I pulled a picture from a box containing photos from the 1950’s. It showed me and two of my neighborhood cousins sitting on swings Daddy had made under two large cottonwood trees near the barn. I looked to be four years of age, which made my cousins four and five years of age. They were wearing shorts and sun tops, but I was in a floor length nightgown that was visibly soiled.
Holding the picture up for my daughter Tammie to see, I exclaimed, “Look at the adorable expressions on our faces. This must be one of the first times we played together. I’ll bet their dad Tony came to visit my dad and brought them along.”
Recently I have spent several hours going through childhood pictures, looking for just the right ones to put in the family history book I am writing. A glowing bubble of rosy, happy childhood memories enveloped me as I examined pictures of three-year-old me chasing a small flock of Guinea hens, two-year-old me on my belly watching how a kitty-cat eats and dozens of family line-up pictures. Worries about the pandemic seemed far away and in another world. Continue reading
Impatiently tossing the crochet pattern book aside, I looked at my small cache of yarn. I knew what I wanted to make, but was unable to follow through. I could read and understand the words, but by the pattern’s fourth step, confusion equal to what happened at the Tower of Bable would cloud my mind.
Pulling navy, white and red skeins of yarn closer to myself, I pictured a lap robe with wide crocheted bands of red and navy with a dozen white stars stitched onto it. The trickiest part of my design would be making the stars, but I had an idea. Picking a white skein, I took a strand of the yarn and twisted it around the crochet hook.
A warm, humid early summer afternoon breeze blowing through the living room window made the shear curtains flutter. All day an angry, dark blue sky had been threatening storms. Weather forecasters predicted tornadoes. Worried because I lived in a mobile home, I had the radio on so I could run for cover if there was a local tornado sighting.
I had been alone at home one May evening three years earlier when a tornado came through our mobile home court. Not having listened to the radio that evening, the storm startled me when I heard what sounded like a locomotive train alongside the house. Pulling a curtain aside, all I saw was nightmare-inducing greenish-black air between me and our neighbor’s house. Seconds later, the wind roughly picked up the front end of my house and set it down with a jolt three feet over. Continue reading
The quiet of the house lulled me into peaceful meditation as I worked a needle craft. In the background was the steady hum of the basement dehumidifier. Few cars roared past the house because most people were home by this time of the evening. Without warning, a loud crash came from the entryway. Startled, I put down the yarn and slipped to the edge of the sofa.
“What made that sound?” I wondered. I had become an expert at noticing and identifying household sounds since my husband passed away 12 years ago. This sound wasn’t the well pump over working, it wasn’t a loose fan belt on the furnace, nor a malfunctioning washing machine. Was someone trying to break in?
I had never noticed household sounds when Arnie was alive. He was with me to take care of those things. Even if an intruder were to break in, I knew he was there to protect me. That all changed the first night after he was gone. I had suddenly realized with horror that I was now responsible for everything in my home.
Quietly, I crept through the dining room and peeked into the entryway. My older cat was catloafed on the rug, his paws tucked in and tail tight alongside his body. The younger cat sat upright on the desk. He turned to look at me with large, round, crazed eyes. What was wrong with the cat? Continue reading
Drenched with sweat, Arnie came into the kitchen to pour himself a glass of water. After drinking he said, “I found the place where the rats got into our back porch.”
I shuddered with revulsion. There had been always mice in our old farmhouse, but this summer I discovered badly chewed things in the back porch. My husband had informed me, “That’s the work of rats.” Not willing to accept such a horrible possibility, I set two mouse traps loaded with peanut butter. During the night they both totally disappeared.
I pictured a rat running away from the house wearing them like earrings. The rat trap I next bought was huge. Instead of a small shingle of wood, it was a substantial plank equipped with heavy-duty metal to snap down and kill a large rodent. Before going to bed, I loaded it with a slice of bologna. The next morning, I found a dead rat the size of a two-month-old kitten.
Turning to return to working on the house’s foundation at the back door, my husband apologized, “I’m sorry, but it’s going to take me a couple days to mortar shut the hole I’ve made in the foundation.”
Picturing a swarm of rats invading our home, I yelped, “Arnie, our house will be flooded with vermin! You have to close that hole by tonight!” Continue reading
My large black and white tuxedo cat didn’t look happy. Sure, he still liked to stretch out and snooze in patches of sunshine on my linoleum kitchen floor, but there was a pensiveness and hesitation in his posture when he sat on the back deck. At six-years of age, Flicker was used to spending wonderful, adventure-packed hours along the small river where we had lived up until six weeks ago. My husband Arnie and I had moved Niki and Tammie, our two children and pets to a farm, far away from a river and fallow low lands.
At first, after we’d moved, I was afraid that Flicker would roam away from our new home if we let him out of the house. When I finally relented and let him out, I discovered that he was reluctant to explore our new yard. The last place he wanted to go was to the barn, which was filled with huge, mooing, hoof-clopping cows. Mud found in the barn wasn’t at all like the clean, sweet mud on the river bank, either.
Every cow barn has a colony of cats to reduce the mouse population. Flicker wasn’t interested in making friends with the barn cats. As if just going through the motions, my big black and white cat dutifully made short trips into the oat and corn fields near the house to mouse.
My family lived on the farm for two years. Then, during the month of June, Arnie and I packed up our two children and pets and returned to our old, beloved house on the north bank of the river. A beautiful summer stretched ahead of us.
