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Monday, 14 February 2011

Home In Black and White

By Old Webster who blogs at Old Webster

While I awaken from a dream to stumble into the darkness just before dawn, the first thing I see are three glowing little eyes reflecting the light from the moon, setting through the window behind me.

My two housemates are already up. They pester me because they want to eat.

When the sun rises I finally accommodate them. They gobble their food and then run to the glass door because they want to go out. I follow dutifully to obey them.

They rush out the door onto the deck, continue a few steps swishing their tails, then stop - looking this way and that, lifting their noses into the air to test the currents, still peering around.

I try to start my own day, but right away the black cat has already returned to the door and with claws out, scratches at the glass, making a screech like fingernails on a frosted pane of glass.

I let him in, but within minutes, he is ready to return outside. I ignore him as long as I can, but then the white one outside wants to come in and they both start up now, their claws scraping glass on both sides of the door until I cannot ignore it anymore.

I approach the door and look down at them both standing there, paws on the door, looking up at me. I look at the white one on the other side of the glass - and I can also see the reflection of the one at my feet: their images are overlayed for a moment, like something you would see in a movie, as if they are somehow actually one black/white beast. And I know that at some level, they actually are.

Finally, I indulge them and open the door. The black one ambles outside and the white one scrambles in. Yet I know this is only a momentary state.

My little cottage had seemed a lot bigger when I first moved in, so I was feeling the need for company. Some time before, when I visited a relative who had two cats, he explained that his family owned a farm that was overflowing with white cats. One day on a visit there, he spotted a compact, small, black tomcat, the only black cat in sight, who came bounding up to him without hesitation.

He picked that one to take home and named him Mael, who whirled like a maelstrom. On another visit to the farm two years later, he picked out a second cat, Maggie, because she was spunky and kept everything stirred up.

A year later she lost one beautiful blue eye when she stayed out too late one night.

As time went by, I got to know his two cats. My friend's family was growing and now they had two toddlers who were regularly mauling and terrifying the family cats.

By this time, Mael and Maggie had bonded very tightly, under the sway of two enthusiastic children, so when I asked my friend if he would let me make a home for them at my house, he readily agreed. This pair make an interesting contrast.

Mael is jet black except for one very small patch of white under his chin. He's almost deaf, short and muscular with a short stout tail and stubby legs. He has very long claws, but only one tooth left, a fang, which leaves him looking a little like a boar with his one tusk sticking out. And like many old cats, his eyes always run.

Mael Discovers Attic

He started as a barn cat. He is very laid back and his idea of playing is to lie there on the floor and wait for something to move. He was the black cat in a white litter, always getting shoved aside by all the others. So now it turns out that the only time he can get enough affection is when he's just had some. We sometimes make eye contact in the mirror.

Maggie won't even look at her reflection: the one-eyed, white, puff-ball cat in the mirror. She is Himalayan, with very sharp claws and covered with pure white fur, except for her pink nose and lips, with a mane of longer white fur around her neck, very long legs and long tail: a snow cat. She is high-spirited, and has very acute hearing.

Maggie On the Pillow

She will grudgingly accept affection, but only on her terms. She is quite skittish and generally distrustful, especially of doors. In her one-eyed world she cannot readily perceive when the door is about to close upon her, so her entrances are always quick and dramatic. She is an adventurer who is always the first one to dash outside, leading the way ahead of Mael.

Now Mael, as an older male, is the top cat and Maggie is his younger cousin. She adores him, washes him frequently and always waits for him to finish eating before she starts.

Mael is blasé, and his dominance goes without saying - except when Maggie starts running around madly, half-backwards and then finally spins around to jump him. Then they start to rough-house. Her lightning-fast lunges bowl him over every time and then the black and white fur starts to fly.

They make a great pair: perfectly opposite, matched and complementary, yet they could not be more different. In the dark he is a blotch that makes the night a little blacker. She is a great white ball who brightens any room she's in.

Their fur makes a mess of the rug yet they both clean themselves fastidiously. They are both clowns and murdering predators. He weeps while he sneezes; she sleeps while she wheezes. They both snore.

So what exactly is my part in this homey family? From their view, I am the one who offers up the food and water, who opens and closes the doors, who gives them occasional affection (or in Mael's case, more or less constant affection), who sometimes captures them to take off to the vet.

I control the mirrors, the noise level, the flow of traffic, the arrival of new toys, and most importantly, the catnip.

From my eyes, these two exemplify relationship, companionship, loyalty, family, consideration, jealousy, curiosity, intensity, emotion, the ongoing pulses of lives too transient, but with endless love for one another - except for the time I had the vet shear Maggie.

When she came home looking like a different cat, Mael didn't recognize her and shunned her for days. We were all miserable about it for a week.

So now night comes, the end of another day, time to go to bed. I lie down and then feel the mattress bounce a little as Maggie jumps up, trying to join me, treading up next to my head there on the pillow. She starts to lick my eyebrow. I have to push her off the bed and close the door, grumbling.

Then I return to bed, soon to return to my dreams amid this ever-changing, never-lasting transience that can only truly dwell in our memories - this home that we three make for each other.


[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Instructions for submitting are here.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post

Comments

You are a treasure, thinking of the welfare of the cats, not acquiring beautiful show cats to inflate your own ego.
Mael and Maggie are quite lucky. Your story beginning was intriguing with the 3 eyes following you.
Good job writing and caring.

Your writing made me wish for a cat even more than I already did, darn it!They sound charming, and are certainly beautiful, even in cobwebs!

Your description of the cats - the way they look, act and interact is such real "cat behavior". I loved it and the warm cozy feeling that the three of you create.

What a beautiful story and told so well. Oh the families we end up making for ourselves. I look forward to the day when I can have a cat again.

You,too, Marcia? My small space discourages me, but my family also discourages me, because they think it is too dangerous for an old lady to have one underfoot to trip on!

Lovely story. Grand descriptions of cat personalities---and your love for them shines through. We thought we'd solved the in-and-out problem with our cat and installed a door for him called a magnet door. He wears a magnet on his collar and he is the only one who can open the door, day and night. So of course, when we're available, he sits and waits at another door so we will let him in. At least he can't bring friends home. My neighbor had a skunk in her kitchen.

Great piece..as long time cat person, the personalities are wonderful..great company cats, they let us live with them and I have told my daily problems to cats since I was a little girl..continued to do so for life..they never walked away or frowned, just got closer if I was sad and a few were hunters who went out sometimes and brought home trophies..Most lived to their 20s and in the big city, for the ones who liked to go out, that is big deal..Aren't we lucky to know cats...great to hear your family story...Mary

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