19. August 2005 · Comments Off on Late Summer In the Garden of Cats · Categories: Domestic, General

The end of the eighth month of the year in South Texas is usually an arid and dreary time, scorched and blasted by heat. At the end of the day, the large-leafed plants in my garden are limp, and begging for water. Clouds blow over occasionally; huge towering grey and white things, which sometimes deliver rain, and sometimes only tease with the possibility. This summer has not been quite as bad as others: the grass in the huge meadow over the back fence of my place is still pale green, only lightly tinged with yellow. The sky above it is infinitely blue, seemingly as huge as the sky can be, only in the American West.

The garden is recovered from the disastrous hailstorm of this spring, and newly adorned with a series of gorgeously colored glazed pots, offered as a seasonal bargain this spring by the local grocery-store chain, the Huge Enormous Big-Ass Grocery. Due to some quirk of the global economy, or expert wheeling and dealing (and excellent taste) on the part of their purchasing agent, fine-quality glazed pots and urns from Malaysia, China and Italy were available for next to nothing (comparatively speaking), lovely things, glazed in jewel-tones of celadon, deep green, rich blue, and amber. A selection of them is now displayed in the Garden of Cats, lining the walkway and the border at the back, planted with small lemon and lime trees, an exotic coffee plant, a flowering quince, an assortment of gardenias and others too numerous to name. Alas, it is too hot to sit out and enjoy this bounty in the afternoon; that pleasure awaits the day in autumn when the heat finally breaks, we can open the windows and turn off the air conditioning.

The cats enjoy it, nonetheless. Not my own cats, but an assortment of neighbor cats who look on my place as their gentleman’s club— not in that nasty titty-bar sort of way, but as a home away from home, a quiet place of comfortable repose and a light snack. It is a select club, however, with a limited membership. The other afternoon I was looking out from the window over the kitchen sink, when a large ginger cat with white underpinnings suddenly appeared, balancing on the back fence and looking into the yard with curious interest. It poised there for a moment, and then jumped down— I couldn’t see where it went, over the enclosure around the AC unit, and the cannas growing around it. Just as the ginger-cat jumped down, I looked out through the slider door onto the back porch, where Bubba-from-down-the-road, Sammy-from-across-the-Road, and Parfait-from-who-knows-Where were all lazing on the sun-warmed bricks. Bubba rose deliberately from his post-kibble snooze, and sauntered around towards the little path behind the cannas. He came sauntering back again in a few moments, and I heard no snarling, no yowling, no bad-cat-language, but the ginger cat obviously left swiftly and by the shortest and most efficient route. I could imagine Bubba, growing confidently to him, “Oi, you there… Ginger-cakes… a word in your shell-like, if I may… this here is a private club… Unnerstand? There’s the road… ta, then.” (OK so I imagine Bubba talking like Chief-Inspector Dalziel. Sue me.)

Oddly enough, all three tolerated, seemingly with amusement, the opossum family that lived on the porch roof this spring. I was amused myself by the opossums— at one point there were five of them, then three, then none at all. They would come down the trellis and help themselves to the leftover kibble, funny rat-tailed rodenty-looking things with white faces and dark eyes, and prehensile little paws. One afternoon when I was reading on the glider, the boldest of them suddenly swarmed up onto it as I sat very still, then climbed onto my lap. It experimentally gummed a fold of my shirt, then the pages of the book I was reading, and then my finger, evidently deciding that none of them were promisingly edible. It scrambled down off the glider and returned to the cats’ kibble dish; one of my neighbors to whom I told this, said she would be screaming still, if a nasty little bare-tailed wild animal had crawled onto her lap, on a sunny spring afternoon. The opossums are gone, now. I found the bones of one while mulching the corner of the shady border last month, and saw the body of another on the road; the others most probably fell to a new predator. An owl, a very large owl, has been observed perched on a streetlight standard at the corner across from my house, and it seems the local population of roof-rats and squirrels has declined precipitously. Well, nature is like that… and I had thought my relative freedom from rodents was due to the presence of the Gentleman’s Club.

Sammy’s people were the ones who first spotted the owl; they have moved to another house in the neighborhood, but have left Sammy to me, or more precisely to Blondie. When she was home for Christmas this last year, Sammy was only an occasional visitor the Gentleman’s Club. He fell into deep and slavish affection with her, much to his original owners’ surprise, they having raised him on a bottle as a tiny, tiny kitten. He grew into a very large, stately off-white cat, with watery, severely crossed blue eyes; we think he must be close to being blind. He looks like either a ginger cat washed with too much bleach, or a white cat who has not been washed with enough. His devotion to Blondie was such that he continued returning to the Garden of Cats after she returned to Cherry Point, and shortly after that he was struck by a car, while crossing the road. His people rushed him to the veterinary emergency room— he lived, although they could not afford extensive surgery. Sammy now gimps around on three legs, and some of his teeth were smashed, although he eats well enough, and can clear the fence and even go up onto my roof. Still, Blondie and I worried about him, and even felt rather guilty. When I tasked his original owners with the dangers of allowing him out at all, they said that he clawed at the door and yowled so much, they just had to let him out. Of course, they also have a herd of about half a dozen yappy little teacup Chihuahua dogs— did I live in a house with them, I’d be clawing at the door and yowling to be let out, myself. No place this, for a self-respecting cat with a yearning for peace and quiet.

And so Sammy came back, every day, spending most daylight hours in the Garden of Cats. His original owners moved this week: I went to ask them about Sammy, and were they taking him with them? They had planned on it, but then temporized— they were moving to another house, two busy streets away. Would he make a bee-line for us, if they let him out? I left the gate open, so they could come and take him away… but cats have a way of making their own choice, and Sammy had made his clear. He has hardly left the garden in the last four days, and I have gotten the estimate from the veterinarian. At the end of the month, he will be freed of fleas and intestinal parasites, and upon being pronounced feline HIV and Leukemia negative, will be permitted to come indoors— something I think he devoutly wishes for. Blondie, darling, you are “with cat”… when you have your own place, please take him with you. I have no desire to be the local crazy cat lady.
And I am still looking for a good family for Parfait: he has lovely peridot-green eyes, and occasionally when I pick him up, he relaxes so completely, it feels like he has no bones to him at all.

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