July 4th, 2002

Because He Can



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Old Yellow. He showed up at my door last summer, demanded to be fed. I gave him some chicken scraps. When I reached down to scratch behind his ears, he ran off. But nevertheless he returned the next day and I fed him again. Gradually he consented to be petted—but only when he was eating. At first he immediately left after his meals, but after a while he found a place on the seat of a chair under the table, or on the top of the steamer trunk in the hallway. Once or twice he stayed overnight, but he was mostly an outdoor cat.

I imagined Old Yellow to be a descendant of a pet of a 12th Century Spaniard on one of his pillage, rape and murder expeditions to this island. But I learned this one-eyed cat was formerly owned by an old couple from Hamburg, who had rented the villa up the road. After a year they returned to Germany and left him behind.

Old Yellow’s reluctance to get too close to humans came from a trauma he experienced shortly after his owners left. A vineyard worker decided this cat should be set the task of getting rid of the mice and rats in the wine cellar, so he locked him up in the musty darkness for a few weeks.

He’s getting on. Every once in a while I see him out in the courtyard. He rises from a doze, stretches out his forepaws, yawns. He takes a few steps, stops, and remains motionless, as if he were trying to remember where he had decided to go. Then, unable to recall, he flops down on the spot, raises his leg, and licks his balls.


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