I don’t usually write about things I know. I have never, for instance, met a fairy or a pirate. I believe in knowing what you write–get your facts and your details straight–but drawing from my own life? It’s rare. So today you get a rare piece of creative nonfiction.
This is a fairly quiet piece about walking around a neighborhood–written with cat-lovers in mind. 🙂
I like to take the same walk through my neighborhood most days. Six blocks up, left for one block, left again to go six blocks home. It doesn’t take long to learn the landmarks—favorite houses, funny lawn ornaments, beautiful trees, fascinating gates. And, of course, the cats.
There are a half-dozen or so cats I watch for as I walk. A few have collars so I can learn their names; the rest I’ve dubbed with nicknames. These tend to be very uncreatively based on their most striking physical features!
The first one I pass is Tuxedo. He’s a clever cat who has figured out that the best place for a nap in the neighborhood is on the wide banisters on the front steps of a currently vacant house. I think Tuxedo lives next door, but it’s hard to tell—he’s always at the one that’s for sale. Whoever moves into the house, for Tuxedo’s sake, I hope they don’t have a dog.
A block farther up lives Long-nose. He’s a very friendly tabby with, as you may guess, a rather long face. It gives him an absolutely distinguished look. He likes to sprawl on the front path of his house, and is always eager to come up and be petted.
Two of my favorite cats live on the block where I turn, and are among the reasons I turn there. First there’s Ruby, who is clearly an intellectual sort, as she likes to hang out on the front steps of the library. She’s an explorer too—I’ve seen her range across the entire block, which is farther than most cats will go. Most often she’s at the library though, and loves to come scampering down the steps to greet passersby. She’s a mottled brown tabby with a lovely plumy tail, and enormous amounts of charm.
Ruby has a far more skittish friend, who I’ve had to dub Blackie because I don’t know his real name. Blackie is one of those big-eyed cats who stare at me as though I’m going to pounce on him. So far, no amount of crouching down to his level, uttering honeyed words, and admonishing Ruby to tell him I’m nice has made any amount of difference. Blackie just won’t be convinced to be friendly. In fact, the normally wildly enthusiastic Ruby turns downright stand-offish when he’s around.
Down the street from the library lives my second favorite cat, the Aloof Siamese. He lives in a gated yard, and tends to sit on his porch and stare at me as I go by, refusing to come to the fence and be friendly. Just twice in the last year has the Aloof Siamese consented to be coaxed into friendly overtures. Only once I met him outside of his fence. I had just been petting Ruby, and I suspect that contributed significantly to his interest in sniffing my hand. The Aloof Siamese is simply beautiful, with a delicately-tinted gray face, and stunning blue eyes. It may be just as well that he isn’t friendly more often. If he was, I’d have to change his nickname.
A block away from the Aloof Siamese there’s another Siamese, a little brown cat named Vida with the softest fur you can imagine. She’s as friendly as he’s aloof. She’s thrilled to meet new people, and I have a hard time convincing her that I can’t adopt her. She inevitably tries to follow me home, leading to conversations along the lines of, “No, Vida, go home, you can’t come with me…” So far, she’s always managed to get the idea eventually.
There are fewer cats on the way home, but there is a dog. He’s a big Golden Lab I sometimes see through a window. He likes to sleep on a chair near the window, so that I can only see his head hanging past the armrest. If I catch him there, he’ll just stare languidly. If he’s up and about, he’ll bark. Somehow I’m more threatening when he’s standing.
It’s a funny thing. I inexplicably tend not to meet my neighbors by walking around the neighborhood—so few of them are out. But I know their pets well.