17, Number 97, June/July 2014 The Split-Level House by Loreen Haldenby
Freddie the free loader has a splitlevel house. It sits on my verandah.
I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, how can she have a splitlevel house on her verandah.
Well I’ll tell you. The house is made of two cardboard cartons. It has a blue plastic roof and wall-to-wall carpeting. The only furniture is a bed. The bed takes up half of the house. It’s made of old towels and ripped up cloths no good for any other purpose. The house is heated by an electric light bulb, 100 watts even. It hangs at the entrance of the house and is plugged into an outlet on the wall.
Freddie the free loader has a set of dishes, too. Only two dishes, but they are very pretty. Bright yellow in colour with blue flowers around the border. They once contained Becel margarine.
Freddie the free loader is a stray cat, a very stray cat. He used to be homeless but he’s not homeless now because now he has a split-level house. He has been coming to our house since last summer. First he slept under the bushes and we put out food for him. Tender Vittles is what we gave him. Sometimes we even give him Whiskas.
He is very wild. He likes us. Why on earth wouldn’t he? He was afraid of us at first, but now he trusts us enough to rub his head against our ankles when we are feeding him. He purrs loudly.
He is a warrior, a fighter, a scrapper. His ears are partly chewed off, his nose bloodied and one of his eyes is partly swollen shut. Oh, he truly is a sight.
He’s a great big fellow, tabby grey, and not bad looking if his face wasn’t all scarred . I don’t know where he came from. I’m inclined to think he never had a home.
Last fall, some uninvited guests turned up to help him eat his food. Freddie made them most unwelcome so they made sure to come when he was off hunting. A skunk came. A peculiar looking skunk with a yellow stripe up his back, not white as is usual. Sometimes, I would see the skunk eating up the cat food. “Go on home, skunk,” I’d say. “Go home now and don’t come back.” The skunk would fix me with a baleful eye and slink off under the trees. He never attempted to spray me though.. Why would he? He knew that I supplied him with very tasty tidbits.
And then there were the racoons. They are brazen little fellows with their black masks. Early one morning I encountered a little racoon sitting on the verandah. He sat on his bottom with his hind legs sticking out in front of him. With his front paws he picked up a few grains of Tender Vittles which he washed in the water dish before he ate it. He ran away when he saw me, but I didn’t mind him. I like skunks and racoons.
Our indoor cats are afraid of Freddie. They take turns sitting on the window sill looking out at him. He sits outside looking in at them. Freddie doesn’t like the indoor cats. He hates them, especially Gabriel, the indoor tom-cat. Once he almost killed Gabriel. Cornered him under the van where he had to be rescued. Gabriel is a wimp. The indoor cats don’t go out now. They are too much afraid. They eat inside and have indoor conveniences which are trays of kitty litter in the basement.
The whole thing is totally unfair. Here is the warlord moving in and taking over. He believes in ethnic cleansing.
The times they are a-changing. When Freddie first came last summer, he was humble, appreciative, timid. He was also frail and thin, but now he’s getting to be a problem. He is huge and fat from all the good food he gets. We secretly hope he would just go away so that we could get back to normal, but I don’t think he’s going anywhere. Where is he going to go?
I must tell you the whole episode caused some embarrassment last Christmas. I think passers-by thought we were trying to set up a creche. I could almost hear them thinking, what a pitiful attempt at a creche. You’d think they’d be able to do better than that.
The truth of the matter is, he has taken us over. He owns us. He fills the indoor cats with terror, he makes a mess of our verandah. True, we can disassemble the split-level housemas soon as the warm weather comes, but what about next winter?
Nevertheless, I’m glad we rescued him. I’m glad we made it possible for him to survive the winter storms. It always makes me happy to see him curled up in his split-level house sound asleep in his bed, heated by the light bulb while the icy winds of winter howls through the trees.
And I know that next winter if Freddie the free loader is still around, we will make another splitlevel house with wall-to-wall carpeting and a blue plastic roof. It will have a bed which will fill half the house and it will be heated by a 100 watt light bulb.
And Freddie the free loader will be snug and content in his split-level house which will sit on our verandah.