A Black Cat Crossed My Path
I do not like cats, but when Le Chat Noir disappeared, it grieved me to see Black Mama Cat and Figo fight for their survival.
Le Chat Noir was the biggest of the three cats who roam the house. They are black cats. Le Chat Noir was the big cat, a tom cat.
He reminded me of a cat my family had when I was a kid: a tom, his face claw-scratched in alley fights, until it looked like he had fresh face piercings.
I am allergic to cats, and here at Can Serrat I never touched the cats or anything the cats touched, but I felt something for Le Chat Noir, because he was sick.
It was clear he was sick when he pooped in the house four times. Twice in one night; pools of poop. I was glad I had let it be known that I was allergic, so I was not looked down upon for simply reporting the mess and not cleaning it up.
That morning in the kitchen, I told two of my housemates, “the cat is really sick.”
The Columbian writer-woman went to investigate, and returned, her face grave and concerned.
There were worries that the cat had a parasite that might be easily cured with a veterinarian’s care, he is a mountain cat; he will not be seeing a vet.
A day or so later, the people, with the black cats following, climbed up the hill to sit on the side of the mosaic-covered bathtub. The little cat chased Le Chat Noir off the hill.
There is no way he would let that little cat chase him away if he wasn’t sick.
The next day I saw him walking like his legs were canes, stiff and unbending. And over those canes, his body so, so thin.
The next day, I did not see him. The next, next day I asked, "have you seen the cat? The sick cat?"
No one had.
It had been storming all day that day: bass thunder, steel clouds, and pellet rain.
I was siting at my desk, staring at the computer screen when I hear screeching like fingernails on a black board.
A cat fight in the hall, outside my door. I opened the door to see a streak of white going down the stairs. It was Big White Cat. Straight after him was Martin, walking just as fast. The people in our house do not want Big White Cat inside.
Big White Cat is trying to take over the house, stake it out as his turf.
Now that Le Chat Noir has disappeared, Big White Cat wants to be the tom cat, but even without Le Chat Noir, the house still has two black cats who must be disposed of first: Black Mama Cat, and the little black cat, whose name is Figo.
(He is male, we think (the Englishman saw him having sex with the big orange cat in the yard, but that could just Big Orange Cat’s act of dominance, and Figo’s confusion or homosexuality).
Figo is no big tom cat, yet.
In the hall, the cat fight is done, but I have left the Writer’s Studio door open too long. Black Mama Cat runs past me and inside.
“No,” I scream, running after.
She runs to the shut window, four legs moving like eight.
“Get out,” I shout.
“Dedria.” The other humans running down the hall call my name – “Dedria” – while I am running after the cat, shouting “Get out.”
If Black Mama Cat gets comfortable in this room I will be uncomfortable. I will be sneezing and itching and my eyes teary. The whole room will need to be decontaminated. White hazard suit action, except there are no white hazard suits here.
“She’s just scared,” says one of the humans who doesn’t eat animals.
And another who doesn’t mind ashy cat prints on her bed, picks up the Black Mama Cat, stroking her. “She’s scared.”
She’s scared, and I’m allergic.
Sometimes it’s survival of the fittest, and the biggest, which is me and Big White Cat. Suddenly, I am on the same team with the bully cat.
Later, I say to my housemates, “these black cats need to fight Big White Cat. Eventually, it is going to come to that.”
“But they are just poor little house cats,” the Englishman says. “And those are big mountain cats.”
Big White Cat is a mountain cat who battles the elements and when very hungry may tries to take down a wild boar. Who sleeps in caves with one eye open. Who eats rats in the forest. Who sees the black cats’ life in the house with the food bowl and water bowl as an easy life.
If it was up to me, I would move the black cat's bowls out to the dog house, but then they wouldn't have a chance against Big White Cat.
It would be so perfect if Le Chat Noir would return to defend them.
A big dinner in progress. The dining room blazed with the sound of twenty people at the table, most from the Norwegian art school, the rest are artist-residents, and three of them new. With the departure of the Englishman, I am the last of the March people. The last to have seen Le Chat Noir alive.
I had given him up for dead, but with the appearance of Big White Cat in the house, my hope flamed anew that Le Chat Noir return alive, to rescue the two black cats, Black Mama Cat, and Figo.
It had been a festive day with a big mid-day pot-luck luncheon, lots of food – fish, and cheese, and empanadas, crusty garlic toast, lentil salad, pasta salad, potato chips – wine, and two big bottles of vermouth emptied. All of it tipped past lips and streamed down welcoming throats.
Guests from town and some from BCN. What an honor. All the dishes from the china cabinet spread on the table.
At dinner, the festive air continues. All were grateful they had a clean plate, for the dishwasher kept its own schedule.
Mademoiselle Director was standing right behind my chair when she tried to make her announcement. The others talked, but her voice came clear to me.
“We found the cat,” she said.
My heart leaped. The return of Le Chat Noir would help the two black cats against Big White Cat.
“Where?” I asked. “I am vitally concerned about him. It’s been so long.”
Of all the people at the table, no one but me had seen Le Chat Noir alive. Only I alone.
Mademoiselle Director cleared her throat, spoke louder.
“We found the cat’s body, and buried him.”
Oh, no! Le Chat Noir no longer missing, but dead.
I turned in my seat, my gaze resting on Mademoiselle Director.
“Where?” I demanded. “I am vitally concerned.”
“In the garden,” she said. “Do you know where the steps are?”
When the windows lightened the next day, I went in search of the grave. There are many steps in the garden. Many gardens. The grounds run long and wide and high, up and down stairs.
One set of stairs I climbed. Another set of stairs I rejected because they led to the olive tree grove.
It was not clear to me what “garden.” The ground growing things was all around. The wispy asparagus plants, the fragrant rosemary, garlic. Yellow flowers and flowers red as blood.
Steps to the terrace rise irregularly, demanding attention. At night a motion detector light comes on, briefly ruining the stars. but I can be stealthy and stand still to shut it down. In this garden, I only see sun worshippers.
I return to the house, to the bodega to ask the American blond, “Do you know where the cat grave is?”
Le Chat Noir is my pet name for him, others would not know him as such. Le Chat Noir, who I had not loved until he was crippled with disease.
“The Garden,” she said. “Straight up this walk.
And so I walked, dreading finding it, but there it was.
Chewed ground, a few stones and a twig, spindly as cat legs.
It is real. La Chat Noir. His was a life I shared and then he was gone, and now, he is dead and buried. Rest in peace.
Figo, the little cat, must defend this home of he and his mother, but he is so little, and Big White Cat so big.