Chloe glanced around the livingroom before heading to the kitchen and slipping out the small door in the slider to the deck. Her family was settled in for the evening and she was ready to take a walk. After the dinner dishes were cleaned up Dad turned on a baseball game and the kids started their homework. Mom had given Chloe her evening brushing before settling down to enjoy the game as well. Chloe’s medium length coat of blotchy orange and black, dotted here and there with patches of white, glistened in the lights and she spent half an hour completing her grooming. Some people called her color calico but she preferred the more regal definition of tortoiseshell and white, although she was not an uppity cat. She loved her family and slept at night on the foot of Daughter’s bed. But in the evenings she liked to stroll a bit around the neighborhood before she settled down for the night.
Her house sat on the beach, and during the day she would often stretch out on the deck railing to watch the activity. She never went down to the water – as a kitten Mom had taken her down and let her explore a bit. But the gentle edge of a wave touching her feet sent shivers down her entire body. She’d tried to get all four feet out of the wet at the same time but the only thing that accomplished was getting her belly wet and she cried out in frustration. Mom had laughed, picked her up, and carried her back to the house.
Chloe liked being outside but she never wandered too far from her home. Three houses in one direction there was a noisy, mean-spirited Welsh Terrier that barked insults at her from his fenced back yard. Sometimes she sat quietly, letting him mouth off until his family made him go inside. But mostly she kept her distance for she was really a well-mannered cat.
Like most nights Chloe turned in the other direction and walked along the back fence of the house next door, looking for Sparky. “Meow?” she called softly and the pretty little red and white Papillon bounced off the back porch. Plume of tail wagging happily over his back, he ran over to visit. They touched noses and spent several minutes in friendly conversation before Chloe continued on.
The next house had no pets but there was a birdbath and feeder in the back yard. Both had plexiglas covers with small openings so that the finches and sparrows could access them but not the obnoxious seagulls. Chloe liked to watch the smaller birds. She never stalked them, or bothered them in any way, and they’d grown used to her occasional observations. The house next to that one was the last at that end of the beach. It had stood empty for some time, but recently a man had moved in. He didn’t seem to be there much, but Chloe always checked, just in case.
She’d first seen him from her perch on the deck railing, jogging along the beach. Both Mom and Dad had waved and said Hi, and he’d smiled and waved back. On his return trip he’d stopped to talk a bit. Chloe had walked the rail to where he stood and he’d very gently reached out two fingers and rubbed under her chin, a very favorite spot. Chloe just knew that he must have cats of his own although she didn’t smell any scent on him. When she discovered that he’d moved into the last house she was surprised to find that he didn’t have his own cat. She’d also quickly discovered that he wasn’t home much, so that was probably the reason.
She’d surprised him the evening after their first meeting. She was unused to seeing activity at the end house on her evening strolls and she was curious to see who was there. She jumped up on the porch rail and walked over to look in the kitchen window. He startled at her appearance before bursting out laughing. Chloe liked his laugh and she sat down to watch as he prepared a salad. The window was open and he talked to her through the screen. He laughed again as Chloe caught the scent of shrimp and swept her whiskers forward when he topped his salad with small ones. Putting the salad bowl on another plate, he picked up the entire meal as well as a glass of liquid and came out on the porch to eat. Chloe stayed where she was on the railing – a good cat did not beg. But when he picked a shrimp off the top of the salad and held it out to her she wasn’t about to turn down the delicacy – just to be polite, of course.
Since that night Chloe always checked to see if the man was home. He always smiled and spoke to her when he saw her, and if he was eating there would be a nibble of something. Some nights they did nothing but sit together watching the sun go down, the man in his chair and Chloe on the railing. A polite cat did not jump into a lap without an invitation.
Tonight when Chloe looked in the kitchen window the man was nowhere to be seen, although she could hear movement in the house. She jumped down and checked the back door – it was open with just the screen door in place. Chloe sensed something was wrong, however. Normally the man moved very quietly around the house but this evening there were bumping sounds and grumbles that were definitely not like the man’s normally soft voice. When there was a moment of silence she tapped the screen door lightly with her paw and asked politely, “Meow?” Her only answer was more silence and she became more concerned. Tap, tap. “Meow?” This time she heard steps head her direction but they weren’t the man’s usual easy movement and she watched intently through the screen.
It was the man who came into the kitchen, but moving slowly with heavy steps. He did smile ever so briefly when he saw her but it changed to a dark look Chloe had never seen before. The man moved out of her sight and she hesitated. Should she go back to the kitchen window? Should she stay where she was? Maybe she should just leave – the man didn’t seem to be in the mood to visit. But before she could decide, the man came to the screen door and, opening it, stepped out onto the deck. He moved stiffly, and moaned slightly when he settled heavily into the lounge chair and stretched his long legs out in front of him. But he sent Chloe a partial grin as he reached out a hand to her. Chloe got a whiff of something unfamiliar but definitely interesting and she walked over to investigate. Mostly she was hit with a strong medicinal smell. She wrinkled her nose and flattened her whiskers at what was similar to what she smelled on those infrequent occasions when Mom took her to the Vet’s. But even for a polite cat, what the hand held was most intriguing. She’d never heard of what he called pro shoe toe and she took it gently from the man’s fingers. It tasted a little like ham but it was shaved very thin. Whatever it was, she ate it slowly and savored every bite.
When she was finished she took a good look at the man. Once she’d taken the proffered treat he’d laid his head against the back of the lounger and closed his eyes. She took the couple of steps that brought her the rest of the way to his side and was concerned when his face was tight, not the peaceful relaxation of sleep. She hesitated because she was not a pushy cat, but wanted to show the man that she cared and softly reached out a paw with claws very carefully sheathed to gently tap the man’s leg. His eyes opened and he smiled slightly as he reached out and rubbed the spot under her chin that he knew she loved. But once more he closed his eyes as his hand returned to his side.
Again Chloe considered her options. While she adored her family and would never think of leaving them, she was becoming quite fond of this man. And not just because of the little treats he offered her when she visited. She wanted to show him that she was concerned and once more gently patted his leg. He didn’t open his eyes but he did smile briefly and his hand tapped his own leg, inviting her up. She accepted gracefully and carefully, curling to settle in his lap and slightly against his chest, purring softly. His hand settled on her back close to her neck but he didn’t stroke her, just let it rest on her. It was as if he were letting Chloe know that he appreciated her company and she purred louder. It caused him to smile again, and Chloe could feel some of the tension leave as he started to relax.
Chloe lay quietly; the more she purred the more she felt the man’s body lose its stiffness. Every so often his hand would glide down her back in a gentle caress before returning to just behind her neck. She would renew her purr, he would smile softly, and the pair continued to enjoy each other’s company as the evening progressed.
As the sun set and darkness started to settle in Chloe prepared to head for home. She glanced at the man’s face and he sent her the first honest grin she’d seen this evening. He gave her one more rub under her chin and Chloe took her leave. She was glad that she’d chosen to stay. Good cats do what they can to look after their friends.
Author’s Note – This story was written late last summer, before the lovely calico kitten whose picture is now posted on Seaview Stories’ pets page was even born. May kitten Chloe grow up to be as well behaved as story Chloe. They say that miracles do happen J