Our younger son reminded me at Christmas, when defending his fondness for “airport novels” against my encouragement of Dickens, that instead of being published serially, today Dickens would be sold at airports.
If this is serial non-fiction, a recurring character will be Frances. A nine-pound cat, Frances was freed from a cage in a vet’s office and her former life is a mystery to us.
The early morning we left Alaska (black-and-white Frances under the airplane seat in front of me, the mostly-black-with-some-white dog Bill below in cargo), the temperature held a steady sub-zero. No arctic wind, just calm, and dark.
That first night we collapsed in front of the welcoming warmth of our new fireplace – the dog happy to sigh and stretch out after a hard day. Frances quickly leaving her laundry room containment to travel the whole house, demanding closets be opened and inspections made. She walked the edges of rooms, figuring the extent of her territory.
In the morning the black-and-whites gingerly, paws reluctant on sharp crushed gravel, took a tour of their new turf. Noses to the ground, surely aware of but not looking at, the eight-foot mesh deer fence that contains the space between our two buildings into a “courtyard” garden.
Bill is gone now. Already 12 that first January, he daily walked the trails and beach here, but probably always missed the alleys, dumpsters, and dogs-to-make-a-ruckus-with of his old city life. His grave is on the “south forty” – covered in rock cairn and prayer flags. We think of him nearly everyday.
But Frances might not. She, the second to arrive, assumed the throne with authority. That first winter she fearlessly nose-to-nosed with a yearling deer who visited frequently and approached the fence. Frances stares at eagles overhead (from the steps by the door) and coyotes who pause to regard her as they pass along the bluff.
She’s hard on rodents in this garden she rules. Thankfully birds learned quickly, and look carefully for the resident predator before they ever light in the garden.
It took Frances two years to remember she was a cat and could climb a fence. She attempted numerous breaches – usually on rainy or wild windy nights when we’d have to fetch her off the roof. Now a tilted-in top netting confines her to castle and courtyard.
An opportunist, she’ll bolt out the front door, if it’s held open by mistake. And equally quickly she’ll bolt back in. She knows about the coyotes. She’s heard tell of how they dine.