My father, who loved birds and kept a list* of every single one he had seen since the age of five, used to joke that the birds who frequented his garden must tell all their friends about the excellent cuisine to be found there, since it was a feathery Grand Central Station. Sunflower seeds, breadcrumbs, cake, peanuts, suet, birdseed – even the pickiest avian could find something to delight his or her jaded palate. When I visited, we always ate breakfast overlooking the garden, watching the birds at work and play. Once, we were lucky enough to see some nestlings take their first flight from the nest – we were mesmerized for over an hour.
I’m beginning to wonder if the word is out among the stray cats in the neighborhood that Henry has it pretty darn good. Food every day! Fresh water! They whisper among themselves. “I heard he has a cushy couch all to himself,” gossips one. “Well, I heard he has a blanket and hasn’t felt a drop of rain in months,” huffs another. I guess it’s not surprising that they wanted to see for themselves.
Recently, two new cats have been invading the back yard. I knew I shouldn’t have mown the lawn** and made it slightly more alluring to visitors. One is a bouncer-sized tabby and white number, and the other a more modestly scaled black and white. Tabby is more persistent than Blackie, who tends to lurk around the yellow rose bush and runs away if he sees me. Tabby, on the other hand, has the nerve to actually come up on Henry’s porch. I’ve caught him there and on the steps. Despite constant shooing, he keeps coming back like a marauding boomerang.
Oddly, Henry just sits calmly on the couch and lets me defend his food and water, if not his honor. I wonder if all my coddling has eroded his street skills. His rakishly torn ear and scarred nose tell me that he’s an experienced fighter. Maybe he’s older and wiser enough to let someone else fight the battles now.
*After he died, we found his incomplete bird sighting list of the week on his desk, under his reading glasses.
**It’s not just my inherent idleness that keeps me from mowing the lawn. It looks equally terrible mown or unmown, winter or summer, being rough, clumpy, and with huge brown patches whether it’s been raining or not. It really needs to start over or go to rehab.