Her most recent book, An American Queer, a collection of “The Amazon Trail” columns, was presented with the 2015 Golden Crown Literary Society Award in Anthology/Collection Creative Non-Fiction. This, and her award-winning fiction, including The Raid, The Swashbuckler, and Beggar of Love, can be found at:
Our Neighbor’s Cat’s Nephew
After the doom and gloom of our fall—and boy did moods around here fall—I’ve noticed, with the approach of the holidays, an unusually earnest air of festivity around town. People crave more light in winter; this year our neighborhood seems to be going all out on bright decorations. Homes that have never boasted more than a wreath in past years have strung up a sunrise of red and green and white and yellow—and purple—bulbs. And all the wreaths wear big red ribbons.
It’s not simply the seasonal garnish on this part of the world. The townspeople seem determined to enhance their celebrations this year, to drop what divides us and honor the rituals that unite us.
The men in our oldster community used to host monthly Saturday morning breakfasts and have made the effort to bring breakfast back for this special month. The women’s December lunch has never seen so many splendidly garbed and cheerful participants. Our clubhouse must have had extra volunteers because it’s positively magical in its green, red, and gold regalia as well as its positive energy. Two more special events are scheduled and neighbors are talking about them with enthusiasm.
I promised my sweetheart I would stop reading headlines, for my health and hers, and it appears I’m not the only one. Except for the neighbor who, sympathetically, told me that as a gay writer, I now have a bullseye on my back, people are acting extra kind and cheerful. “I’m eighty-one,” the neighbor, who is moving to another country, said. “I have a bad feeling about [the incoming administration]. I’m not spending the rest of my life putting up with that.” I told her, by the way, I’ve always had that bullseye on my back.
I’m fighting my cynicism, yet can’t avoid wondering how many in our ‘hood of mostly white, old, blue collar to middle class, heavily Christian people, with assorted disabilities and dependence on Social Security and Medicare, are happy Trump is the president-elect.
I’ve grown so fond of them, I’d rather believe they’ve benefitted to such an extreme from the last eight years under President Obama, that they don’t need to struggle as much as they once did, that they have the energy and means for bright lights and merrymaking.
My sweetheart and I got into the swing of things at The Pianist and Handy Dyke’s jolly Thanksgiving dinner. All of us were in post-traumatic election shock and needed that bit of fun and togetherness.
The next day we avoided the day-after sales and shopped on Small Business Saturday. Our favorite stop is a used bookstore in our so-called Art Deco District, which consists of a couple dozen, mostly occupied, mostly not Deco, storefronts. When we walked in, what should appear under our feet, but a seven-week-old kitten the manager had adopted. He was light gray and white, with a spiky tail and fluffy fur that threatened to grow very long.
A kitten enhances a bookstore as if a bookstore needs enhancing, about three thousand percent. Muffin was one busy cat baby. Aisles and aisles of runways, his person continuously available, a little kitten cave with little kitten dishes and a mini potty which Muffin proceeded to fill on our arrival.
The manager had a Humane Society donation jar on the counter. It turned out that my sweetheart, the manager, and I, all knew the president of the local chapter. The manager asked if we also knew the president’s sister. Why, yes, we did but didn’t say she was our sister also, our lesbian sister. The manager gestured to a framed and enlarged photograph on the wall behind her. “Have you met her cat?” she asked.
“Gibby!” we cried. Of course, we knew Gibby who, as a youngster, lost an eye to a bobcat. It turned out that the manager raised the Gibster until she found him a home with the president’s sister, both of whom are our neighbors. “We’re having lunch with them next week,” we said.
Muffin sped by our feet. “Muffin,” said the unusually gregarious and affable store manager, pointing to a framed portrait of Gibby on the wall, “is Gibby’s nephew.”
Crazy cat women, we all started talking at once, as if we had found our own long-lost nephew. I’d never before put the words cat and nephew together in quite that way.
Only in a small town, with the winter weather a mix of howling wind and rain, where the citizens were in almost universally high-spirited holiday mode, could we, by happenstance, meet our neighbor’s cat’s nephew. I couldn’t stop laughing.
May your winter holidays always be bright. Especially during the next four years.