Picking up old habits as though he’d never stopped, Flicker returned to spending long, leisurely days on the river bank hunting and sunbathing on warm rocks. His eyes looked bright and happy. In the evenings he purred loudly while cuddling with Niki and Tammie. Continue reading
I looked up from the article I was reading on the computer, drawn out of deep concentration by a metallic sound, like cutting wire. Glancing at the office window, I saw two white paws. Jumping to my feet, I ran to the back door.
Louie, a.k.a. ‘The Cat with can opener claws’, lets me know he wants in by getting up on his hind legs, hooking his powerful claws into the office window screen and doing a chin-up to look in at me. The screen is shredded again, although I had replaced it once already.
Pushing the back door open, my large white and black cat silkily slipped into the entryway like liquid mercury. I heard muffled thuds coming from the basement stairwell. Before I could shut the door, a large dark tabby cat appeared in the doorway. Jonah paused for a moment, then streaked across the room and gracefully slipped out the door into the darkening backyard.
The two cat’s fur coats briefly touched as they passed, but with merely a curious passing sniff, they kept moving. Surprised, I exclaimed, “Is it already time for the 9 p.m. cat exchange?” My wrist watch showed that it was fifteen minutes before 9. I shrugged and murmured, “Close enough.” Continue reading
I didn’t turn the light on in the entryway. Soft light escaping from the kitchen and office let me to see enough. Louie, the cat with can-opener-claws wanted in. In the shadows, I could see Jonah, my grumpy tabby cat’s white bib as she crept along the wall.
Thinking I wasn’t coming, Louie impatiently fastened his claws into the office window screen and pulled, further damaging the wires. I threw open the door and yelled, “Louie, you jerk, stop it!”
Snow was falling and cold wind whistled into the house as Louie dashed in. I jeered, “You big baby! I knew you wouldn’t want to be out long on a night light this!” Glancing back at fat Jonah’s dark shadow, I asked, “Well, I know you like being outside more than Louie. Here’s your chance.”
Jonah crouched down and fearfully ran towards the door as if expecting me to kick her. She skidded to a stop at the threshold. Seeing the snow and feeling the cold wind, she backed away. Keeping as far away from me as possible, she returned to the shadows. Continue reading
Leaning back in my desk chair, I took a sip of hot tea and sighed with pleasure. Winter sunshine slanting through the window made my office glow. I faintly heard the peaceful Christmas music of Kenny G and Mannheim Steamroller coming from the dining room stereo. Smiling, I took another sip. I love listening to these instrumentals through mid-January and have joked that they are subliminally Christmas.
Winter-clad goldfinches were busily working over the seeds in the bird feeder outside the office window. Hungry chick-a-dees and nuthatches greedily gobbled from a bag of suet hung nearby. I occasionally heard their squabbling twitters through the window.
An angry meow followed by a low growl made me turn to look at the futon across the room. Shadow, my brainless black and white kitten was trying to capture and bite my older white and black cat Louie’s tail. Addressing the older cat, I sympathized, “That stupid baby just won’t leave you alone, will he?”
Louie gave me a long-suffering stare. He is a mighty adult feline, equipped with can-opener claws, yet all he does when Shadow irritates him is meow angrily and growl. He could easily turn the little jerk of a kitten into strips of rawhide and dried meat snacks, but he doesn’t. The only conclusion is that Louie finds Shadow to be stupid, but loveable. Continue reading
I handed a glass of apple ale to Niki. My daughter took a sip and said, “I’ve been meaning to ask…would you like to have a kitten? My neighbors across the road have a mama cat with a litter. They’re giving away the babies.”
Sitting down at the dining room table, I shook my head. “Kittens are fun, but I own a fat, crabby old cat that doesn’t even like the other cat who lives here. That mean old biddy would have a hissy-fit, or as some people would put it, she’d have a kitten, if I brought home another cat!”
Niki persuaded, “Jonah will be fine. She keeps to herself. You said Louie loved Basil, your last kitten.”
“You’ve just mentioned the main reason I don’t want another kitten.” I sadly pointed out, “Basil slipped out of the house one night and I couldn’t get him to come back in. Because that had happened once before and everything worked out, I didn’t worry. Do you remember what happened that night? Basil was hit by a car and died. I’m afraid of having that happen again.”
“You’ve had cats ever since you moved to this house thirty-nine years ago.” Niki protested, “Basil was the only one that has ever got on the road and hit by a car!” Continue reading
I turned off the highway and onto the road where my house is located. Not a trace of the setting sun remained in the sky. Stars twinkled from a dark-blue, velvety ceiling. A bright sliver of the moon smiled crookedly down upon us. Slowing down to drive the final mile to the house, I told my daughter Tammie, “It’s such a nice summer night. Let’s open the windows and enjoy the night-time smells and sounds.”
We immediately caught the faint scent of a skunk and heard tree frogs croaking friendly greetings to one another. Then the beam of my headlights picked up the reflective eyes of a small creature in the grass alongside the road. I said, “I see a half-cat.”
After taking a sniff of the air my daughter answered with a chuckle, “Half cat, as in half cat and half skunk?”
Glancing over at Tammie with a grin on my face, I said, “No, this creature looks like it is all cat. The skunk we smell is hiding somewhere. I’m calling it a half-cat because it isn’t home and there isn’t a house nearby.”
Sounding perplexed, Tammie questioned, “How does that make it a half-cat?” Continue reading