall, he came to a corner and poked his nose between the railings. Yikes! What a drop. His tummy lurched.
"I'm sorry. I couldn't wait," wailed Stolly. He'd jumped onto an air-con shelf a floor below. His little tail wagged like a dog's.
"Don't move," mewed Runty.
"Lions will help you find your way," explained Papa Mao, leading his sons down to the pier.
The first streak of dawn. The first signs of human activity: men carrying trays of sweet-smelling buns, school children kicking kerbs.
Stolly puffed up his fur.
Early next morning, when a pigeon landed on Mrs. HSBC's head, Mr. HSBC swiped it dead.
"Thank you for your hospitality," mewed the kittens, the taste of bird still fresh on their lips.
The kittens clawed their way along the Lion Rock King's narrow spine. In the late afternoon sun, his glorious head looked a hop, skip and a jump away.
Stones dislodged and bounced down the valley. The Lion Rock King was yawning! His warm rush of breath nearly blew the kittens over the precipice.
"Who's tickling my ears?" he roared.
The door between the kitchen and the restaurant swung open. "Cat soup for table four," shouted a waiter.
"Two more cats, Carver Jo," shouted Cissy the Cook, turning up the gas. She needed to make another batch of soup to keep up with demand.