We've spent ages saying, andquot;It's starting to feel like winter,andquot; but now it really is. The weather is dreary more often than not, and Polly Pellet Stove perks along on low all day so that it's nice and warm in here when I get home.
It's the time of year when I dream of retiring. I could stay home all day, live in my jammies, and watch the winter storms from the warm side of the window. Of course I couldn't afford to eat or feed Polly, so the dream bubble pops quickly.
Smoky cat has retired. He spent his first few years living in the woods between my place and Betty's, surviving on whatever he could catch. He wasn't fully grown when I first saw him, a shadow peeking at me from the brush. Despite my offers of food and petting, he wouldn't come near me.
Several years ago I trapped him and took him to the vet for surgery, then brought him home and turned him loose. About three years ago I was able to coax him into being petted, and he practically turned himself inside out with pleasure, drooling like a leaky faucet.
He would have begun exploring the house then if Phydeaux hadn't been such a pain. She'd blow up like a puffer fish, hissing and threatening. Since she was less than half his size, he could have won any battle, but Smoky was always a gentleman.
So we met twice a day on the back porch, for meals, for petting and ear scratching. Since Phydeaux didn't like me any better than she did Smoky, the petting sessions were therapeutic for both of us.
Phydeaux died last spring and Smoky has been exploring the house. He's now about 8 years old, and everything indoors is new to him. The night he discovered the ceiling fan, he crouched in a doorway and glared at it for an hour. When a VHS tape ejected across the room, he leapt high in shock, and then spent the rest of the evening stalking it.
Given his first catnip mouse, he put on a such a show I should have sold tickets. He wallowed around like a kitten, but when I moved, he instantly glared at me over the mouse, pure predator, ready to fight or run with it.
About a month ago I came half-awake feeling smothered and hearing an unfamiliar rumble. Smoky had moved into the bed. My face was buried in the thick fur of his throat and the rumble was his purring.
I've never slept with animals I wasn't married to, so it was a bit of a shock, and we're still working out the kinks. Sleeping on my face seems perfectly reasonable to him, but I'm not having it. Fortunately he's a clean cat.
He's beginning to make a fine bedmate, and it's lovely to come half-awake in the night snuggled up to warm, purring cat. I've been alone a long time, and he's one of the good guys. He never even leaves the seat up.
Reach Inez Castor, a long-time Triplicate columnist, at firstname.lastname@example.org .