Our nearest neighbors, Buck, the Ex-Navy Seal, and Delly, the Interstate Truck Driver, have eight cats. All with complete freedom to roam indoors and out.
Cloud Creek Ranch has cats as well: two. With not-quite-complete freedom to roam around the back of the main house and the back porch.
Our two cats are named Baggy and Bob. I don’t know the names of any of the members of Buck and Delly’s feline assortment. Although our cats are right downstairs, and those of our neighbors are half-a-mile away, in many ways I know what I think of as “The Buck-And-Delly 8″ better than I know the “Cloud Creek 2.”
Because I interact with them more.
Hard to believe, but true. When Gwen the Beautiful and I are over at the neighbors’, the Buck-And-Delly 8 are part of the event as well. They interact. Rub against my legs. Jump on Gwen’s lap. Look us in the eyes and curl up, and purr.
Just like â€” you know â€” cats.
Baggy and Bob, on the other hand, are like roomers in the Brody Cat Boarding House. Their lives are completely separate from ours.
A few of our friends have met Baggy, but only if they’ve had occasion to look into her favorite hideaway, the guest room closet.
None of our friends have even seen Bob.
And how could they? The only way to have any kind of face-to-face with this ol’ boy is by grabbing a flashlight and shining it behind that pile of old fabric located to the rear of Baggy’s rear. Because she’s Bob’s protector, pure and simple.
Baggy didn’t start out as a cat bodyguard. For the first couple of years of her life she was lively and lithe and fun-loving, Youngest Daughter Amber’s beloved calico pet.
Then along came Bob.
We were living in L.A. then. I remember the day Gwen and then 10-year-old Amber came home with a big cardboard box. Amber presented the box to me with a flourish.
“Stand back!” she said as she dragged it into the living room. “Everybody back!”
“What’s going on?” I asked innocently.
“We were driving on the freeway when we saw a couple of kittens on the shoulder,” Gwen said. “So I stopped to investigate. Someone had left a whole litter in a box on the embankment.”
“But we got out of the car and saved the day!” Amber added triumphantly.
I looked at the box. Baggy was nosing it curiously. “So there’s a whole litter of quiet kittens in there?”
“Not exactly,” said Amber. “Most of the kittens ran away from the freeway toward Taco Bell.”
“There’s one quiet kitten in the box,” Gwen said. “I had to grab it because it was headed the wrong way.”
“Mom kept it from getting killed!” Amber said. “Now stand back, I say!”
She reached over, pulled apart the flaps at the top of the box â€”
And immediately, accompanied by a loud, screeching yowl, something leapt straight up â€” at least six feet â€” just missing Amber’s face and arcing onto the floor.
A tiny, black and white tuxedo cat.
“Duck!” I said. Too late, of course. But that didn’t keep me from following up with more lame advice. “Bob and weave.”
“That’s a funny name for a cat,” Amber said. “How about just Bob?”
She bent down to pick Bob up, and, with another, even louder, yowl, the kitten whirled, leapt, dived â€” and vanished behind the oven.
He lived behind that oven, with Baggy keeping watch in front of it, for the rest of the time we lived in that house, emerging just often enough for us humans to know he was alive, and to enable Gwen to put him into a crate for our big move to Paradise … and the closet the two pals now call “Home Sweet Home.”
Ten years have passed since Bob jumped into my life like a booby-trapped jack-in-the-box. He’s a good mouser, and sometimes, late at night, he’ll stop and let me see him as he slinks out of the guest room on patrol with Baggy. Or, if I’m not around, he’ll go to Gwen and let her pet him. But at the slightest sign of a threat â€” zoom! He’s back in the closet.
I understand that Bob had a rough start in this world. He’s lucky to be alive, and he knows it.
But is this really living? When your life is ruled by fear?
Larry Brody is an author, veteran television writer and producer and creative director of Cloud Creek Institute for the Arts. He, his wife and their dogs, cats, horses and chickens live in Marion County. The other residents of the mythical town of Paradise reside in his imagination, however, and any resemblance to actual places or persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
Originally published April 25, 2007