a story about loving cats
“I wish she wouldn’t feed the stray cats. It only attracts more stray cats. And raccoons. And other animals. I just wish she wouldn’t.” We had been floating in the pool on another extra hot summer day for nearly an hour now. The refreshingly cool water with the occasional hot wind that skipped past graced us all, causing temporary rejuvenation. A party of over a dozen had formed when the thermometer crawled past ninety-two. It didn’t matter what thermometer, just any one of the many secured to any one of the many walls near any one of the many patio doors of our quaint apartment community. That was the magic number. For any holiday or weekend when the number on any one of those thermometers hit or exceeded ninety-two, bright beach towels, chairs carried over shoulders that would soon turn red from the blaring sun, coolers teeming with daiquiris of various fruits, wine, vodka, and beer – would just simply appear. But first, the sound of flip flops flopping would surround the pool area, engulfing it from the right flank and from the left. The heaviest of the residents came from the left, as was noticeable from the heavier sounding flip of the flops.
The conversations were at first polite and structured. The flip flops slid off and the pool filled with overheated bodies of all sizes forming circles of discussion about dogs, grandchildren, retirement, grad school, music, food, and of course, drinks. Food was the most prevalent topic. One could wade around to each group and invariably hear about food. It was an easy subject to cut into. “I soak my fish in Vodka,” said the guy with his chin in the water. It was a strong, square chin, the kind you see in movies about strong, brave men. He had forgotten to spread sunscreen, so he thought keeping the majority of his body dipped would protect him. But the water only magnified the sun’s rays. He would find that out later in the evening. But his burst was well received, a cooking idea that everyone looked forward to trying in-between shots. His interjection also changed the subject welcomely, as drinks were a second favorite on the list. Everyone had a duty to let everyone know what was in their drink. “Oh, look at your Pink Flamingo,” said a pair of sunglasses covered with a large hat. She had a face too, but that was for later. Out in the pool sporting accessories was a step above sporting sunburns. “I found it a CostLess, they had packs of like ten for two dollars,” he reminisced with a slight lisp as he raised his Flamingo high, but was not followed by those in the circle who knew not to look up towards the fiery sun. He didn’t even look up. His nose, though, made for a nice contrast of red next to the pink of the Flamingo. A little bit of skin was shedding on the top of that nose, left over skin from sunburns recently past. The paint on the Flamingo was smooth and un-blistered, suggesting that it was the second or later of that pack of ten for two dollars. Or that maybe those Flamingos were very sun bleach resistant and well worth the two bucks for ten.
With the Flamingo looking as though it agreed somehow, the guy with the lisp revisited his earlier subject. “She shouldn’t be allowed to feed the the cats.” It was a statement, a protest, a verbal sign held high. The guy with his chin in the water disagreed. His chin projected that, looking as though it became even more square, like it was readying for it’s part. The circle of waders within the other of circles of waders drew in their breaths. They had felt the chin stir the water as it moved to let the guy’s mouth open to draw in air and prepare to pounce. Sunglasses stared at the void the guy left as he sucked in enough air to verbally tear down that protest sign.
But then the Flamingo was passed to another, and two hands were free. The lisped keeper of the Flamingo cupped his hands and threw water toward the edge of the pool. “You got it,” said another pair of sunglasses in a hat. “I always save the bees,” said the Flamingo sporting wader. “It’s so they don’t sting me. I hope they feel my karma and pass me by.”
The guy with his chin in the water let out a breath. No tirade was going to go down on this lazy day. No rebuttals. No defenses would be made for the stray cats that found their way into this friendly community. But there was to be a new resolve. Not only for this square chinned wader, but for the others in the circle, and the many more who would hear of this day by night’s end. The stray cats would assuredly have more advocates after this hot day. Here was a man who saved bees, who was seen by all those eyes shaded by Oakley and Ray Ban and heard by all those ears covered by big hats, and yet had no love for a few cats. He saved bees because bees could sting and he didn’t want to be stung. If bees could not sting then he wouldn’t save them. It was simple, he was it it for himself.
“Oh, look at your Flamingo.” Pairs of sunglasses turned to look. “His head fell off,” said many hats in unison. A piece of skin fluttered on the lisped waders nose. It broke off, fluttering in the hot breeze that once again graced the surface of the pool until it landed on what was left of the Flamingo’s neck, covering the stub that had supported a head.
“Good thing they come in a pack of ten,” said a pair of sunglasses with a large hat.
Chris Plante, July 8, 2017