© Another Day in the Country
Marshmallow woke me this morning, and I was not pleased. It was early, for one thing — way too early for my semi-retired taste, not even 7. Out of the depths of a dream of some kind, I heard this squeaky-door, whiny meow sound.
“Surely not,” I mumbled to my still sleepy self, “not the cat!”
But it was!
We have a routine, of sorts, the cat and I. Sometime after the sun comes up, usually around 7, he comes and sits on an old Adirondack chair. I’ve made it comfortable for the cat and encouraged his habit of playing alarm clock by adding a pillow to the chair. He curls up there and snoozes until he thinks it’s time.
When the time is right, according to his highness, he jumps up on the arm of the chair and peers in through the screen. He’s looking for movement.
Then comes the “meow, meow.”
Still no movement?
Then comes the paw at the screen, several times.
If I’m not ready to wake up, sometimes I yell, “Marshamallow! NO!” and he retreats to his sitting and waiting position.
By this time, though, I’m awake. He knows it, and I know it. There is no reprieve from the duties of the day, which according to Marshmallow include feeding the cat at this ungodly hour.
The minute I get up and walk toward the door, he’s up and matching my stride on the porch, waits for me to open up and let him in.
He doesn’t want to talk now; he wants to be fed, and the older he gets the pickier his menu plans.
For most of his cat lives — and he’s used up several — he’s had nothing special. I buy Meow Mix or Special Kitty. For a while, in his younger years, I bought little cans of “mixed grill” until they did something to cheapen the contents and Marshmallow turned up his nose.
Fussiness never has suited well with me, so dry food became the rule of the day, until my sister, Jessica, started her pampering routine of what she calls “treatskies.”
It has completely spoiled our two cats, and now I must put up with whining.
“It’s the only way they have to talk,” Jess says.
Marshmallow doesn’t speak English, and I am not fluent in Feline, but we understand one another.
Marshmallow is a very old cat. He’s at least 10, maybe older. Our California cousin’s kids named him one summer when they came for vacation. The kids are now in college. But whenever Cory returns to Ramona, he’s more excited to see Marshmallow than he is to see us. And it is some kind of miracle that the cat has survived. We didn’t think he could, at first. With all the mangy males roaming Ramona, Marshmallow was headed for disaster.
The kids named him Marshmallow because he was the whitest and fluffiest of kittens on his tummy and legs, with a coating of gold across his back and the top of his head of gold — like a fine and carefully roasted marshmallow.
After the children went home to California, we tried changing his name.
“He needs to be tougher in order to survive,” my sister said. “Maybe we should call him Butch or Maxmillian, Brute — something masculine.”
Try as she might to rearrange destiny, Marshmallow stuck. We neutered him, of course, hoping that would help even though history has not proved that theory.
He’s been battered and beaten, clobbered and clawed by strangers, treated with horrible disrespect by ugly beasts that I’ve tried to shoot with my BB gun. We’ve feared for his life, but he’s still here and he is always on patrol.
He has quite a lot of land to look out after — especially at his advanced age. There’s Jessica’s yard, my yard, the edge of the woods across the street, the Ramona House on the corner, and sometimes he works the yard at Cousin’s Corner — that’s his limit.
He’s most protective of the Ramona House because that was his first domain and no one lives there all the time.
The rangy, hungry, fast-breeding rapscallion horde from across the street would love to claim the porch of the Ramona House as their own with its plants and pillows; but Marshmallow says, “No.”
He lies regally in state on the porch floor in front of the steps, surveying his kingdom.
He’s not the biggest cat on the block but he’s seriously grown past his namby-pamby name and is a force to be reckoned with.
Another day, and he’s wrecked my sleepy plans again. I was surprised, because he’d broken our routine for over a week.
That happens on occasion, when we have company. He’s sensitive to company in my house and retreats over to Jessica’s porch, showing his disgust by his reticence to come in the door and refusal to wait by my window.
He’s had “egg and milk,” thanks to the girls in the hen house; some scraps of chicken, thanks to cousins coming yesterday; turned up his nose at Meow Mix; and already let himself out the back porch door to continue his rounds, on another day in the country.