Someone has our back

December 8, 2011

In a lot of these jazz stories there is no plot. No beginning or end. In a way no middle. Something like a pop song. Hedonistic. In the moment. Which is the way I run a lot of my life now. My first impression of this is a photograph I spotted in a book in the Richview Library. It was taken from one side of the street across at a building. But the building was not the centre of the picture. There was a person off to one side walking away. But the person was of no interest. The picture was intriquing because I couldn’t figure out what the photographer was trying to capture. As if images were like butterflys and the camera a net. And I came to understand what perception might have been in the pre-literate world. There was no focus. There was always the possibility of danger but you couldn’t see it. You couldn’t afford to get too absorbed in anything since that left you vulnerable. That is what makes us different. In almost everything we do from earning a living, to doing science, to sunbathing. We’re confident that someone has our back.



She roamed through the stores. The slut of sadness. Sashaying. Like A/C in a heat wave. Like a flag. A tail reaching for the sky. Her head. Regal. Smiling.  Her hips swaying. Aristocratically. Oh so slowly. Back and forth. Like the queen’s wave. From a 19th century carriage. Okay. Let’s backtrack. Too many allusions to the holy family. Lets say those hips swayed like long African grass. In a light August breeze. When the farmer stops to wipe his brow. And think about the woman in the kitchen. Baking pies. The smell drifting carelessly across those fallow fields. Rising in the air. Like the Queen’s glove. Here we go again. The white one. Not the ones stained in weeds. Shaking her fist. At the Irish masses.

She was adored. I’m talking about the Golden Cat. Like an icon. Worshipped by some. Hated by others. Hate is too weak a word for envy.  Her hair – long and golden. Her body – slender. In a tight black evening gown. Brushing up against the legs of those she deemed… worthy. Other times – aloof. She stood at a distance from her subjects. Lest they make unwarranted presumptions. Her head cocked to one side. As if she were absorbed in a conversation.  With someone. Maybe God. Maybe Bob Dylan. The Golden Cat. That was her title. No one knew her real name. I like to think it was Ruth.

Betty Ainge, wife of Joe, and daughter-in-law to Lewis, third cousin to Mrs. Murphy.  But unknown by Mrs. Murphy. Betty worked in the dollar store. On weekends and statutory holidays. With her father-in-law, Lewis. It was Betty who dared. To name the golden cat. She called her – Rachel. Rachel had been the daughter that Mrs. Ainge lost in her first trimester. A miscarriage. Queen-to-be. As if her womb was a buggy. Driven by white horses. And a man in slides. Mrs. Ainge named the baby. As soon as she found out. That there was life inside her womb.

Joe was Betty’s husband. And also a third cousin to Mrs. Murphy. Both Mrs. Murphy and Joe were aware of this relationship. Both denied it. Joe didn’t think it was a good idea. Naming a child before it was born. Seemed presumptuous to Joe. Lewis thought it was presumptuous to name a cat. Without the cat’s knowledge or permission. Joe was superstitious. Never carried a ladder. You have to walk under a ladder to carry it. Threw salt over his shoulders. On a regular basis. When anything was spilt. Even milk. Cried at funerals. Bawled at christenings. Wailed at the front pages of the daily newspaper. Was afraid of the unborn child. And when the miscarriage arrived, Joe fell into a deep depression. And kept saying that the child. Had changed into a snake.

Betty followed suit. After she lost the child. Betty became depressed. Pursued by the dogs of night. The judgment of God. Presumption was a mortal sin. Betty fell into a spell.  Lasting months. Joe had his own demons. Saw snakes everywhere. Both were hospitalized. And the bills started pouring in. Joe asked his father for a loan. Lewis shook his head. You have offended. Me.  

When Betty recovered her health, she sued for divorce. Joe was locked up in a cell. Where he screamed at the corners. Betty took up with Lewis. Left the son’s house and moved in with his father. And lived happily everafter.

When Lewis saw the cat for the first time, he felt that it was possible. The unborn child had been reincarnated. But he did not name the cat. He did not know what to name her. Which led to numerous arguments with Betty. Then one day Betty threw her arms up in the air. The cat’s name is Rachel. I didn’t divorce my husband to lose an argument with you.

Sometimes Lewis put bowls of milk out for the feline. And sometimes, if the milk was not too cold, or not stale, or not milk but cream, the cat would take a few licks. Just to be polite. The cat liked Lewis. No reason was given. Lewis was sure that she was some sort of goddess. A creature so beautiful must have divine origins.

The owner of the furniture store worshipped the Golden Cat. Mr. Singh. Believed that the cat was a talisman. An omen of future wealth. Wasn’t it colored golden? And didn’t it have the heir of good breeding. Upper class. Old money? Mr. Singh did not worry about cat hairs on his furniture. It did bother him somewhat when the golden cat began to tug on the sides of his couches with his sharp claws. When he attempted to chastise the cat, his words were silenced by a cold glare from the sacred beast. She looked clear through me, Mr. Singh was often quoted as saying.

Luigi Manco, the restauranteur, was not so enamored with the golden cat. ‘I’ll twist the head off that fuckin’ beast!’ he’d scream after finding a fur ball floating in his famous Irish Stew. So Luigi set traps in his restaurant to catch the elusive beast. But the animal was too smart. And Luigi knew it. He offered a reward for the capture of the animal, dead or alive. These too proved unproductive. The cat for its part stayed away from the restaurant. Most of the time. Ignoring all of the food that could have been hers, had she chosen. Her only weakness was the restaurant’s wine cellar. Which she indulged in. Leaving the empty bottles of wine on the cellar floor for the hired help to clean up.

The ownership of the golden cat was debated amongst the regular customers of the plaza. The consensus was that the cat’s true owner was James Edwards, one of the partners of the pharmacy. Wasn’t the cat given free range in the drug store? Wasn’t Mr. Edwards Egyptian? The home of the cat as god? And didn’t the two, Mr. Edwards and the cat, share so many personality traits. As if in some strange way they shared the same soul. And hadn’t Mr. Edwards been seen in the company of the cat. In his car. Going home. Late in the evening?

The first time the Ohara brothers spotted the Golden Cat they knew what they had to do. Exterminators did not need competition in the elimination of the growing rodent population in the plaza. Even though Mr. Singh had pointed out to them that the cat did not seem predisposed to catch mice. In fact Mr. Singh believed that the mice like everyone else revered the feline. But the Ohara brothers had their own ideas. And so did the Golden Cat. We think.

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