And black mask
—Photo by Craig Roberts–
“Dammit!” Nellis Trueblood wiped dog excrement from his right foot. Clad in house slippers, faded blue-plaid bathrobe, and pajamas, he bent over, retrieved the morning newspaper. There were no secrets in the tight-knit community of Eastlake Meadows. He had a good idea whose dog did this. On the way back, Nellis rinsed off his slipper at the water spigot.
The feline triumvirate, Sylvester, Sam, and Sweetie waited in the kitchen; it was feeding time. Sweetie weaved in and out between his legs. Sylvester, a black and white “Tuxedo” cat, as always, dominated the food bowl. Nellis read the paper and ate breakfast. Since his wife Melba died, he seldom smiled.
Was that the distinctive sound of a lawnmower–in the middle of January? What neighborhood lamebrain mowed their lawn in winter? Couldn’t they wait till spring? A white lawn maintenance truck parked at the Finney’s, two doors down. It was either tenacity or stupidity–he wasn’t sure which?
Nellis settled back in his brown, burnished leather, living room chair–newspaper and coffee close at hand. He thumbed through the sports section, police blotter, and community news. He stopped in amazement on page five. HIs lips moved as he read aloud, “Alderman Cavanaugh, from Ward 4, proposed an ordinance requiring pets to be leashed at all times when outside–even cats. Furthermore, cat owners would pay an annual license fee. The issue was tabled, pending a public hearing next month.”
His jaw dropped in disbelief. “If they pass this, I’m not gonna’ do it! They can haul me straight to jail! I’m knee-high in dog shit and they’re gonna’ leash cats? What’s next? …Leashes on parakeets? …Licensed goldfish? What’s with those idiots down at city hall?” He was shouting; all the cats, except Sylvester, ran away and hid. This couldn’t be happening, it just couldn’t be–or, could it?
Mr. Trueblood’s semi-reclusive existence was broken, by occasional visits to the senior center. During a recent spirited pinochle game, Nellis, in an attempt at black humor, remarked to his neighbor, Harold Finney, “Harold, I need to put up more bird feeders.” “Are you taking up bird watching?” Harold asked–waited for the punch line. “No, my cats need more exercise and plenty of fat birds to eat.” The little group of guys guffawed in thigh-slapping laughter.
The joke didn’t stop there. Doris, Harold’s wife, was an avid bird watcher. She didn’t think it was the least bit funny. In fact, she was horrified. Had Doris and her bird watching club influenced Alderman Cavanaugh? Nellis Trueblood had little doubt. There was chilled resolve in the air. They’ll certainly hear from me at the next meeting. Nellis Bascombe Trueblood never walked away from a fight! Sylvester licked his front paws, watched from a vantage point near the potted croton.
Called to each other
In reassuring tones
For days on end
In the male’s talons
A wriggling catfish
Breakfast for hungry
Mother and father
Held endless vigil
While one fed
The other hunted
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