We have a completely jungular side yard. The compound teeters on “Grey Gardens” territory now, minus the connections to old money. I found the cat, squatting to poop. I averted my eyes, waiting. It took a long time, and the way it happened, she looked ill. Maybe she ate something bad.
I went upstairs and borrowed some cat food from my cats. Lured the new girl up the driveway, and let her sit and eat a while. She was grey and black, with the leopard tummy and the striped tail. No scars. Pretty skinny. She could belong to someone. The nipples on her belly looked a little prominent. Maybe she was in heat. Or knocked up. I’ve never dealt with a fertile cat. I lured her into my place, and stuck her in the storage area with the food and water. It was still really hot out.
When it was dark, I went down and let new girl out. She went right outside, no hesitation, but didn’t run away. I sat on my stoop and she lay down, like we did this all the time. I took out the cigarettes left from the one day a year I smoke, and brought them out to light them and pretend I was in high school.
It seemed like a good idea to me to climb up in the rickety old treehouse. It’s about 3/4 there at this point. The bottom rung of the ladder is missing, so even I, with long legs, have trouble pulling myself up, and the last step on your way down is a doozy. I walked over, and cat followed me. I climbed up, and she climbed up, too. Claw, claw, claw.
What’s left in the maple tree is a platform, some supports that look solid. There are open gaps in it, and the posts around the edges are no longer connected. I sat and listened to the cicadas, watched the street from up where no one could see me. No crazy lady sweeping the sidewalk for hours. I wonder what happened to her. One couple talking loudly on their way into the apartment building. The upstairs lights were on in the house where the teenage boy and his grey-haired mother live.
The cat explored, then lay down again. My feet sweated because I was nervous about falling. I would fall ten feet down, into the yard, and lie there with my shin bones sticking out of my skin, waiting for my neighbor to get home.
I climbed down, and realized the cat had not followed. She was still walking around up there, talking at me. She was a loud one. What the hell was I thinking? You learn this from cartoons! Cats can’t get down from trees! And I couldn’t go back up and carry her down. I needed both hands to climb. I tried to grab her and yank her down, but she screeched and dug her claws in. Finally, I found a piece of wood to set up as a platform, smothered it in catnip. She tested it, trusted it, and jumped down the rest of the way.
Once a cat is mine, said cat is imprisoned for life. All you can eat, limitless affection, but no more roaming. My cats don’t choose to be with me. I picked them– Miranda because I thought no one else would adopt her (she howled like Satan in her cage), and Tybalt because he was partly orange, and seemed easygoing enough to tolerate Miranda. This cat chose to hang out with me. Like the birds choose to dress Cinderella. I could whistle for her, and she would come. She probably already belongs to someone, or maybe, like me, she’s still wandering around.