A Cat Passing in the Night

holes also grow

This happened nearly a decade ago: I had just shut down my desktop for the evening, having finished with some now forgotten project, when I heard the cat.

“!” the cat demanded.

There are no cats in my apartment though once, elsewhere, I had had two. They had been lovely creatures and lovely friends, a family. By that evening they had been dead for about two decades. Their absence has left yet another gaping hole in my life, one that I’ve never attempted to patch or to fill.

“!!” the cat insisted.

Where in tarnation was the sound coming from? I turned away from my work table to face the hallway. It surely couldn’t be coming from the dining room or kitchen. It must be the stairwell.

“?” the cat asked. I could almost hear the implied “please.”

I opened the door. A sable cat, just past adolescence, looked up in momentary astonishment. Then she strode into my apartment, her tail erect in a confident, friendly exclamation. I followed her into the living room where she began an investigation of the boxes beneath the work table.

“Come out, kitten,” I said. “There’s nothing of interest under there.”

She agreed and emerged from the table.

“Come on, let’s find your human,” I said.

The cat accompanied me back to the hallway, a few steps ahead, but diverted to the doorway of the darkened dining room. The air was still fragrant of chicken stewed with rosemary and fennel. She stood for a moment, drinking in the smell. Now this was interesting!

“Let’s go,” I reminded her.

The cat turned and left the apartment.

Without direction from me, she began to climb the stairs. Just before the first landing, she paused to look back (“Are you coming?”). I reached out and she stropped herself against my hand, hard, and purred loudly. She was clearly pleased and confident that I’d open the right door for her.

In fact, I had no opportunity to do so. At that moment one of the apartment doors off the floor above opened. A slightly plump yet comely young woman emerged, a neighbor I had never met.

“Have you misplaced a cat?” I asked.

“Oh yes!” she said and ran down the stairs to the landing. “Oh kitty!” she cried as she scooped up the cat. “Where did you go? How did you get out?” She ran back up the stairs with the cat. “I was looking all over for you and I couldn’t find…”

The door closed: thump. Click, click, snick, said the locks.

And there I was, left behind in the middle of the stairs, thinking, “Bye bye, kitty. Bye bye.”

The cat and I never met again.

(Photo / graphic by Roman.)


Looking for Love in the Wrong Place

Wherein a horny leopard tries to seduce her own image. Or maybe she’s just practising.

“French photographers Anne-Marie, Xavier HUBERT-BRIERRE and their friend Michel GUISS DJOMOU installed six large mirrors (1,2 m x 2,5 m) in the Gabonese jungle near Nyonié. In order to film the reaction of wild animals from different angles as they encounter their reflection, the group also installed cameras equipped with motion detectors in front of each mirror. Just as in humans, self recognition in mammals in not an innate ability. The ability to recognise one’s own reflection is the result of a training process that little by little allows the human, and some rare mammals or primate to understand the mirror’s properties.”

Trail side cameras operated by motion detectors have become quite the tool for ecologists, naturalists, animal behaviorists and generally nosey humans. Add mirrors to the equation and you create quite the interesting set-up. This group has recorded interactions between mirrors and leopards, chimpanzees, gorillas, elephants, palm nut vultures and others. It’s endlessly fascinating. You can find a great many more videos at their YouTube channel.

Wait! Wait! Don’t tell me…

Here is Duchess, reigning mouser of her household, contemplating a weighty issue: Those fingers… who am I reminded of? Smells familiar…

Duchess is a friend of mine… or rather, I’m her friend as her opinion of me would be that I am neither edible nor a predator of cats. It’s not that other things are irrelevant, but they fade from memory more quickly than our meetings.

History will dissolve us (Sorry, Che) but with cats, it’s much quicker.

Photo by Roman.

April Fools

Let’s go full kitty cat for the occasion with this short by David Hughes.

I don’t know why David Hughes titled this video “April Fools” but it was much nicer than most of the prank videos that I watched. The cleverest prank videos were either commercials or cruel.

Catbird Hairboll

Photo by Roman.

Possibly someone saved the fur from a shedding dog over time to create this.

I was in the habit of doing something similar with fur from my cats, Rainbow and Bellybird. They were long-hairs, silver persians, and could shed an enormous quantity of fur when I groomed them. I ceased combing them early on; they really did not like combs (especially the steel combs used by cat fanciers) and Rainbow in particular was not shy about letting me know. But they were okay with me breaking and removing tangles. It may be they felt it was grooming they could better control.

The resulting fur I would roll into balls, nowhere near the size of the photo above but maybe the size of a small mouse. Both cats would play with them. Rainbow would often be willing to play fetch but after the third or fourth return she’d get bored or distracted.

Sometimes she would wander away.

Sometimes she would begin knocking it about, playing with her food, as it were, her human playmate forgotten.

Sometimes she would pick up the furball and wander through the apartment, calling, until she put it down, still calling. If I came over, she would stalk away, apparently no longer interested.

At the time, I might have said she had intended it for imaginary kittens: go away, human! This isn’t for you! But now I wonder if the whole point was to end the game with me coming to the furball instead of her: when cat wins; game over.

Both Rainbow and Bellybird have been dead for decades, but I still have one of the furballs.


A geezer I am! There’s nothing for it. I is what I is. Not since adolescence have I changed in such absorbing and alarming ways. In winter, my hands become curiosities: odd wrinkles as if my fingers have spent far too much time in the bath of life. It’s beyond all imagining.

Photo by Roman.

My old cat Rainbow thought my hands were a marvel — all hands really, but I was hers so my hands were at her service and inspection. Sometimes she would try to make her own paw serve as a hand, like when she would rub her chin, paw palm up, when her pimples where troublesome. (Yes, cats can get pimples. A symptom of ageing, as I recall.) But generally she was quite adept at directing my hands instead.

Photo by Roman

Rainbow was right. Hands are a marvel. I’m so happy to have them, warts and all.


Glenwood Avenue

The northern end of Glenwood Avenue in Rogers Park can be a bit confusing. A railroad runs down the middle of it. That’s not unheard of, except that the railroad (the Chicago Transit Authority) is elevated above street level so as not to obstruct or collide with street traffic; it’s not obvious to a new visitor that the street number you may be looking for is on the other side of the tracks. The tracks were not always elevated, but growing traffic congestion and accidents moved the Chicago City Council to demand that railroads elevate their tracks. While the ordinance was passed in 1907, the project elevating what is now the Red Line was not completed until 1922.

Glenwood Avenue is also mildly unusual in that some of the original brick paving remains, albeit asphalt patched. Several other blocks of original brick paving exist elsewhere in Rogers Park. It hadn’t occurred to me until now that all of them that come to mind are North — South.

Looking south toward Lunt Avenue. Photo by Roman.
Looking south toward Lunt Avenue, but the west side of the tracks. Until a few years ago, this was still brick paving. Photo by Roman.
Looking north toward Estes Avenue. This block is still mostly brick paving. Photo by Roman.

I once met a five year old boy who was absolutely smitten by garbage trucks. It’s a fascination that I find just barely comprehensible. It’s big. It’s noisy. It’s powerful. It has all manner of moving parts. Check all those boxes, fine, but still…

Photo by Roman.

On the other hand, my cat Rainbow was always terrified of garbage trucks, even though (or maybe especially because) they were never visible from the apartment, just a terrifying roar with a ghastly stink. This makes far more sense: a monstrous predator with fetid breath. Even a cat’s imagination might be more alarming than reality… by a little bit.

Photo by Roman.

Comin’ to get you, kitty.