Creatures From the East

As some of you may know I’m in Toronto for the summer, subletting the ground floor of a house while waiting for my daughter to have her baby. The house I’m staying in comes with two very long-haired cats, a huge backyard, garden and tenants in the upstairs rooms and in the basement.

The cats need daily brushing, something I don’t always get around to, but am forgiven for; they simply shed what I haven’t brushed – raked really – from their pelts, evidenced in wispy tumbleweed throughout the apartment, in clumps on the rug, couch, bed and anywhere else not hung high and safe.

They are brother and sister; good-natured and easy going, affectionate (see aforementioned cat hair discussion) and tolerant of my idiosyncrasies as well as the absence of their people. For this I am most grateful.

The tenants of the house are all male. Most over 40, solitary, generally quiet, unobtrusive. We nod in passing and it is up to me to ensure the garbage and recycling bins are put on the sidewalk on collection days and returned to their place beside the house when emptied. I have the yard and garden completely to myself, which means watering, mowing, weeding, all of which I do moderately regularly. The garden pretty much takes care of itself, although it’s been blistering hot this past week and even the hardiest kale and tomatoes drooped and gasped. But fresh kale?? It doesn’t get much better…

Back to the cats. They HATE having their picture taken. I’ve tried, both in- and outdoors. No takers until just before I sent off this blog to be posted. Their people keep a window open so they can come and go at their discretion. At first the idea made me anxious – traffic, cult-y cat killers, and raccoons all came to mind – but I was assured they’re street-wise and cautious in equal measure and if the open window was too much for my delicate nerves to bear, I could simply close it. It worked well for the first 10 days or so.

Then one evening I stayed out overnight and when I returned I found muddy pawprints all over the kitchen floor, catfood in the water dish and general disarray in the room. What other than raccoons wash their food before eating it? To be less anthropomorphic – what other than raccoons moisten/soften their food before eating it? And frankly, My Dears, under these circumstances, who gives a rip? I cleaned up. The floors needed washing anyway. The walls probably did too, what with the pawprints leading up and down from the open window.

The next morning – as my Singaporean brother-in-law would say – samesame. I took to herding the cats in by midnight and closing the window. I placed a nice bowl of vinegar-tainted water outside just to let the raccoons experience the full extent of my hospitality (yes, that’s a typo) and after a protracted yowl from the cats, we negotiated a somewhat peaceful compromise. That is, you fluffy creatures are locked in each night and this bald one gets to sleep peacefully and wash the kitchen floor on her own time.

Something bit me last week. There are mosquitoes, but not hoards and clouds of them singing their virulent little songs to let you know they can see you although you can only hear them … heh heh they sing a sinister soprano … not at all. So far, just a garden variety (pun intended) of annoying little biters that take what they need and don’t leave too big a mess behind. However, whatever bit me last week was not a mosquito. Was not, thankfully, a bedbug, although the bites looked at first like bedbug bites do on one who is very allergic to their saliva or their mere existence which I suspect is the truer truth. These bites, 5 in all, were bright red, raised to a volcanic peak in the centre, itchy as itchy can be, and hard. They were each about the size of a quarter. Now they’re more like five-cent pieces, not quite so bright red nor itchy. Both my daughter and my friend proclaimed they looked like spider bites! I don’t believe I have ever been bitten by a spider in my life, so this makes me somewhat sad, as if I had amnesty due to what I like to think of as an affinity and now it’s been withdrawn or forfeited or something … did I say something earlier about anthropomorphising? It just comes over me …

Toronto has great street life. It’s summer and it’s hot. People hang out on stairs, chairs, stoops, at tables, on bikes, in milling little knots. The eateries tend to be small and narrow and many have patios, on the roof, out back, on the side – somewhere people can congregate beyond the actual structure of the joint. So it was I found myself at such a place last night after watching the documentary “Marley” which was really well made and re-created my love of reggae music and sadness at the loss of Bob Marley but that’s another story. If you get a chance to see it, by all means take it.

We went to a back patio and ordered food. When it arrived, I noticed my friend Ellen’s attention focussed over my head and a look of alarm on her face. When I turned to look, there on the wall just above my head and poised to pounce on the table was the biggest raccoon I’ve ever seen. The size of a small bear! And such a pelt! It was eying the chicken fajita with what I can only describe as INTENT. It was drooling. The thing had no fear, but it did have an accomplice, which soon made an appearance by scuttling up a tree just outside the walls of the patio. I waved my napkin in its face and made noises that I hoped were threatening enough. My other friend Larry kept warning me not to mess with it, but really? Dropping down on our table? Upsetting the condiments? Not to mention upsetting the diners? I don’t think so!

The Biggest Raccoon in the World was convinced to stay on the wall and not drop down on our table. We moved to another table though, just to be safe, and the BRintheW kept pacing around the wall until its accomplice made a scene at the other end of the patio by climbing down the tree that grew right up the middle of the space – drunken patrons who until now had been howling John Denver songs at the tops of their lungs now reached for their iPhones and started snapping away.

It seemed like a good time to make our exit. Hope you’re all having a wonderful summer! Happy Summer everyone!


3 responses to “Creatures From the East

  1. Hedda, you’re in Toronto? Email me if you have time to get together for a coffee.
    eden(dot) baylee (at) rogers (dot) com


  2. I could spend a summer like this: gardening, going to great documentaries, eating plein aire. Enjoy yourself. Oh, yes! And keep us posted about the baby!

  3. Thank you Eden and Raymond for your comments. Yeah, Raymond, I must say that retirement’s been berry berry good to me thus far. Eden, I WILL contact you – think the baby is imminent so at this point I’m making no commitments – but soon soon we hope.

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