Old Man and Cat Talk While the Country Sickens and Dies

By Marc Dion

July 3, 2020 4 min read

The radio station where I work part time has 12 parking spaces in the lot, though there are seldom more than seven cars parked between the yellow lines. There is a cemetery at one edge of the lot, a cemetery from the 1700s because this is Massachusetts. Inside the cemetery, broken gravestones are piled up on the ground. Others are worn down like the stumps of broken teeth.

Through the old stones, on many mornings, there walks a cat.

She is feral and has no name, though she is very pretty. Her main shelter is the fenced-in back yard of a nearby house owned by a police officer and his wife. They leave food and water out for her and, when the weather is bad, she sleeps under their deck.

She is mostly white, with big, irregularly distributed splotches of a color I describe as "caramel." It is my favorite color on a cat.

I can't touch her, not even if I try to make those high-pitched smoochy noises with which my wife can draw cats from the next county. My own whiskey tenor voice does not impress the cat.

But treats do.

"I'll get you a bag of treats to keep in your car," my wife said when I told her about the pretty cat. "She should have treats."

She'll come within four feet of me, no closer, and I'll lob her the treats underhanded and then back away while she comes forward to eat.

And I watch her.

In my hunting days, I shot and ate animals smaller than her. Sometimes, I only wounded them, and they made awful noises before I finished them off. I was not bothered. I was young, and the world was there for me to conquer, to kill. A young man is a terrible thing, which is why we send them to fight the increasingly purposeless wars we lose.

Older, a man should learn pity and charity, and he should learn not to hunt if he isn't hungry. The furred and feathered things have their place: the groundhog in my yard, the birds in my trees, the caramel cat who will not come close.

"It's all right," I say to the caramel cat. "I won't hurt you. Eat."

It's a very guarded relationship on her end, but I'm quite comfortable with her now and, because I've always believed in talking to animals, the cat knows my age, and how much time I have before I go on the air, and that the cities are burning, and that I regret a lot of things. She knows a lot about COVID-19 now.

"It's gonna be all right," I tell her about everything and nothing. "It's gonna be all right."

The treats are salmon-flavored. The cemetery full of broken stones says "PERPETUAL CARE" on the gate, carved in stone to last forever.

"I gotta go on the air," I say to the cat, tossing her three more treats. "Don't go into the field behind the station. There are coyotes back there; I've seen them. They'll break your back."

And the cities burn.

To find out more about Marc Munroe Dion, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com. Dion's latest book, a collection of his cattiest political columns, is called, "Devil's Elbow, Dancing in the Ashes of America." It is available in paperback from Amazon.com, and for Nook, Kindle, GooglePlay and iBooks.

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