Wisely god buries in night and darkness
what will be the result of the days to come,
and he laughs if men are more afraid
than they need be…
Horace, Odes III 29
So there it is : I’ve got to organize a second raid on the cats’ barricade, this time it will be more complex than the first one. I have to evict Sebastian and Abe from all places where they can hide and perhaps, by doing so, make it more attractive for them to return my love and make friends with me.
So this is what I plan to do: Saw wood into the right shapes and sizes so I can plank up the support beam of my court yard roof – the préau – this in such a manner that just one opening is left for them to go in and out of their alcove. A practical problem will be to keep open some little slits through which I will be able to kill the next invasion of those wood eating insects in the summer… Then, once again, I need to find the right place in the yard to lure them away with food, this time leaving me time to perform my trick of tricks.
After they have got accustomed to their new feeding and watering spot, I shall use my last prepared plank which I have equipped with a series of nails half way in and made to fit onto that last opening. On D-Day I shall put out the ladder underneath the beam, hoping the kittens are not scared by it and refuse to go to the afore mentioned feeding spot, deciding to remain hidden inside their beam.
There will of course be cruelty. For at least three days I won’t feed them, just give them water and a little milk as if they were my little prisoners. There is the risk that they will then leave me, give up their nice red chair and that beam – as well as me, their caretaker. There is also the danger that they might meet a farmer with a gun who does not love cats… But if they just stay and get really hungry, after these few days I shall put the food out and quietly wait inside the door opening of my house till the moment they choose to be real hungry.
As expected I only manage to remain cat-cruel for just one day. So already the second night I put out the food and the kittens fall for it. I keep silently waiting, then make a run for it towards the ladder under the préau where I grab the ready hammer and the prepared plank, then shoot up the ladder and bang the opening close.
After I have performed this trick I find that even in this rather threatening situation the two kittens have run back up their climbing beam and are sitting only a meter and a half away from where I had been hammering. Saved by the bell!
As the character of each cat is unique and mostly inherited from the father, and as one almost never knows a cat’s father, even for a wise catalogician like me these young ones are imponderable. I had already decided that once my wife has come over with the brother in law, she would have to do the catching and the caging as I did not expect much closer contact between me and my little friends.
But did Abe turn out to be a cozy creature! Within two days after the successful closure of their beam house he was already purring on my belly while I was having my siesta in the court yard. Sebastian was a more difficult customer, only a week before my guests arrived did he let himself be stroked for the first time, this distantly and more than two weeks after Abe let it be. So, what a difference in character!
Then again, with human loved one you also fall first for what they look like, their eyes and bodily shapes, only then character comes into play. So with cat lovers. Abe is more subdued, although when incited by Sebastian he may run amok. Sebastian, on the other hand, is always high; he seems to be a vanguard cat, whereas Abe just the agreeing type, saying to himself: “All right, let’s go wild for a while, if that’s what Sebastian wants…”
Phrased differently: Sebastian is permanently on cocaine, eyes wild, and body in an alert stance, looking for trouble or for excitement – or for both. Abe is hash tagged to Sebastian. Little Abe is a hash cat, rather in a silly way browsing nature and mankind, sort of pleasantly surprised that all this is there without precisely knowing what it is all about.
From then on they circled me, climbed in trees and grew larger and larger. After the fury of food consumption there is always that short period of time in which they go completely crazy, ruining what they have left of my beautiful little flowers during their last raid, and breaking the stem of the only surviving sunflower. I observe, I am sad and I am happy at the same time, reduced to sheer far niente, as doing something while watching their activity would be senseless.
Once my family had arrived in La Roche I decided to keep Sebastian with me till I would leave La Roche myself. We just bought one cage for Abe. Ever since the publication of Remco Campert’s gorgeous little book The Diary of a Pussy, a Dutchman calls these boxes Draagbare Woning – DW in short, perhaps best translated as Portable Home or PH.
Each time Campert’s Puss perceives his two servants Glasses and Trousers filling trunks and taking out the PH, she says to herself: Ah, we’re going to Frenchyland. Holidays galore.
One of the weird aspects of nature is how differently drugs affect the body. Cocaine and hash do have very dissimilar effects and one may, as I did, even characterize characters according to drugs taken – thus Sebastian Coke en Hash Abe. The drug used to make them sleep while travelling, on the other hand, tends to eliminate all distinction.
As Abe had never seen his PH before, he was somewhat scared by the contraption, but then again this did only last till the travel drug took hold on his tiny psyche. When I phoned Haarlem and asked how his emigration had evolved, I was told that he had been ‘out’ for the trip – simply a cute little body hanging inside his PH like a trapezist on his wires, or rather like a boxer against the ropes.
Thus I awaited my turn to go North, always against the flow of the cranes who autumnally wing their way South over the Brenne where I live. Simply because I cannot fly, we never met in the flesh, but whenever I perceive them, cackling and talkative high up there, I shout a friendly Hello! and thank them for warning me that time has come.
Sebastian became nicer after Grey Spotted Silvery Abe had left. He started crying for his lost partner in crime. They had been a tight knit set, this now showed in the sorrow for the loss of the loved one. I was the comforter.
At such moments the lack of lingual communication between cat and man is tragic and severe. Luckily this loss of Abe intensified Sebastian’s sympathy for me. Body language soothed the little beast. Whereas before it had been Abe on my belly and scurrying in front of my feet so as to make me fall, now Sebastian took over. Gentlemen’s love!
As Abe’s cage had performed as it should, I went to Le Blanc and bought a second one at the vet. The lady behind the counter looked at me as if I were a rather eccentric collector of Portable Homes. I also bought another capsule of the best. Sebastian Coke would sleep well enough during the long ride, some eight and a half hundred kilometers through France, Belgium and The Netherlands.
Desmond Morris, the renowned biologist who studied dogs and cats and human beings as if they were of the same make from the same factory assembly line, wrote amongst many other books Catwatching and Dogwatching. Julian Barnes did his own research and found that Catwatching was sold twice as well as Dogwatching. The latter was even discovered selling well at dog shows!
Barnes ponders the issue and asks himself why this is the case. Perhaps because cat-owners live in city flats with potted plants and piles of paperbacks at hand, while dog-owners live down muddy lanes miles from the nearest bookshop? Or, may be, because the dog-owner walks his dogs too often and does not have spare time to read?
I move that the true reason for this is the fact that cat watching is far more pleasant than dog watching, even by way of photographs. Period! Even when such a cat is, like my Sebastian, completely out, lying in his furry unconscious in the Portable Home placed on the floor of the car next to my gearshift.
Now and then I almost caused an accident driving the middle of this night on a desolate Autoroute to the North – absorbed for a moment in his irresistible attractiveness.
As Radiohead is singing it:
You used to be all right.
Did the cat get your tongue…?
Sierksma, Septembre/Octobre 2017 La Roche