Wednesday, February 5, 2014

A Tuesday Afternoon

            Looking outside through my studio window I see the cat appear through the mist like an apparition, a tiger on the prowl. His paws gently and noiselessly touch the ground without making the faintest sound as he finds the silent space between the brittle twigs and discarded bark from the surrounding trees where the jade colored moss cushions his imperceptible step. He moves across the detritus covered inclined bank and descends into the tangle of vines nestled at the bottom of the small pitched hill besides the rock wall without a sound. His prey is secreted in a swathe of undergrowth from previous years that quilts the forest floor, dried and desiccated. Being a very astute cat he knows within inches exactly where the mouse is hidden and even in which direction the rodent is looking. The black beady eyes of the mouse dart frantically in the direction of the approaching cat and his whiskers jerk worriedly. Some premonition tells him something is about to happen and that danger is near. At the last moment the mouse tries to dart away but it is too late as the cat has already launched himself into the air and rapidly descends unswerving on top of the mouse. A small squeak and then silence as the cat emerges from the brambles and trots off atop the rock wall with his struggling prize clenched between his razor sharp teeth. Tiny drops of blood follow the path of the cat and the now besieged mouse as they saunter off together in a deadly embrace in the direction of the side porch. The cat will most likely deposit the rodent besides the kitchen door after an hour or two of torturing the defenseless creature and eating those parts that appeal to him. The cat is looking for approval from the people living inside the house who give him food and clean up his litter box when it becomes unacceptable. The mouse is a half eaten treasure.

            The cat’s name is Nermal and his fur is a combination of black, grey and khaki, patterned, spotted and striped. He came from over on Big Willow Road where he was conceived and mothered in an old unpainted barn with a number of other cats, all excellent mousers. It is not that he is especially pretty or appealing on any aesthetic level. He is not. He is acceptable on all those counts but not by much. Nermal’s best quality is that of being probably the most tolerant cat for abuse you could imagine. You can pick him up by the end of his tail and he protests very little. He will usually perch up on your shoulder and walk with you for great distances. Very forgiving of children, he even seeks the grand boys out to play with them. They seem to really care about Nermal and only occasionally do they confuse him with his older sister, Frida. That’s for Frida Kahloe, the Mexican painter.   Frida is a totally different kind of cat and is in no way afraid of confrontation with humans, dogs, grand children or other cats. She is a pretty good mouser and seems to particularly like the taste of an occasional chipmunk. Frequently she eats what she can and leaves the less tasty remains by the kitchen door, much as Nermal does. It is rare anyone confuses Frida and Nermal, usually only once. Frida when offended habitually leaves a wound of varying intensity depending on the individual offence, a set of perfectly matched red parallel lines running up a wrist, elbow, shoulder or knee. Most of the friends and acquaintances that come to visit us refer to Frida as, “the bad cat!” They are right.


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