The neighbors have been great about
stopping by and introducing themselves since we moved to our
hundred-year-old house three months ago. There's Earl. Darwin.
Pickles. And this timid male who comes frequently but as of yet
hasn't introduced himself. Oh, and Patches, of course.
These cats come at regular times
throughout the day to visit our cat Alex and to partake of the
bountiful bowl of cheap kibble my son fills every morning. The bowl
of food (and usually a bowl of milk as well) sits on a plastic
Rubbermaid cube, three by three by three, that houses summer flip
flops, old work shoes, and other smelly footwear from which my
children refuse to part.
Earl, a beautiful grey male, comes in
the morning, eats daintily, then settles in for a nap beside Alex,
both cats' tails gently moving in the misty morning light.
Sometime around noon, Darwin, the new
cat from overseas, leaps onto the front porch, walks along a piece of
white trim past the dining room, around the corner to the kitchen
windows and on to the back porch.
The dogs are indignant at the cats'
visitations. Tails up, ears up, they stand at the window, barking,
turning around at me, wondering why I don't intervene with these
freeloaders who, unlike Alex, don't bring me presents of chipmunks
and mice, setting them at my feet with a proud and gentle mew.
But I let them eat.
All except Evil Patches who beat up
Alex on his first night in the neighborhood.
Evil Patches is not welcome here.
* * *
We set up a card game at the kitchen
table last night after dinner. My son didn't want to play. He wanted
to spend time on the computer.
"Your eyes are turning into
squares," I said, referring to the shape of our ancient monitor.
"You need to spend some time with your family. Come and play."
He sighed and got out the cards. I put
on the tea kettle. My daughter shuffled the deck. My husband shuffled
in in his slippers and pajamas to join us. The dogs romped around in
the kitchen and fell asleep as we settled into our game.
"Your turn," I told my
She was looking outside. "Raccoon."
"That's not..." I began and
turned to see a massive raccoon sitting on the shoe cube eating the
cat food. We set our cards down. My daughter snapped a picture. My
son tapped the window. The dogs napped at my feet.
My husband stood and went to the door,
opening and shutting it several times in quick succession.
The raccoon continued to eat.
I got up to put the kettle back on.
"What are you doing?" I said to my husband, still slamming
the back door.
"Trying to scare him away."
"Why don't you just let him finish
eating? He'll leave when the food is gone."
"He'll beat up Alex," my
Good point. The raccoon clearly had
fifteen pounds on our cat.
My husband slammed the door a final
time and headed to the basement, returning moments later tossing a
miniature soccer ball from one hand to the other.
"What are you doing?" I asked
"I'm going to lob this at him,"
my husband said.
"Don't let him in the house,"
I said, watching the raccoon, who looked rather comfortable on the
shoe cube, more comfortable, in fact than Darwin or Earl or even Alex
ever had. "He may have rabies."
My husband opened the door a crack.
Tentatively stuck out a slippered foot.
Brought the foot back in and closed the
Opened the door.
Stuck out a foot.
Brought the foot in.
Closed the door.
While my children watched, my husband
studied his slipper, wondering whether the teeth of a raccoon could
penetrate the threadbare fabric.
The tea kettle whistled. I turned off
My husband opened the door. Stuck out
his hand. Stuck out his head. Aimed. And fired.
The raccoon skidded off the shoe cube.
My husband skittered out in his pajamas to retrieve the food bowl and
skittered back in.
The raccoon returned, hauling itself
back up onto the shoe cube. He looked around expectantly. Sniffed at
the water bowl. My daughter snapped another picture. My son tapped
the window. We studied the black mask. The long fingers. The bushy
tail. Watching this raccoon--if only for a few moments--was much more
interesting than any computer game could ever be.
The raccoon pressed its nose against
the kitchen window a final time then leapt from the shoe cube and
disappeared into the night.
"Whose turn?" I asked and
took a sip of tea.
Labels: Moving, neighbors