Thursday, February 18, 2010

High-wire cats

I miss my deer. It's been nearly two weeks since any deer - bucks, does, or yearlings - hopped my fence and hung around, dropping deer sign, shuffling snow, putting little pencil-like, urine-colored punches into the drifts.

So I've had to watch the cats.

My neighbors have lots of cats, and they may be domesticated animals, but among themselves they are snotty little shits. They confront each other like teenage boys or middle-school girls ... although they almost always are smarter about backing away.

The other day I saw two of them balancing like high-wire artists atop my back fence - an eighth-inch board - facing off from a few feet away. Balancing there, for many minutes. Just staring at each other. Hissing once in a while. Refusing to back down. I watched in fascination - not sure whether to be impressed or alarmed - until, finally, the calico backed off. It turned around - no small task on the tiny top of a fence - and with a dignified step walked away. But he was walking toward my back gate, which has sharp, uneven points. The cat should have been in the Olympics. It stretched itself, oh so carefully, from one step to another, slow as a slug, but with grace. Then, after what had to be a cat-like pause of insolence devastating to its opponent, it hopped down to the alley.

The other cat sat there a while, balanced on the fence, looking chagrined.

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