Nothing but greenery surrounds us, yet I am always aware that wild animals, particularly raccoons, hide and live in the brush.
Early one afternoon, we are lying peacefully on the grass when we hear odd, soft bleats somewhere near. We have a wire fence at the bottom of the property overlooking the decline to San Francisco Bay. Two young fawns are poking their noses against the fence. I walk down to them. They back away into the tall weeds.
Pinky and I stand side by side watching, but they do not come close again. An hour later they are back, and I am becoming concerned, for I do not see their mother. There have been several cougar sightings in our area. I worry that it has taken down the doe and left these fawns defenseless.
Finally, I call Animal Control, hear a voice message that no one is available and to call another number, which turns out to be the police dispatcher. I explain, and he tells me someone will come out.
The sun has moved from behind one of the pines and I roll over onto my face. From the house comes the distant eeeuh cries of Tango seeking one of us. She has become Pinky’s sidekick and follower. It is amusing to see her run after her small leader, her jack rabbit legs like furred pistons.
When I am not home, Pinky searches for me, too. My friend Jane tells me that recently she opened her kitchen door to find Pinky sitting on the mat. Jane had a long way to look down to find Pinky waiting there patiently. “Wrong house,” she said. “Lucille is next door.” Jane had been vacuuming her house. We both figure out that Pinky, acquainted with the sound of the machine, thinks I am in Jane’s house.
We play variations of GETCHA. Instead of going to the lawn, where I appear to be headed, I continue around the bend and hide. After a while, I peek out and see her running toward me. She has caught on to the trick. I laugh at her and, instead of jumping up on me as a dog might do to share the joke, she walks off and, ignoring me, begins grooming herself by the bird bath.
The next round is hers. She does not follow me to the lawn, and as I wait and wait and finally give up, I come upon her hiding behind a boxwood on the outside, exactly at the place where I walk through.
Pinky and I play GETCHA! every day weather permits, or if not we play it in the house. I stomp menacingly toward her and growl I’M GONNA GETCHA! and she takes off at top speed. As I amble along, she charges me and shoots past my feet. She pauses under a hedge. On cue, I go to the other side and cry “BOBBLEBOBBLEBOBBLE!” over the hedge. She throws me a shocked glare and speeds off. We do this two or three times a week, changing hedges or trees. When she wants to end the game she flops and offers her belly for scratching. I love to see her wiggle in the grass and roll over and over.
She is such a package of comfort, freedom, and agility that I wish I were a cat myself. When she lies flat, her long coat flows into the grass. The earth and she are so close I envy her.
I lie down, too, and we both contemplate the tall, old Monterey Pines and sky. My book is nearly done. For a long time after Renato went away, the partial manuscript lay in a drawer. I was helpless to take it up again until, on the first day of the month of January, I sat Pinky on my lap before the computer and, taking her paw, struck the first letter of the opening of a new paragraph. She added a few more letters on her own, but the important thing had been done. I had broken the freeze.
Early summer is here. Pinky stays out late at night and may not be back until two o’clock in the morning. The mouse parade quickens. The smallest I have ever seen is little more than an inch long and is mostly round. Pinky had cornered it and it huddled against the wall, trembling, while I ran to fetch my indispensable oven mitt.
Had Pinky had not adopted me first, I might have adopted that mouse. The biggest mouse is still the one behind the stove. I manage to return all but that one to the wild. For a country mouse, it has the smarts of an inner-city inhabitant.
One afternoon Pinky jumps down from the bed and makes to leave the room. At the doorway she halts, backs up, and ducks behind the door. She bides there a minute or two before advancing and peering around the door, then again retreats. Watching from the bed where I have been reading, I wonder at this behavior. There is no one else in the entire house but us. Finally, she comes back to bed.
As I think on it, the meaning comes clear. I say, quietly, “Hello Renato.”