The Cat Calling
By Karen Kramer
A brown blur bolted away into the vacant wooded lot just to the south of me as I strolled down my suburban driveway. It was a beautiful spring morning, the birds were chirping, and one right overhead had sounded just like a kitten mewing. This was 2002, before the new monster garbage trucks came onto the scene, removing food sources for the homeless pets and wildlife. I walked over to see what had been on the menu, a bag of black olives. Yum, I thought cynically, as I hurried back to my house and scrounged through the fridge, coming up with a couple of leftover chicken thighs. I returned to the area just beyond the garbage cans and laid the offering on the sidewalk, retreating with no expectations.
The following morning, I was greeted by a scrawny cat the color of a brown paper bag sitting at the end of my driveway. Yesterday’s blur? I wondered. I raided the fast food chicken box again and finding some remnants, placed them close enough so as not to provoke a mad departure.
“You’re welcome. Just don’t bring any friends or relatives,” I whispered to her, meanwhile making a mental note to stop at the local supermarket after work for cat food.
Spring turned into summer and the scrawny brown cat morphed into a beautiful vivid orange, black, and white six-toed calico cat, commonly called a Hemingway. The medical term for six-toed cats is polydactyl. Supposedly all American six-toed cats are related to Ernest Hemingway’s feline, Snow White, a gift from a sea captain in the 1930s. Sailors viewed them as good luck tokens and believed their extra toes provided balance during rough seas. My Hemingway became known by the clever moniker, Calico. I continued to put out food, but most of the time Calico remained invisible among the bushes I left untrimmed as her safe haven. Her presence was evidenced only by a gentle rustle of leaves and an empty bowl, the sight of which gave me a feeling of satisfaction.
One day a few weeks later, as my car swung around the blind corner into my driveway, a pile of squirming newborn kittens made me slam my brakes to a stop, just in time. As I jumped out of my car in astonishment, the forty-something statuesque neighbor in short shorts from across the street was strutting away.
“You fed that cat, and now she’s had her kittens under my bush,” she tossed over her shoulder accusingly. “So now they’re yours,” she said with a flip of blond hair. She stalked off. “Crazy cat lady,” I heard before the door slammed.
One cat makes me a crazy cat lady? While I’ve never been “crazy” about cats, I have always loved animals, all animals. My current pet, a fifteen pound chihuahua mix named Sadie, was a rescue, as have been all my dogs throughout my adulthood. But I’ve never owned a cat, or as some opine, been owned by a cat. I admit to gazing longingly at the elderly homeless cats at the local pet food store, but Sadie made her opinion known—ours was a “no cat” house.
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