Cat Time

by J.D. Roth

When Kris and I lived in Canby, we had a summer ritual. During the evenings, when it was warm, we would take a walk through the neighborhood. We’d head down Sixth street, take a right on Fir, stroll over to Eighth or Ninth, and then head home once we’d reached the highway. It was a pleasant, familiar pastime.

It didn’t take long to become accustomed to develop rituals. Kris would stop to look at the gardens that particularly pleased her. I picked up flyers from in front of any home that was for sale. But our top ritual was the counting of the cats.

I’m not sure how we began, but soon after starting our walks, we discovered that there’s a certain part of the evening that might be dubbed “Cat Time”. After dinner, about an hour before dusk, when the heat of the day has begun to fade, the cats came out to take their ease. They sat in the grass, or under cars, or by the curb. In some places they would gather in twos and threes, but most often they would sit alone, watching.

We would count them as we walked. In fact, we would place bets as we started out. The first person would pick a number, and the second would call “higher” or “lower”. The fewest cats we ever saw during Cat Time was seven — the most was twenty-nine.

Kris would stop to pet her favorite cats. At one house on Ninth there lived a cat we called Cookie. Cookie was a whore. When he saw Kris, he would prance down the driveway and roll at her feet. I would sigh and sit on the curb as Cookie and Kris exchanged their affections. There were other cats who were glad to see her, too.

Cookie was not this cat’s real name. His real name was probably something like Tom or Mario or Bubba. We named him Cookie ourselves. We’ve always named the cats we meet if we don’t know what they’re really called. So, along our walk, we had names for the thirty-or-so various cats we encountered on a regular basis.

Spurge was the cat next door, so named because he was always in our yard, like a noxious weed. Thirteen was the beautiful orange cat that lived on Fir. He got his name because the first time we saw him, he was the thirteenth cat on our walk. Otot looked just like Toto. Dee and Dum were the twin Persians that lived near the Bemises. Sad to say, I can’t remember many of the other cats’ names, though at one time I knew all thirty.

I mentioned this story to introduce the concept of Cat Time. For fifteen years, we’ve been under the impression that Cat Time was about an hour before the sun set. Not so.

I’ve been rising at 4 a.m. for the past week. I tumble out of bed and immediately head out the door for a walk around the block. After seven days of this, I can assure you that Cat Time does not occur during daylight. Cat Time is 4 a.m. You would not believe how many cats I see in my sixteen minute stroll through the neighborhood. Where do they all come from?

This morning I passed a gang of cats. There was a cluster of five or six of them sitting in the middle of Arista, sitting near each other, but not too close. (Those of you with cats know what I mean.) They were having a meeting about something, and I could not help but think that their subject was me. “What should we do with the interloper? How can we get him to stay in bed? He’s violating our sacred hour! Let’s speak with Simon about it. Maybe he can do something…”

There’s good news and bad news on the sugar front. I made it through my week without sugar. So far it’s the most difficult thing I’ve done on my list of goals. It frickin’ sucked.

I allowed myself to eat fruit, but that was about it. No cookies, no candy, no cake. No white starchy foods. No condiments.

So I made it through that week of hell. That’s the good news. The bad news is that my wellness coach, Lauren, has asked me to do this for two weeks instead of just one. So, I’m just half-way through. Argh!

I just had a grapefruit for breakfast, which was a pleasing combination of sour and sweet, but it’s just not the same as a couple of delicious Sno-Balls, you know?

Updated: 05 June 2007

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