Crickets. It is about this time of year in mid summer, that the transient ‘feeling’ of Autumn appears as a ghost in the senses. In a tangle of abundance, flowers are fading, leaves change color in subtle numbers. Something stirs in the heart, a touch of grief perhaps, a hint of change, maybe? The mornings are cool, the days sweltering, and the evenings warm. Crickets in waves of passionate biology sing to the seasoned ear the necessity of future and the continuity of life. They, like the tree and marsh frogs in spring, bring a kind-0f joy to the changing of seasons—– the songs of life.
For Andie and me life is good in the day to day. The monsters keep at bay and at the end of our hours Andie and I crawl into bed for sleep and dreams. Actually, she hops up and at a certain time climbs up on the pillow next to my head and rests her face on my chest. Sometimes she lifts her head backward and looks at me upside down. I’ve learned that gesture means ear rubs, not the little ‘pat’ ‘pat’ ‘skrich’ ‘skrich’ kind, but serious shiatsu style that only Cockers could appreciate.
At these late nesting nights she often watches TV with me and I am amazed at what catches her attention. One time she stood up, walked to the end of the bed and stood rapt with concentration as a pride of lions sauntered across the savanna looking to eat Dtrumpf’s sons Eric and D. Junior or that errant dentist who killed Aslan a few years ago. The Trump brood were camping in the vicinity and had tacked cut-off elephant tail trophies on their tent doors. Our high hopes were dashed however as the lions settled for some slow ground hogs, pigs of a decidedly different species.
It seems we both have lucid dreams. Andie has mini nightmares, from where is a mystery. She’s only two. Mine are more vivid if not as painful, because my old mind has created more impossible obfuscations than a sensible consciousness might allow. In any case I like the fact that Andie accompanies me in those dreams now: when I lose the car-keys in a strange dystopian ruin that always looks like Kansas City, which I only visited once in my life and knew instinctively that I was a stranger in that strange land. Then there’s losing the hotel key to my room or even losing the hotel itself, not to mention the very city, which contains the hotel.
As a last resort if the events rioting in the grey matter get too dicey, there’s always the option of jumping up, taking off and soaring above the danger and heading to a more copacetic place. I’m not clear whether or not I wear a cape to fly these days, unless it’s like those in the Phantom of the Opera. No, I don’t sing show tunes ( at least in public). Andie runs out of the room when I sing the only song I know—- ‘Amazing Grace’. Andie will have nothing to do with capes. She even considered her winter dog coat a bit vulgar, so you can well imagine capes are too show accessory for her. One does have to make allowances for a pure bred little princess.
The showing up naked nightmares to lecture at the university seem to have run their course, because I am old and decrepit now. But I do recall ( and here advise the more sensitive, gentle and delicate reader to skip this part, which we shall refer to in future citations as the X-files. ) many, many, many years ago when I was young and very busy, returned from NYC and the clubs on a Sunday and forgot to take off my C-ring, which on a cold Detroit Monday morning decided to fall off, roll down my leg, hit the floor with a PING and proceeded to roll across the front of the class, hit the wall, spin for a few moments and then fell with a pong. The class was crypt still and then a few muffled giggles acknowledged the karmic jest. Next semester my class doubled in size. Students are the hope of the world. You can tell from the above photo Andie is thinking: ‘OhMyGosh he’s sharing again.’ That is Andie’s TMI ( too much information ) look.
Because of the heat these days Andie and I take shorter walks, back to the old church haunts where she still finds gum wads and cigi butts. For the most part she has turned her attention to the old olive tree growing on the corner of a dirt patch adjacent to the church . Because of the drought, it seems to be shedding and the ground has a scattering of lime-green, marble sized olives all about. Andie picks them up, perhaps thinking they are plums. Then the bitter, bitter realization comes on and she shakes her head furiously to rid the taste. I give her a kibble treat.
The olive tree graces the Cat Lady’s cottage, which is separated from the Methodist church’s paved parking and a double deep village lot where once stood another small cottage. Her dwelling looks like something out of a fairy tale. Surrounding her dark brown, black trim cottage, whose windows are always shuttered is a covey of large, thickly dense, overgrown trees that shut out the light. A half dozen cats doze in the shade in her scruffy front yard on any given day. Another pride of them, more feral in the run of things, haunt the back lot amid a tangle of weeds and discarded ‘stuff.’
I had only seen her in passing over the past eight years. The first time she was having a shouting, angry altercation with an equally angry man in a pickup, who was trying to back out of her driveway. The second occasion occurred last summer, shortly after Andie arrived. She was then shouting at some boys sneaking cigarettes near her jumble of a back fence. My sense of it: she was/is afraid and best left alone.
The term ‘Cat lady’ always has a shade of derision following it like a bad reputation. This spring changed all that. Along the front of her property on a three foot by ten foot patch, she planted three roses bushes in yellow, pink and white. Later, about three weeks ago a half dozen black plastic pots of multicolored petunias were set among the roses. Not a gardener’s inspiration, but to my mind an even more important message, the thawing of darkness with the advent of color and joy. I was deeply moved by her creation. Andie concentrated on the cats in a friendly way, which they accepted.
Then, on the weekend, she had a mini yard sale. In front of the flower garden, she placed about a dozen pairs of dark brown shoes, an ice-cream churner, some dark clothes, and to my delight—-the power saw of former said angry, shouting man. A small sign read, ‘FREE,’ and ‘Have Fun.’
The following Monday, Andie and I met her in person. She was not at all, like the woman I imagined in our former fleeting sightings. About five feet, two inches, she is plump and has the most beautiful, radient pale skin. Her blond hair was long down her back and bangs stopped just above the most gentle blue eyes. In a poetic mood I thought, ‘she carries her grief like a goddess.’ Andie liked her immediately and the feeling was mutual. She gave Andie a kibble treat and the deal was sealed.
I didn’t tell her that her cats roam our part of the neighborhood, crap in my garden and attack my fish, re-arranging the water lilies and blue hyacinths in ugly clots. The price of knowing the Cat Lady is worth it. She reminds me of the moon and all beautiful things that thrive in the night light.