(This is a revised and expanded version of a 2009 entry)
A month before we officially owned Someday, D and I went for an illicit hike through the meadow to look at the river. It was my idea; he warned me that if we were caught, we’d be in trouble, since we didn’t legally have possession of the land yet.
“Please,” I scoffed. “Who’s gonna catch us? The farming police? Don’t be such a chicken.”
So we had our tromp back to the river, Neko crashing through the undergrowth ahead of us. I was enchanted with the evergreen forest at the top of the hill, the wild apple trees and pussywillows, the swoosh of the Pine River as it flowed past our feet. I imagined lazy afternoons reading on the riverbank, envisioned taking my dad to fish there. Neko frisked around us and I jumped around in the tall grass and hugged D with delight. He patted me on the back with infinite patience. To him, the river was just an interruption in the farmland. To Neko and me, it was heaven.
As we clambered up the steep, goldenrod-choked path up from the river to the meadow, I noticed a figure leaning on the gate at the other end of the field.
“Oh good,” muttered D.
“Who’s that?” I asked, panting as we crested the hill.
“Doc Munn’s daughter. I told you we’d be in shit if we did this,” said D, grabbing Neko by the collar and clicking her leash on. “This should be fun.”
As we got closer, I put on my friendliest, most beguiling “Oh, is it wrong we’re on your land?” smile and went to introduce myself. Ms. Munn was not amused. She informed us we were trespassing and if one of us had broken a leg in the field or by the river there could have been deep legal trouble. I looked sideways at Dwain. He stood there and accepted the chastisement, although I could tell by his jaw he was about ready to give a lecture of his own. Neko, meanwhile, repeatedly choked herself in her eagerness to make new friends.
Ms. Munn had an old dog with her so we let our pets sniff each other while I attempted to make small-talk about animals and how beautiful the property was. This seemed to soften her up ever so slightly.
“I walk up here every night with my dog to feed the cats,” she informed us.
“Cats?” I asked. “What cats?”
Ms. Munn led us inside the abandoned horse stable and pointed out each of the four cats who lived there, giving us a brief history of each feline.
“This is Mummy,” she said, stroking the plump, purring black and white cat sprawled at our feet. “And that’s Black Betty,” she said, pointing to a pure black kitty reclining on some straw. “She’s named after your mother's cousin Betty Pollard,” Ms. Munn informed D tartly, “because they have the same personality.” I kept a straight face, vowing to remember this conversation word for word so I could amuse my in-laws with it later.
Next came the Teenager, so named because she was “moody,” and finally Frances, who peered at us from between a crack in the boards. “Don’t try to pick her up,” instructed Ms. Munn without further explanation. We also received detailed instructions about administering food, water and bi-annual rabies shots. She seemed so attached to the kitties that I timidly suggested she take them with her before we moved in. She looked at me as though I'd suggested we barbeque them and retorted, "It's the only home they've ever known." She went on to tell us that the cats were worth thousands of dollars, a statement that caused D to emit a choking sound Ms. Munn and I pretended to ignore. I could not wait to describe this scene to Carman.
We never ran into Ms. Munn again after that day, but she did leave us a card in the kitchen which we found the morning we moved in. “Aww, she must have left us a housewarming card,” I said, ripping it open and feeling bad that I’d found her so prickly on our first meeting. The card simply said, “Please take care of the cats. THIS IS THE ONLY HOME THEY'VE EVER KNOWN.” Two labelled photos of “the girls” were tucked inside. Apparently, Someday came pre-kittified.
My mother always had at least one cat in the house when I was growing up, a succession of different personalities named Vodka, Snowball, Velvet, Champagne, Selina, and Chaucer. Since Someday's barn cats were now mine, I decided to rename two of them a bit more creatively based on their personalities. Frances became Ricochet, because she exploded behind hay bales or under doors like a bullet as soon as I walked into the barn, and Mummy became Comfort. Mummy seemed like a silly thing to say to a cat who was fixed, and she was so cuddly and purry that Comfort just suited her.
Of the four, Comfort and Black Betty are the friendliest, the Teenager less so and Ricochet has never allowed herself to be touched. Maybe it’s because I don’t call her Frances.
It’s a lot of cats, even for a place as big as Someday. Neko is always a nose away from her food bowl, and she’s so huge it’s hard to ignore her for long. The cats are way down the lane in the barn though, and I have to mentally poke myself to remember to fill their food dishes and take water out every couple of days. They’ve all been spayed, which is awesome, but soon I’ll have to figure out how to get them rabies shots. Heaven knows they won’t easily be transported to the vet without a fight or three.
Jade took over cat-feeding duties as soon as she was able to walk back to the barn. She and Black Betty have a special bond, while my favourite is Comfort, whose mellow vibe and motorcycle engine purrs won me over from the first day I met her. It has become a morning ritual for Jady and I to walk back to the barn to visit the kitties and feed them, although it took me several days before I realized that Jade was managing to secretly eat a handful of cat food every time.
One day, we went to feed the kitties, only to find a giant, marmalade-coloured interloper in their midst. I was surprised, to say the least. Someday cats are mild-mannered, clean and friendly. This new kitty was enormous, filthy and looked like he knew cat-kwon-do. Even Jade, lover of all animals, treated him with suspicion. "Dat kitty big," she said, and gave him a wide berth.
He stared at me defiantly as I tried to figure out where he had come from and what I should do about it. I didn't recognize him from Blair's Grove or even Robbie's farm up the road. It was spring; I guessed he'd come in search of a meal and a wife, the latter in which he'd be sorely disappointed. In the end, I shrugged and scooped a little extra Barn Cat kibble. They must know him, I thought, as my kitties meowed and prowled around my legs like Mr. Marmalade was no big deal. Maybe they invited him over for supper.
Well, the moment the kibble hit the plates, Mr. Marmalade barged right in, elbowed Comfort and Black Betty out of the way and began gobbling food like a lion at a kill. The other cats ignored him and went to the other plate of food. But Mr. M. must have thought they were getting something tastier, because he flew over to the other plate, hip-checked them all out of the way and plunged into their food like...well, like Neko.
I swear I could hear the Teenager sigh as she looked up at me with an exasperated expression and trudged back to the first plate again. Apparently Mr. M. was not so much a guest as a party crasher, and a flea-ridden one at that. His table manners left much to be desired. Someday cats are mellow creatures who wait patiently for their food and eat it in delicate little crunchy bites. With the exception of Ricochet, they love to be petted and stroked, and will often curl up in my lap. Mr. M’s eyes get all squinty and serial-killer-ish if I try to come near him, and the one time I snuck up and laid my hand on his back, he jumped a foot in the air and glared at me like I’d just tasered him.
So Mr. M. has got to go. He eats too much and doesn't want to make friends. He bullies my foursome of genteel kitties and I don't like it. Herein lies the proverbial rub: how do I get rid of the creature? I’ve tried to shoo him away. He runs two feet and then stops, as if daring me to chase him. I’ve yelled at him, made weird noises, stomped my feet and threatened to let Neko finish him off - all to no avail. Mr. M. has established himself as the newest, greediest resident of Someday Farm and I have absolutely no idea how to get rid of him humanely.
I asked a few friends, who suggested raccoon traps, calling the local vet or just putting up with him. I have absolutely no desire to trap a cat, much less a raccoon by accident. The local vet would laugh at me. So I guess I’m left with a grudging acceptance of our new resident and the fact that Someday may become increasingly kittified. But at least I don’t have to worry about the Teenager getting pregnant.