Laura Dvorak 5:47 p.m., Dec. 6
Tundra and Elaine were both homebodies. They liked nothing better than lounging around the house all day. But they also enjoyed sunning themselves in our yard. The houses in our neighborhood were clustered next to each other on tiny lots that were separated by short wooden fences. The fence that surrounded our front yard (we had no back yard), separating it from Bacon Street and the alley, however, was six feet tall. Sometimes Elaine and Tundra would hop the interior fence and go into our closest neighbors’ yards, but that was about as far as their wanderlust ever led them.
With the exception of a small apartment house, ours was the only two-story house on the whole block. Tundra and Elaine enjoyed relaxing on the upstairs bedroom window-sill as they watched people walk by in the alley below. We had no air conditioning, so on hot summer days we always left our windows and doors open to bring fresh air in through the house. We had no screen door, but, still, we never had much of a problem with bugs.
One warm afternoon a few weeks after Josie and Ron moved in, April and I were watching TV in the living room when Tundra began to hiss at the front door. We looked to the front door and there was Mushroom. He was walking across the threshold in slow-motion. He didn’t know the layout of our house, but he must have smelled Tundra and Elaine’s food from their bowl on the kitchen floor. In silent fascination, April and I continued to watch Mushroom move at a snail’s pace into the living room. Tundra hissed again but made no effort to intercept him. Mushroom never so much as gave Tundra a glance. Mushroom must have believed that if he moved his body slowly enough then he would be invisible to us. Inch by inch, Mushroom lifted his enormous feet and then softly planted them on our floor.
By this time Tundra finally felt comfortable enough to move, but he had moved to a corner by the couch and wall “away” from Mushroom. As far as April and I knew, Tundra had never had a confrontation in his life, so he must have had no idea how to react when he or his turf was threatened. He did, however, continue to protest by hissing loudly. Mushroom had by then advanced almost six feet into our living room. April had finally had enough of Mushroom, and she shooed him out of the house. Tundra remained in the corner for another ten minutes.
A few days later I was in the kitchen washing the dishes when I heard a commotion from the yard. I opened the front door to investigate. On the lawn were Tundra and Mushroom fighting. Tundra was on his back beneath Mushroom. Tundra’s eyes were wide and frightened as he tried to defend himself. Mushroom’s eyes were relaxed and appeared almost clinical as he punished Tundra mercilessly. Obviously, fighting was nothing new for Mushroom.
Tundra wasn’t so much fighting as he was simply trying to ward off the calculated blows that Mushroom delivered expertly with his wide front feet. Mushroom didn’t look directly at me as I stood there in the doorway, but I could see him regard me impassively from the corners of his eyes. Mushroom gave Tundra one more good shot to the face and then allowed him to get up. As Tundra turned to run, Mushroom couldn’t resist and gave Tundra’s hindquarters a parting scratch. Tundra ran past me. He didn’t stop once he was through the front door and he continued up the stairs and into the bedroom. I didn’t have to look to know that Tundra was cowering beneath the bed.
Mushroom didn’t watch Tundra as he escaped; he lifted the paw he’d just scratched Tundra with and began to lick it. I imagined a practiced gunfighter from the Old West blowing smoke from the hot muzzle of his Colt after dispatching an easy adversary. Mushroom still refused to look in my direction. After he’d finished licking his paw he swaggered across our lawn and jumped the fence into his own yard.
A bully, I thought. Mushroom’s a “bully.” I felt bad. Tundra was such a good-natured cat and didn’t have a mean bone in his body. I’d never seen Tundra try to harm or hunt smaller animals, and he’d recently taken to sitting on the fence facing the alley to watch the various people coming and going; they often stopped to admire and pat Tundra. He enjoyed this so much that I nailed up a small sheet of plywood on the inside of the fence for him to sit on so he’d be more comfortable as he people-watched in the alley.
Tundra’s graciousness extended to other cats as well. If a neighboring cat happened to wander into our yard Tundra politely ignored him. And after some time of getting to know each other, one cat in particular, Boyd, Tundra actually seemed to be friends with. Boyd was a big lazy sand colored cat with brown highlights and bright blue eyes that almost always seemed to be on the verge of closing for a nap …
For the next installment, go to Ocean Beach Blogs and read “Boyd”; number 4 on its way. In my opinion, “now” it really starts to get good.