Tears and Laughter: What happens if you feed them

We were out on the porch, as usual, which was a world unto itself, with the ferns hanging low and the rails standing high. She was particular about it staying clean in case of visitors. She would sweep the entire length of it twice a day whether it needed it or not, morning and evening, 8:00 and 3:30, religiously.

As she swept she would peep through the ferns watching for any activity along the street out front. She would pretend to concern herself with sweeping the sidewalk all the way to the curb if something, somebody, or some conversation caught her attention.

She was forever allowing this ridiculous looking slip of a cat to hang around. “Mr. Paws,” she called him. “Not my cat,” she would explain to everyone who topped the steps and looked sideways at him.

She was always feeding the thing. She would make over him, and bless his heart, and give him bits of fried chicken and catfish, but still he refused to gain weight.

He was black, mostly, with a white face except for a little patch of black under his nose. He looked like he had a mustache and she would talk to him like they were equals visiting one another from different social circles. She would often tell other guests that Mr. Paws had spent a significant amount of time in Egypt and a brief stint in Europe during one of his past lives.

She would also include Mr. Paws in conversations, nodding toward him as if he would back up what she was saying, him sitting there all hunched over on the rail watching for lizards in the flower bed below.

“Mr. Paws saw them,” she would say. “He was here when she brought them over in a Tupperware bowl along with a copy of Guideposts she had finished with. She told me she had picked them out of the garden Friday morning, but I know better. You can’t do that. You can’t shell out little bitty butterbeans like that. Who does she think I am?”

Mr. Paws, who was unamused and looking bored as usual, had jumped down from the rail and was scrunched up beside her rocking chair with his green eyes squinted. The rocking chair was just outside the front door. It sat at an angle toward the swing which was reserved for guests.

So the swing chains were squeaking and the chair was rocking and Mr. Paws was keeping time to the rhythm with his tail, swishing it back and forth as she talked. “I don’t know much about a lot of things but I am a butterbean connoisseur, and there is no way these came out of a garden.”

I didn’t even have to taste them. I already knew, I could look at them and tell. They came out of the freezer at Delchamps!”

Mr. Paws had gotten drowsy and apparently dozed off for an instant. He lost count with the rhythm and the rocker rocked over his tail. He flew out over the porch rail like a big ugly blackbird, and disappeared behind the hydrangeas.

I thought that might be the last we all saw of Mr. Paws, but he came slinking back up the walk before she finished her 3:30 sweeping. She talked to him like it wasn’t about him when he topped the steps. “Well you know, that’s what happens when you feed them…” as if she would have had it any other way.

Amanda Walker is a columnist with The West Al. Watchman, Al.com, The Thomasville Times, and The Wilcox Progressive Era – https://www.facebook.com/AmandaWalker.Columnist.