And then there is Miss Dusty. A neighbor died and I adopted her cat, a handsome gray with a white diamond on her chest and white feet. She had no tail, having lost it in an accident at home. I understood that Miss Dusty had not met with another human being or cat for eight years. This became obvious when she led her owner’s daughter-in-law and me on a chase throughout the house, in and out of one entrapment and another. After a month, we captured her at last. Her coat was a sad mess; her back was matted and stood up in a hard-looking Mohawk.
I thought to start her out in my basement until she acclimated to her surroundings. Time enough to acquaint her with the cats upstairs. There was nothing I could do about having her cleaned and brushed; I was, simply, afraid to touch her even if I could catch her.
Each time I went downstairs she growled, then the growls diminished, changing to meows. I tried singing to her. At “Over the Rainbow” she emerged, grudgingly, from her hiding place under a shelf, and allowed me to scratch her head. I tried not to make any sudden moves, but even so she swiped at me with a paw now and then. But we had begun a friendship!
At the usual hour after dawn I rise and fix myself cereal. No sign of Pinky. I fetch the paper but cannot bring myself to read it. Back to bed to stare at a Pinky-less future.
At about 8:00 a.m. I see her flagpole of a tail headed past my bedroom doorway toward my office, then back the other way. Then she emits tiny cries, no doubt looking for me.
We meet in the kitchen. I am dying to know so many things: did she encounter the raccoons? Was she hiding from them? Otherwise, what has she been doing until this hour of the day? Instead, I settle for fixing her special breakfast, Savory Salmon Dinner.
I happen to be in the hallway, crossing to the living room, when she explodes through the pet door. Close behind her is a raccoon. I move fast and latch the pet door, while Pinky and the raccoon stare at each other through the glass, Pinky whining angrily high in her throat. The next thing I do is open the door and yell “Scat! Go away!” It lumbers off, not quickly.
I go to bed, unnerved that she can be killed as easily as she kills mice and birds. It’s fair, I suppose, and she is equable about it. Yet that night she stays high under my arm and does not move away the entire time. I need the same comfort she is seeking.
Pinky knows what those rustling noises mean. I am getting her two big shrimp out of the bag in the freezer. Before they are in the microwave to defrost, she has taken her place on the counter. Chopping the shrimp requires agility to keep ahead of her as I move from counter to counter to stovetop until the feast is ready. Watching her eat brings out every drop of the one-fourth Italian in me. “Mangia, mangia,” I say, beaming, my hands clasped over my stomach. It is a satisfaction life seldom affords the average cook.
The treat was intended to be once a week. That proved difficult. It seemed a long stretch to me, too. I spaced the treat to five days, then three days. Now it is every second day. This is where we stand, my last stand.
At the substitute, a teaspoon of ice cream mashed in my hand, she turns her back, though she does not leave the kitchen. It is a comment on lack of shrimp, but there is room to negotiate. I dab a little ice cream on her nose, which she licks clean. She moves a few inches away, and I dab some more ice cream. Finally, she turns and grudgingly approaches my cupped hand. In a few seconds, my palm is licked dry. I know I have spoiled her, yet still I smile like a fool. “Spoil” is a relative word: Pinky does not have to attend college, get a job, or move out on her own.
I miss her so much. I had never known a cat like her. She invented games and led me to play them with her. One was our hedge game, where she would go to one side of it and I on the other. I leaned over the hedge and made menacing noises and she would glare at me and race off across the lawn. My cue was to chase her but had to stop to unlatch the side gate, which was no obstacle to her as she squeezed under it. And on the other side she would Wait for me to resume our chase, which always ended on the driveway as she flopped on her back for me to tickle her belly.
It was a game we played perhaps three times a day. I marveled at how she pretended to be outraged at my gobbling noises before she took off running.
Our games were usually played on the lawn. One day she walked away from me and disappeared around the hedge, leaving me to wonder. In the next instant she returned and raced around me in circles while I laughed.
We had visits of deer on the other side of the chainlink fence and when they came Pinky and I stood carefully motionless to watch them. I don’t think it would have mattered to the doe and her fawn if Pinky had walked close to them but nevertheless she understood we were not to spook the mother and fawn.
She rests in my heart and if there is a heaven for cats I can see her playing games with other cats. Perhaps I will be allowed to join her.
A group of us at Lake Park retirement community went for a tour of venerable Paramount Theater on Broadway, Oakland.
What a feast of art and detailing. The electric lighting bill alone costs $350 an hour. There was a bronze statue of Diana with gazelles by Marcel Andre Bouraine in the foyer. It sits on an inlaid table of Madagascar wood with carvings down to the scallop shell at the feet.
The architect, Timothy Flueger, did most of his work between 1918 and 1935 in the Depression years. It took one year to build it — so many men were out of jobs and worked around the clock. The Paramount hosts public events like high school graduations, naturalization ceremonies for immigrants, the Oakland Symphony, a classic film series, and a Vanna to spin the wheel. A series of six tickets costs $450.
The side walls are a series of panels of Isis, each one slightly different carved in wood and golden with gold.
There’s much, much more in this fantastic work of art.
One day I accidentally poke her in the eye. Before I can make amends, she runs out of the house. From then on, she avoids contact, slinking away when I call her to me. I am distressed that she no longer trusts me. Still, she comes to eat and afterward finds a distant place in the house to sleep.
How to approach her? I enter the living room, get on my knees, and lie flat on the rug on which she is sleeping under the coffee table. My head pressed lower than hers, I extend a hand to her, all the while asking her to trust me again. Instantly, Tango rises to lick my fingers, rubs her face against mine, then climbs on my back and kneads me up and down. It is magical. One doesn’t tower over children when trying to make friends. Cats are no different.
I went to The Island City Opera for Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Mozart and Salieri” in Alameda and marveled that there are so many fine singers performing in small venues. Being Russian, the score called for basses and even the tenor delivered knee-depth notes. There is also the West End Opera, operating in an industrial area of Oakland. Plenty going on here.