Titus Brown

And The Polish Pianist

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Titus Brown is black and white. You might wonder then how he came to be called Titus Brown - but that is another story for another day. Just accept, please, that he is Titus Brown who is black and white.


Perhaps you are now wondering how a person can be both black and white. Don’t you ever stop asking questions? If you must know, Titus Brown who is black and white is not a person. Neither is he a penguin, a zebra, a piano or a newspaper. What ridiculous suggestions! Titus Brown is black and white and he is a cat. Of course he is.

Titus Brown is, however, no ordinary cat. He is the cleverest cat you ever met. He understands English very well indeed and quite possibly Polish too. Due to an unfortunate incident in his youth he has only half an ear on the right side of his head, which gives him a rakish air when he is in good humour and the appearance of someone not to be trifled with when he is not. Titus Brown has attitude. Or Cattidude if you prefer! He also has all the other things you would expect a cat to have- fur, eyes, legs, tail, claws, teeth and a collar with a bell to warn the birds that he is in the garden. More unusually for a cat he also has an unmistakeable sense of humour and he is fond of music. Oh yes-and roast chicken.


Titus Brown’s fondness for music was learned from the person he likes best in the world. He used to live with her in a house with a very grand piano indeed, which had carved legs and a lid that stayed open with a stick for support and real, genuine brass candelabra. They spent a lot of time together at that piano over the years and Titus Brown would often interrupt his owner’s arpeggios and studies to display his own talent as an original composer of the Avant Garde variety by strolling with his black and white feet along the black and white keys. He has been quite lonely and artistically unfulfilled since his owner grew up and moved herself and the very grand piano away. The only other musical instrument in the house is a double bass and whoever heard of a cat playing a double bass?

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By the way, in case you are wondering, there is no particular reason why Titus Brown is fond of roast chicken. Does there need to be? Every self-respecting cat likes roast chicken don’t they?


Although his owner has taken her music away to another city Titus Brown lives a comfortable life in an old house near to a great English cathedral. He sleeps well. He eats well, even though, regrettably, roast chicken is not often on the menu. He keeps the local rats on their dirty little toes and ensures that other cathedral cats do not stray into his garden. Life is good for Titus Brown but his little cat heart is slightly sad and calloused without his owner and their very grand piano.


So when a tall visitor came to stay, causing the celebratory roasting of a juicy chicken to fill the old cathedral house with the most wonderful smells, Titus Brown cocked his one and a half ears and sniffed the air happily. Roasting chicken with herbs and just a twang of garlic assailed his senses and he breathed in happily, confident of a good dinner that evening. But, wait! What else did he smell? Something else. Something not for eating but very delicious nonetheless.


Somewhere, among the wafting fragrances of roast meat and vegetables and gravy, Titus Brown who is, may I remind you, black and white, could smell PIANO!


You might wonder what piano smells like. I can only guess that it might be a harmonious symphony of wood and polish and felt and fingers but I don’t truly know. I am not a cat. But Titus Brown knew the smell alright. And he knew that it was coming from the tall dinner guest and that made the tall dinner guest a very welcome presence indeed. Added to which, the tall dinner guest had done Titus Brown the honour of dressing in black and white. Titus Brown had been told as a kitten that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and so took as his due the long black trousers, the well-groomed white chest and the black tails of the pianist’s concert dress. He briefly wondered whether having two tails rather than the more usual one might be overdoing the compliment but with the prospect of roast chicken and the soothing smell of piano he was inclined to be charitable.

Later, when Titus Brown, the tall piano man and everyone else in the house had eaten their fill and there remained just a few bones and a solitary roast potato to prove that there had ever been a roast chicken dinner Titus Brown settled down to digest and enjoy the smell of post prandial piano. He fell into a satisfied and deep catnap.


Some hours later Titus Brown awoke. The old cathedral house was empty. Nobody but him was home. But from beyond the walls he could hear something that made his little calloused cat heart stir. He could hear faint piano music that reminded him of his love for his owner, of the times they had played together at the very grand piano with the carved legs and the stick and the genuine brass candelabra, of her going away and of how much he missed her and the music. He sat very still and listened and waited to see what would happen next.


And what happened next was that the music stopped and the tall pianist dressed like Titus Brown in black and white but with two tails walked into the old Cathedral house and sat down right next to Titus Brown. He smelled more of piano than ever but also of sadness and dancing and darkness and light and of things that Titus Brown could not name. After all, he is just a cat. And they sat together in friendly silence for a while before two surprising things happened.


First the Pianist left the room for a moment and returned carrying in his long piano playing fingers the solitary roast potato, which he proceeded to consume elegantly and with cat-like delicacy. Titus Brown looked away politely. Anyone whose fingers could paint teardrops and bring back lost loves deserved to eat anything he wanted. Anyway Titus Brown didn’t much care for potatoes.


Then the tall piano player turned to Titus Brown with a smile and spoke to him in Polish. What he said we shall never know. It is possible, as I said before, that Titus Brown, the cleverest cat in the world, is fluent in Polish and understood perfectly. It is also possible that he simply sat politely not understanding a word but recognising their common liking for roast chicken and piano. We shall never know. Because soon afterwards the tall pianist went away and everything was as it was before except that Titus Brown’s heart felt better and less sad.


So that is the story of Titus Brown and the Polish pianist. It is something and nothing but by such encounters even calloused little cat hearts can be moved.

(SB, November 2019)

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