Tom sat, rocking slowly in his chair, staring gloomily out of the window of the home.
Retirement sucks, he thought.
He and Jerry had thought it would last for ever – the fame, the wealth, the girls (Tom wasn’t called a Tom for nothing, and for a few brief seconds a smile whispered across his whiskers).
How he missed those glorious, wonderful, slapstick days. People had thought they’d had scripts but no, they’d made it up as they went along, each trying to catch the other by surprise with an upturned rake, or a waist-high ironing board, or the sudden chance to swallow a bowling-ball dropped from a great height.
He could still feel the twinges, like an ex-rugby player whose knee stiffens up in cold weather – the ache of fingers that had been jammed in power-sockets, the numbness of a tail caught in countless mousetraps, the ringing in his ears from a thousand frying-pans full in the face.
For most of the injuries had been suffered by Tom, and that was fine with him, because he was the straight man, the Ernie to Jerry’s Eric, both knowing that it was a partnership in which each was as vital as the other.
Then, at the very height of their fame, along had come Fred and Wilma.
Tom and Jerry had laughed out loud, though not in a good way, at the early episodes of the Flintstones, refusing to believe that the public would warm to a man who wore a tie but no trousers and had a catchphrase that sounded like an infant Tarzan.
Like the silent-movie stars watching The Jazz Singer they had all mocked – Tom and Jerry, Mickey and Minnie, Bugs Bunny, not comprehending that they were watching the end of their way of life, forgetting that most fundamental of all truths.
The Flintstones was thirty minutes long, and this was its great selling point with exhausted parents who wanted the TV to baby-sit for them. Soon a whole station, Cartoon Network, was born, with a desperate need for longer cartoons to fill its 24-hour appetite. Johnny Bravo, the Powerpuff Girls, Dexter and his bloody Laboratory took over, not funny, not for a second, but triumphs of quantity over quality. Then others sold out, Batman giving up his real-life TV show with its visible sound-effects and its leather-clad Catwoman to feature in a cartoon series in which the principle features were permanent night-time and a voice that sounded like a motorbike on gravel.
Some of their friends made the transition – Top Cat, the Pink Panther, but Tom and Jerry’s own brand of high-speed hecticness could never have survived half-an-hour.
For a while they survived on stations like RTE, stuck into the gap between Jean Byrne’s weather front and Mary Kennedy’s Nationwide, but in time these gaps between shows became filled instead with adverts for more shows. Tom and Jerry were shown the door.
And that had hurt most of all. They hadn’t even been given the boot, a chance to leave in one last funny act. It would have been nice, thought Tom, to have departed the studio at speed and an angle of 45 degrees, leaving two Tom and Jerry-shaped holes in the walls, arms and legs spread like a starfish.