“The thing you need to watch out for in this neighborhood, honey, is the cats,” she told me as we stood in the middle of the street between our houses, meeting for the first time. She looked tired and her cigarette rested in her hand by her side as she tried to keep it from my direct breathing path.
Her skin showed signs of sun and wear and she coughed viciously in between sentences.
We learned about Rose the cat lady who owns half the block (and nearly 50 cats) and how the man who sold them their house left one specific dying wish, whatever you do, do not sell this house to Rose the cat lady. Under no circumstances.
In her yard is something not unlike a small zoo enclosure that houses cats. And one day, as I sat on my porch, I promise I saw three black cats walk out the front door to greet their owner at the end of a work day. Her hair was fire red and short and the cats walked in single file line down the sidewalk.
They used to live in the country with ten acres and feel like fish out of water here in “this part of town. So, if you knock on his door after 9pm and he’s not expecting you, he’ll be holding a shotgun.
Speaking of water, they love the coast, specifically “our coast” and asked us if we’ve ever been to the ocean, like they were the only ones. They want to move closer to the sea and run a charter fishing company and a boat that would take the women and children searching for shells and mussels in the cape. Her face lit up when she talked about cooking mussels over a fire on the beach and popping in your mouth. We were kindred spirits for only a moment when we spoke of the beloved sea.
We learned about Otis, the block’s self-elected neighborhood watch. He keeps an eye on things and if there is something to know, ask Otis. And Pippy, whose name she doesn’t remember, but it might as well be Pippy Longstocking. And then another neighbor came home and they exchanged passing remarks about car transmissions followed by “that one, she’s buckets of crazy,” to me.
Meanwhile the kids climbed up and down the stairs and went for a walk back and forth in from of our house. A grey cat strolled down the sidewalk and one kid ran away, the other chased it.
And so the story goes of meeting some neighbors and Rose the cat lady, Officer of Safety Otis, Pippy, and the real neighborhood danger, cats.
I almost forgot, the tomatoes. He grows 600 each year in his garden and wondered if we like tomatoes. Well, sir, if we like tomatoes… You’re all a little bit nuts around here, but you had me at garden fresh tomatoes.