John Howell Sr. Editorial 1/3/2014

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 3, 2014

Oscar’s absence could amount to taste for fresh catch

When you somehow find yourself host to more damncats than law or logic allow, you also find yourself connecting to other strange people. So it happened in New Orleans where my wife temporarily assumed the duties of a roaming damncat patron, sidelined by foot surgery.

The roaming damncat patron is a neighbor lady who makes walking rounds of the neighborhood carrying containers of damncat food to feed strays who live in a vacant lot on Constance and others who live under a V.F.W. Building on Annuciation. And then still others she encounters in between who are not strays at all and who are already well fed by their owners. She feeds them again anyway.

That, my wife tells me, is what separates her own strangeness from that of the roaming damncat patron: Rosemary only feeds the feral population who have come to consider our yard home, while the roaming patron seeks out damncats of any stripe, needing food or not.

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She discovered a further degree of separation recently when the roaming damncat patron discovered that a pool of goldfish had been left behind in their small pond when a neighbor moved. She fretted while the house was being prepared for its new owners, preparation that included shrouding for 24 hours under termite tent to kill the wood-eating creatures discovered during the transaction. She called the new owners; she called the old owners. She called them again. And again. And again. If you come to the conclusion that she worried the cuss out of them, you are correct.

Then one day she went out and found no goldfish. Just disappeared without any trace, explanation or ransom note. That worried her even more, so she called everybody again. She never found a satisfactory explanation about the goldfish disappearance, but I have a theory.
For several months, Oscar, one of four tame damncats at our house, has been spending a great deal of time at the abandoned firehouse building that has recently been the center of a neighborhood controversy over its best use. My wife could find no reason for his attraction to the old, run-down building that lost most of its roof to Katrina.

Whenever my wife felt like Oscar had been gone long enough, she go there and find him — either by calling him to her or by climbing into the ramshackle structure herself, picking him up and bringing him home. This had gone on for weeks.

So when the goldfish went missing, I began to think about Oscar’s frequent absences and — Hmm? Could he have been cultivating a taste for fresh catch and establishing an alibi at the same time?

Nah, my wife said. Ridiculous. But don’t mention it to the roaming damncat patron.