Monday, June 11, 2012

A reunion

David slept in on Sunday morning.  The cats, of course did not.  The best part of the day was early morning.  You never knew what creatures could be found in the early morning.  At home that was when they were likely to see deer, foxes, chipmunks and the occasional opossum heading home.  They sat in the shade of the awning outside the RV, discussing the conversation Rudy had overheard the previous day at the parade. Rudy thought the cats were just rude, but LT had another view of the conversation.

“Okay.  That cat thinks where we live is full of catnip and wall to wall mice.  We know it’s not.  Yeah, there’s some catnip next to the house now, but it’s because the Mommy planted it there, bless her little heart.  And as for mice?  Well, we have our share of them, but not more than anywhere else I’ve heard of.  Snoogums and his crew lived somewhere else and they didn’t comment on the overabundance of mice in New Jersey. Ginger came from down south, and it was the same.  I think folks think that somewhere else is always going to be better, and that other place is a place that’s not that easy to get to.  If it was, folks would know it wasn’t better there.  So, cats here think New Jersey if full of mice and catnip.”  LT was pleased with his reasoning.

Rudy thought about this for a minute.  “LT, are you trying to say that Pottawatomie isn’t the marvelous place we all heard about – that it’s just another regular place, like home?”  She shook her head.  “We saw the salon.  We saw the little house with the cat by it.  We saw a bunch of cats lounging around.  That was Pottawatomie, and don’t you tell me it wasn’t.”

LT squirmed.  The logical next step from saying that cats (or human) always thing somewhere else is better would be to say the stories about Pottawatomie fell in the same category.  That category would be called wishful thinking.  The evidence was to the contrary.  They had seen the salon, the little house with the cat and the lounging cats.  Well, lounging cats could be found anywhere, he guessed.  Someone dropping in on a Cat Club meeting would see pretty much the same thing, except it would be dark since they met at night.  But the other two things – those couldn’t be explained as wishful thinking.  He shook his head. “No Rudy, I saw them, and they weren’t normal things.  I’ve never heard of salons for cats in New Jersey.  Cat and dog groomers, yes, but not a salon.  And that house….”

Rudy rolled over on her back, her paws waving in the air.  She imagined what it would feel like to be pampered at Kitty’s Beauty Shop.  Would they use special brushes and combs to style her fur?  She had such a beautiful ruff, almost one of those Elizabethan collars when it was properly brushed.  Maybe they’d even use some mousse on it to keep it fluffed out.

She was interrupted in her reverie by a call from out near the street. “Yoo-hoo.  LT!  Rudy!  It’s Sheba.  I thought I’d run over for a visit and see how you all are doing.”  Sheba sauntered up the driveway towards them.  Rudy snorted.  LT had played up to her so much at the barbeque yesterday.  She probably just wanted some more attention.

“After you two left a latecomer came to the barbeque and when we all were talking about you she just got so excited.  She doesn’t get out much, but she managed to get out for just a bit because she’d been to the barbeque last year and just loved how our cooks do the ribs. Anyhow, when we mentioned you all and that you came from New Jersey she about went nuts.  She says she used to live near you before her human moved out here.”  It was a roundabout explanation, but LT got the gist of it and sat bolt upright and asked Sheba what the cat’s name was.

“Oh, it’s something like Cinnamon.  Or Paprika.  Something spicy, although she certainly isn’t spicy.  She’s as plain as white bread. Anyhow, she asked me to tell you where she lives and that she and the kittens are all here.  She said you’d know what that meant.”  Sheba pouted prettily.  She’d been quite taken with LT’s treatment of her, and didn’t want to think that perhaps he might prefer to visit this ‘spicy’ cat than spend time with her.

LT breathed, “…Ginger….”  He let out a huge sigh.  LT had gotten to know Ginger a few ago when she became a member of the cat club.  Just before her owner had moved out of the area, LT had acted as a surrogate father for a litter of Ginger’s kittens.  In fact, Ginger had decided to give birth to those kittens at LT’s house - in a closet, actually. They’d stayed there until the kittens were old enough to move back to Ginger’s house.  LT had visited them regularly until they all moved away.  It was the closest LT had been to becoming a father, and he’d loved the kittens, even though the largest had insisted on calling him ‘Monster’ loudly and repeatedly.

Rudy explained all this to Sheba, but instead of emphasizing LT’s role with Ginger and the kittens, she said that LT, Rudy and Peep had all helped with the Ginger and the kittens.  As she spun completely fictional details of how she and Peep had cared for Ginger, Sheba’s pout gradually faded.  By the time Rudy had run out of imagination, Sheba was ready to guide them to Ginger’s house, and LT had come out of his trance.

It wasn’t a long walk to Ginger’s house – in fact it was closer than the barbeque had been last night, but in a different direction.  Rudy carefully noted the intersections and number of streets they crossed, since she figured LT would want to come back without Sheba in attendance.  It would be up to Rudy to provide navigation, as LT was walking on clouds and had to be kept from running out in front of cars.

They approached a pretty little house on the northern side of Westmoreland.  Sitting in the shade of an American Hornbeam were four cats.  Two were black and white, one was a tiger and two were ginger tabbies.  One of the black and white cats spotted the approaching cats first and ran to them, shouting, “Monster Daddy!”  He tackled LT gently and they rolled to the ground laughing.

LT gave the cat a gentle cuff and told him, “Four years and you still haven’t figured out the difference between cats and monsters, Titus? You should have stayed in New Jersey.”  LT looked proudly at the grown-up cat.

