From the time my daughter and I got to the village we noticed a black cat about, we notice things like that. Everyone said he was feral, his feral mother would come by from time to time as well but was rarely seen as she was skittish and hid a lot. The black cat was one of those lanky, sphinx like cats only ragged looking and a little too lanky, malnourished lanky. We observed several villagers trying to befriend the black cat and half of those trying to be nice to the mother, though she was known for not being very friendly.
There was a couple that seemed to be getting close, the black cat would only grant a quick belly rub to one of them though, and only on a good day. The only way the black cat would allow it was if it happened in an open space so he could see everything around him and run if he needed to. He seemed to favor their porch as well, since it got full sun all year round. They put out food too, a lot of us did.
There was an organization that provided cat food, dog food too though they had to be tied up. Thanks to them, there was no reason for any animal that strolled through to go hungry. A woman called Brenda was also a friend to the cats, putting out food not only at her place, but at the kitchen as well. She liked the way Fantastico would follow her down to the kitchen from her place, she said it made her feel like the pied piper but for cats.
My daughter and I know that when the cat is ready, it will come. Cats always come to us, in every neighborhood we’ve ever been to. It’s nothing crazy, if there are 10 feral, lost or stray cats about, anywhere from 2 to 4 of them will frequent our place. They will feel comfortable and treat our home as their own. It’s just the way it is. My daughter wishes there were as many loose dogs about.
It was starting to happen about a month or so into our stay, the black cat was getting friendly with us. In fact, both the black cat and his mother were friendly with us. It took less than a month, much to the chagrin of the people who had been trying to foster a relationship with them for up to two years. We actually got shade for that despite not having a thing to do with it, which was to be another pattern at the village. I think it had to do with the fact that we weren’t trying to get them to come and be “our” cats, we just made ourselves available to be their humans and they accepted.
Then the unthinkable happened. One morning I was walking up to the bathhouse and saw a bunch of people gathered around something on the ground. It was the black cat. My daughter had taken to calling him, Mr. Kitty Fantastico, a nod to Buffy the Vampire Slayer. When people saw me they immediately started to fill me in and ask me what we should do. I was on council after all, I was supposed to be helpful in situations like this. So I made some phone calls.
I got a call back pretty quickly from a woman who I had only met a couple of times, her name was Karen, she was on the board of directors, and she was on her way. She was taking Fantastico to her vet. Karen and several other villagers suggested I go to the vet since Fantastico seemed comfortable around me but I had to go to work. I wouldn’t know anything about anything until I got home. Work was not fun that day.
Upon my return, the woman who lived in the hut next to me, Jackie, told me that Fantastico had a space set up in her house. He was wearing a cone of shame and had a really bad cut on his leg, pretty much groin to the cat equivalent of below the knee. From what the vet could tell it had happened about 2 days prior, meaning he had been injured and had to find his way back to his mother. He must have dragged that leg, in pain, who knows how far.
At any rate, Fantastico would need close care and she was going to do it since she had nothing else to do. She said that she wanted him to like her so when she and her boyfriend, Tristan, left, they could take him with. I told her the cats had a home there at the village, I knew one day I would have to leave them behind but it’s about where they are most comfortable. Not to mention Fantastico wouldn’t want to go anywhere without his mother. If I had treats for him, he’d go get her. He also would always let her eat first.
From what the vet said, it looked as though Fantastico had fallen asleep on a warm engine on a cold morning and when the car was started, the fan caught his leg. It was the only explanation they could think of. Of course there was speculation at the village, people argued about it, fought over who would take care of Fantastico next. It was a pattern I was noticing living there, people liked drama, I think they got bored without it. I was just glad Jackie had the time to do it. Once the infection set in though and she realized it was actually work, she got sick of it really fast. Her plans to take Fantastico out of the village vanished quickly.
Down the way from Jackie was a villager named Art who was really fond of Fantastico as well so he offered to take him off her hands. He would burn sage, apply medicine, do his own healing rites, I suppose it was his equivalent of prayer. He was very about energy, which made him a little jittery and a lot paranoid. Art was interesting to say the least. He played the guitar and talked about energy and peace and love and stuff all the time. It came off to me as a little delusional and naïve, but I’m just bitter and cynical.
Art said items of clothing had energy and he couldn’t wear certain things. Even if it was something he had been wearing, something he had at one time been attached to, he’d suddenly say that the energy was off and just never wear the thing again. This could mean Art would be cold for parts of winter because finding a jacket with the right energy is never easy. Whatever it was Art was doing to help Fantastico though, quirks and all, it was working. The infection was clearing up and Fantastico was starting to use his leg again.
For some reason, he used that leg to walk right on over to my hut. The worst part of his recovery was over and now he just wanted to be in a place where no one was trying to own him. He had gotten bigger, filled out a bit from eating regularly. His fur was sleek and shiny and there were no more patches of missing fur save for the scar on his leg. Once he got comfortable, very comfortable, at my place, his mother started coming by as well. My daughter started calling her Karma. She was one of the cutest cats we’d ever seen. She was really small, a tortoise shell calico.
Inevitably, she got totally comfortable with us as well, winter came and they would sleep in our hut with us. They became our best friends in the village, certainly the most loyal, for the two years we were there. Both of them got really healthy and honestly, as much as we helped them to maintain physical health, they helped us with our mental health. The village was more than sort of crazy.
Fantastico and Karma were great at measuring who could be trusted. If Karma was spread across my lap and someone came in, she would leave, she trusted no one but me and wouldn’t be friendly with anyone unless I was there, and there was still no guarantee. Fantastico, provided I was there, would let people pet him, he’d give almost anyone a chance. If someone came in and Fantastico immediately got wonky and left, I’d know I needed to watch my back around that person. Both cats were outstanding and my daughter and I miss them terribly. One thing we know is that they are resourceful and in their element. They own that village and I think about them every day.
I know that those cats are well fed and hopefully have loosened up enough around people to keep warm in the winter. They are both good judges of character so my hope is that they are doing well. It was hard for us to leave the relative security of the village. We thought of it as the hell we knew. Despite the fact that the place was a nightmare of abuse and chaos our two furry pals kept us sane. I’m not sure it would have been bearable without them. So if you have a furry pal, take a minute to go and squish them and give them a nice belly rub.