Apifera Farm - where art, story, animals & woman merge. Home to artist Katherine Dunn

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©Katherine Dunn.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

The Cat That Came To Stay

Part One
He sat under a wire connected to a pasture fence, between a gravel road and a hay field. From his vantage point he could see the three farms in the distance. One had many huge farm vehicles all in a row by a more modern, metal pole building. The other was vintage 40's farm house with wrap front porch and a small garden, with roosters, chickens and dogs. The farthest in the distance was the largest of the three farms - it had a long winding gravel driveway that led up to a house perched on the hill, and white wood pasture fencing all the way up that drive. Poplars lined the road on one side, and in the field there appeared to be a crop planted.

He felt this bigger farm in the distance had a certain quality that was safer, and more compelling to his character. While the vintage house was nicer looking and had more character, the energy there felt less stable, even though the chickens attracted him.

He always did things in a precise fashion, so at precisely noon, he started towards the large farm he saw in the distance. He did not hurry. After all he had lived in these surroundings for almost two years now, had fathered many children, had come close to death by logging trucks at least three times, if not more. He had caught most of his food in the various hay fields, early in the morning before the tractors came out. It was on such a morning hunt that he had first noticed this particular farm - for he could see that there were well cared for horses, and some sheep, without horns, he had noted.

As he began his walk over to the stream that ran through this farm land, he took time again to sit under another wire that connected to another wooden fence post. Wires often attracted birds, and he was responsible for his own food, so he had to kill others from time to time. It was a sad truth of living on his own. He had learned to hunt well from his mother, who had left him very early on in his life. He could hardly remember the circumstances, but he and his pack were able to stay alive only through her teachings. One by one his sisters and brothers disappeared, and he did not question where they went.

He continued to sit under the wire for some time, perhaps an hour or more. As he was much closer to the barns now, he could also see there was a woman feeding two goats. Anther good sign - only two goats implied they were treated well, like pets. Perhaps even pampered. He also noticed a man, who shoveled a lot. There were about 10 sheep, mainly ewes. Perhaps there would be stray milk buckets. He moved towards the rear barn, where he had seen horses and cats, and waited at the side of the barn to observe the activity.

He heard singing - it was the woman and even though her song made no sense, he found it somehow appealing, even soothing. The woman came out of the barn holding a cat, and this was who she was singing too. The man cam by and put his shovels away. They said good nite to all the animals in the barn - another good sign, he thought - and shut the lites off and closed the door. It was precisely 9:20 pm, he took note.

Four months later...
All those months, he had slept in the barn, waiting for the woman to leave after feeding the horses and goats. His instincts about the farm had been right - they pampered these cats. There must have been about 6 when he arrived four months ago, but now that had jumped to about 10. This was in part thanks to him, for he had spread his seed with the Calico that also lived in the barn - only he had done it about 5 months before, about a mile away in a hayfield. He wasn't surprised to see her here, and although they acknowledged each other, they did not create a bond or pack of any kind. In fact, even though he was the newest addition to the cat pack, he was the leader, and he did not need to prove it. It was simply understood in his quite, but strong stances and stares. All cats proceeded cautiously around him - he would attack only if necessary, but because he had such a distinct boundary orb he rarely needed to.

When the Calico had yet another littler of kittens, 1/2 were very distinctively of his markings. He was not proud, or ashamed, and he paid them no mind. He now had children within the barn which escalated his position even higher up in respect.

One morning, he waited outside in one of his many vantage points under blackberry bramble - allowing him to catch some sun but also see when morning feedings had ended. When the woman left, he made his way into the hay bale area where food was always scattered for the cats. This morning, no one was on the bales eating. His senses were attuned, and he noticed a few cats gathered a few feet away staring at a silver box. As he walked to the silver box, the other cats allowed him to take over the scene by stepping out of his way and watching from a short distance. He immediately had smelled the aroma of fish upon entering the barn, and now he was able to see it was in the silver box. The silver box had a hinged door, wide open, and he waited , watching the door for some time. Upon pawing at it, and examining the box, it seemed the prudent thing to do would be to walk in and get it, and leave quickly without sharing.

As he entered the box, he had a flashback that coincided with a sinking feeling of danger - the flashback was seeing his mother in a silver box, being hauled off in a car - then he felt a smack on his tail, which he was able to pull towards him quickly - but by this time, the silver box door had fallen shut and he was stuck inside. Everyone scattered, and he was alone in the barn. He thrashed violently, but only for a moment, for he had always been able to think himself out of difficulties, and perhaps this is what saved him on his own all these years. He sat very still, and simply noticed things. He then ate the tuna.

Very soon after this event, the woman came into the barn. She quietly came towards the silver box. He remained quite, in fact, he was relaxed, stretched out as much as possible, twitching his tail. He was not afraid of her, nor was he afraid of his fate. "Well, good grief - I wasn't expecting to catch you" she said. She was reassuring, comforting. She told him it was okay, that he was safe with her and he was just going to get fixed. He had no reason to not believe her - especially after seeing her daily interactions with the barn and animals. He liked her. In fact he had hoped this would happen - having sex with stray cats is daunting, and dangerous business.

She immediately put him in her truck and within a very short time, he was carried in the silver box into another building with many more animals and people. It smelled very different, and was very bright with shiny floors. The people behind the desk seemed to know the woman, and were very happy for some reason to see him too. They asked her questions and wrote things down - and said they needed a name for the cat to put on the records. And from that day on his name was Big Tony.

Two years later...
It was 6 am, precisely. Big Tony was scratching at the back door of the house. The man got up from the bed where he slept with the woman and went to open the door so the cat could go out. Big Tony then did what he did every morning - he spent a few minutes spraying trees and objects around the house to make sure it was still clear he was in charge of the now 20 barn cats [all spayed and neutered please note]. He then lounged on the picnic table, which was in morning sun. When he heard the back screen door slide open and the house dog bark, he knew he had precisely 1 minute to rush to the back door and slip back into the house while the man was feeding the dog. He did this, and then jumped on the one counter he was allowed on to eat a bowl of cat food prepared just for him. He sometimes got other breakfast material from the man and woman, but he had become a very picky eater, and didn't share all their tastes. When it appeared breakfast was done, he went into the woman's studio where she worked all day, and he found his rocking chair and blanket, by a pot bellied stove. He slept most of the day, until the woman did evening feedings in the barn - He still followed her there and partook in the feedings, but always kept a distance from the other cats, many of them his own offspring. As the woman headed back to the Big House, Big Tony led the way, always ahead of her, tail straight up, walking in a rather dandy fashion like someone who knew he was famous and was pretending not to be.

It was now evening, his favorite time, and the man and woman shared wine and conversation, usually snacks. One dog sat on the woman's lap, the big Lab at their feet. And Big Tony sat on the man's lap. He was safe.

--The End--

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Thank you for reading! The farm and my art/writing keep me hopping, so might not respond immediately. Thank you for understanding. ~Katherine & Apifera ~