That Black Cat made me write this. The Authors Collection.
October 2, 2013
A black cat patrols our neighborhood. He lives in the house behind us, but I believe he only visits it for food, and maybe a brief rest. For the rest of the day, and long into the night, he is on the move.
Although I have come to admire some of his qualities, we have a guarded relationship. The very day we moved into our home five summers ago, he made it clear that we were on his land, and not the other way around. It’s not just his house and our house that he patrols. He travels far and wide, covering at least four or five big country blocks.
One could set a timer by him. He follows the same path, at the same time of day. No matter what the weather – rain, snow, sleet – just like the mail carrier, he does his job. If our garage door is open, he’ll include that in his patrol.
Sometimes we see him go by and he looks so bedraggled I have no idea how he is still moving. A few days later, he looks as good as new. Even when his fur has obviously been shaved to patch up something that has happened to him, it grows back almost immediately. Not magic, just that cat.
Our guarded relationship stems from his desire to sit under our bird feeders, and mine that he not come near them. For the first year or two, I made many noises at him if I found him hiding in the bushes, or stumbled upon him while weeding the garden. I wanted to make it clear that he may not bother the birds.
Actually, at first I didn’t even want him in my yard. Eventually, when I realized that was never going to happen, we made a miniature peace pact. He still roams the yard, and he mostly stays away from the birds.
Now, I don’t have to make noise to remind him of our agreement. If he sees me, he stops in his tracks and stares. I stare back. Eventually he turns his back on me in disdain and walks away. His stare is scary though. He has yellow eyes that flash across the distance, making sure I know he is looking at me, and he is not scared at all. It’s his decision to walk away, not because he is afraid of me, but he is bored with me.
I know he only stays away from the birds most of the time, and if I am not vigilant, he will return. He left a bird in our garage sometime last month – discovered just a few days ago – I am sure to remind me that he really is the one in charge, and he is just humoring me.
One day this summer, Del heard screeching and saw the cat running at break neck speed right up into our yard. Behind him was the red fox that lives down the street, under a neighbor’s deck. At the time, she had a little batch of babies to protect and she was furious at that cat. The fox was the one in charge this time, but knowing that cat, I hope the fox is more vigilant than I am about what she is protecting.
How can I not admire him? He set up a job for himself that means something. No one makes him do it. He is like the guard on the border. It’s as if he knows of some danger that he is must keep away from his territory.
He never lets himself, or anyone else he thinks is counting on him, down. He is graceful, smart, protective, fast, (don’t tell him I said he is also rather good looking), and very effective. He is diligent, prompt, and persistent.
I didn’t want to write about that cat, but every time I sat down to write, the urge to tell his story kept popping up. I ignored it at first, but as every writer knows, when something is urging a story to be told, you might as well give up and tell it.
I hope that now that I have fulfilled that cat’s request to tell his story, he will be more likely to leave my birds alone. I know I am fooling myself. I remain diligent. Isn’t that one of the things he is teaching me?
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