I have finally met the owner of three of the big cats and learned that Tango and Au Au and Loaner are siblings. This neighbor had known for some time that Pinky, also a sibling, had defected to me. And Tango and Au Au are male.
I lost Pinky on February 23, 2011. She survived for a year after three surgeries for an aggressive sarcoma. There is nothing more I can bear to say.

Madam Loaner

Then there is a long spell when she is moody even when we are alone. She has me following her, box in my hand, up one path, down another. She stops for some personal grooming and ignores me. Out of patience, I sit on the box several feet from her and say, “I know you think I have no pride, but I am going to count to ten, and if you don’t come running to me by then I won’t speak to you ever again.”

I reach the count of five, when suddenly she darts to me and onto my lap.

I don’t know how or why. Perhaps it was the tone of my voice.

Loaner gets it

For three consecutive, delirious mornings, Loaner and I meet in our secret place. First, of course, conditions must be exactly right: not only no other cats near, but far away and out of sight.

She runs ahead of me and goes through the boxwoods to the lawn. I flop down and she gets aboard and pounds and kneads me happily. It is always my left shoulder she leans against while I sing and talk to her. Her eyes in the pretty face gleam and she chirrups during our session, so different from her aloofness when she is in the house—the place contaminated by interlopers.

Meanwhile, my robe is being soaked through by heavy dew right to the skin. I shiver, and sneeze.

Next morning, when conditions are right for us once more, I fetch a flat box from the garage and head for our place. Loaner hangs back, apparently suspicious of the box. Why am I carrying it? Do I plan to put her in the box? As I move onto the grass Loaner is nowhere beside me, but looking around I notice her ears pointing above the ground ivy at the head of the lawn as she peers at me through it. I drop the box on the grass and sit down on it.

Aha! She sees the purpose of the box, and comes running to join me.
On the third morning she runs ahead as before, then when I drop the box she sprawls all over it and looks up at me. Do cats laugh? I know they do.

Pinky and Loaner

Loaner has grown very fat. She eats all she can, and asks for more. Perhaps she is pregnant. All I need do is glance out my kitchen window and I will see her sitting on the railing looking at me. Unwilling to grapple with the pet door, she waits to be noticed and let in. I wave, and we arrive at the same moment at the patio door. Her weight worries me. It might be that her owner has put her on a diet and so she turns to me or eats elsewhere. Perhaps I should keep my head down and pretend not to see her. As I think it I know it is impossible to ignore her.

One day I take it in my head to make a beef stew. All the good stews I used to prepare took hours of simmering that now seem absurd in my solitary existence, but this day I mean to have myself one of those.
Pinky watches the process of chopping, peeling, scraping, but when it comes to cutting the beef I have to flee around the counters ahead of her as I do when chopping shrimp.

I am going to show you, I say to Pinky, what a home-cooked meal tastes like.
As I dish out the stew, I set some aside on a plate for her. She sniffs, then turns her head aside and throws up.
Pinky, the food editor.

Five cat treats a day

Whenever I go out then come back inside is the time for treats. Loaner comes to greet me with meows and trills and we go through the ceremony of getting out the tuna fish.

It is the least I can do for her since we have moved to this new place, an apartment with no lemon tree or grass or flowers. She has adapted, I think, but I worry that she cannot bask in sunshine as she has in the past. The rays hit the balcony in a slant and she has yet to go out on it.

If Bijou were still with me I wouldn’t have moved at all. That little cat lived for the outdoors. I miss him and yearn for his shenanigans, his gallops throughout the house, his squeaks that may never have developed into proper meows. Not that Loaner gives out proper meows, more likely croaks.

The heartstrings vibrate in pain and nothing can be done about it.

Mojo, first baseman

The little guy has taken to bringing me his purple fluff ball for us to play with. He arrives purring like crazy around the fluff in his mouth, puts it down in front of me and looks at me expectantly. Of course I deliver, toss it somewhere and he is gone after it. Back again to me, he waits again. I try a fly ball this time and by gosh he snatches it out of the air.

We go on like this for a while, often around my abandoned breakfast, and of course the ball lands in my tea. No doubt this improves the flavor of the tea and I drink it without qualm. Think of it as a hundred different kinds of immunization shots from wherever the fluff ball has been. All the germs will be fighting each other to bring me down but they will succeed only in killing each other. If Mojo isn’t fazed by them, neither will I be.

And so, Loaner, Mojo, and Renato and I celebrate this day and wish everyone in the whole wide world a similar warm happy one. I know this is disingenuous given the fractured lives of millions of unfortunates, but one keeps wishing them well nevertheless.