Looking up, he saw Ginger walking gracefully over to them.  He smiled and greeted her, telling her that she didn’t look a day older than when he had last seen her.  As they became reacquainted, Rudy explained to Sheba how LT had inadvertently told Titus he was a little monster, and it turned out to be the first word he learned.  He’d called all of them monster, but with qualifiers.  LT was Daddy Monster, since he was the only male. Ginger was Mommy Monster, Peep was the Peep Monster, and Rudy was just Monster.  Rudy had never tried to figure that one out.  Kittens aren’t logical, and no one should expect them to be so.

Sheba stayed and chatted for a few minutes, but used her usual excuse of not abandoning her human for too long.  The old dear became nervous; being afraid that Sheba would be kidnapped and served in the only Chinese Restaurant in town.  Rudy scoffed at that.  She’d heard the rumors out in New Jersey too, but it was a lot easier for restaurants to buy prepared meat than to slaughter, skin and debone cats to put into their dishes.  Plus, she’d never lost track of a cat in a way that could have been attributed to a Chinese restaurant.

After a quick chat with Ginger, LT turned his attention to his kittens. Although he was not their biological father, he was their daddy from the day they were born until Ginger’s human moved away.  Lettie had installed a cat door just so LT could come and go in their house.  While Peep, Bunny or Ladybug might come visiting, they always knocked instead of coming right in.  Lettie or one of the cats would pull on the inside of the door to allow them access when they requested it.  Only LT had door and refrigerator privileges.

Rudy asked, “There were five kittens, and I only see four right now. Where’s the other ginger tabby?”  She hoped it wasn’t a sore spot she was poking, but LT would want to know, as would Peep.

Ginger laughed.  “That’s Miss Prima Donna.  She won’t come out in the heat of the day, even to sit in the shade.  She says it dries out her fur and complexion too much.  I think she wants to go into cat pageants, but since she’s not a registered purebred it would be a bit more difficult.  I know Lettie and she were discussing it recently, so they may make a try for it this fall.  It would fit the personality of that little miss.  She’s a princess surrounded by farmers, poor girl.  I see Lettie in the window and I’m sure she’ll be out in the minute and I know she’ll recognize you all, even if she can’t figure out how you got to Kansas.  How did you get to Kansas, and where’s the Peep?”

Lettie slowly walked out to greet the cats.  The intervening four years hadn’t been easy on her obviously.  She moved quite a bit slower, and couldn’t bend down to pet the cats.  She sat in a lawn chair and the cats came to pay court to her.  “By my stars, it is LT?  And you too, Rudy.  How did you manage to find us all the way in the wilds of Kansas? Westmoreland is a delightful little town, but it’s not a tourist destination, nor does it have a NASA site for your Mommy to work at. Matter of fact, there’s not a whole lot of work out here that isn’t farming, working for Fort Riley, the court house or the University. Well, I suppose she could be teaching at the University.”  She said this last with a little question at the end.  “Well, if I accompany you back to where you’re staying I’m sure I can figure this all out.”

Lettie went inside and came out with more of her beautiful pottery bowls filled with food and water for all seven of the cats.  It wasn’t the fancy little packages she’d brought them when Ginger had the kittens at their house; it was something that tasted even better.  It was almost like she’d cooked up a dish specially for them, instead of taking it out of a can or a pouch.

“Well, I hope you like my cat food.  When I decided that I couldn’t part with a single one of these adorable kittens, well cats now, I figured that I’d better start making my own cat food.  I could go broke buying the good stuff at the store, or I could shop carefully and make my own.  I make four or five different varieties usually and vacuum seal them for freshness.  I studied cat nutrition with the County Extension Office so that what I make satisfies your nutritional requirements.  And anyway, my little brood seems to enjoy it a lot.”

Rudy more than enjoyed it.  It was the best cat food she’d ever eaten. It was better even than the salmon and shrimp appetizers the yarn lady brought them for Christmas.  Lettie provided seconds to all the cats and watched happily as they cleaned their dishes.

After they’d finished eating they all lay in the shade of the big tree for a while and the cats dozed a bit.  Lettie collected the cat dishes and brought them back inside, returning with lemonade for herself.

Around lunchtime, Rudy realized that David might be worrying about where they’d gone, so she nudged LT and whispered they should get back. Reluctantly he got up and explained to Ginger that they needed to check in at the RV park, but they’d be back either later today or tomorrow. Both LT and Rudy went to thank Lettie for the delicious food.  Good as her word, Lettie walked with LT and Rudy as they returned to the RV park.

David was outside washing the front windows of the RV when they arrived back.  He wondered if the cats had gotten in some trouble, but neither the human nor the cats looked at all worried or upset.  He went over and introduced himself and was surprised to find that the cats he was traveling with used to know this lady’s cats and they’d come to her house for a visit today, escorted by one of the local cats.  Lettie introduced herself and named her cats, who hadn’t come along for the walk.  Looking at David, she invited him over for supper tonight.  She said it wasn’t anything special, just a light summer supper, but it would give the cats more time to get to know each other again, and also time for David to learn of the role they had played in her cat’s life.

With such an invitation, David happily agreed to come for dinner, accompanied by cats.  Lettie took herself home after that, saying she’d see them at about 5:30.  David looked down and said, “Well, maybe you found some Pottawatomie cats, even if they’re living in Westmoreland.  A family that kept all its kittens?  That’s not too common.  Usually they give all of them away.  Anyway, it will be nice for you to see them all again.”

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