Shelter from the Storm

Rupert - 2017

When one rents, one never knows how long the landlord will retain the property and let the lease in place ride out its month to month contingency. We have lived in the same house for the past eight years, and I am grateful for the continuity. We live at a minor intersection, which is to say that it can be noisy on occasion, though at least two of the families on the other corners are friendly and kind, and there is a sense of a neighborhood. Most of the people in the most adjacent houses have lived here even longer than we have, so if a major emergency occurred, we would at least have some sense of this vicinity being our joint responsibility. We are its caretakers, if not uniformly its owners. The neighborhood is a plural self-possessed.

It’s final exams week at CSULB. Back at the very beginning of this semester, there was a knock on our front door. Brookes, who lives in an apartment behind us, and Jill, who lives across the street, had just happened to hear a cat meowing on the corner of Geoff and Dana’s house, and it was the meow of a lost and hungry cat. “Would you be able to keep the cat for just one night?” Jill asked. “I’ll take it to the vet tomorrow morning and see if it has a chip.” It had already been a very wet winter, and more rain was due soon. Ever if a storm was not due that night, it was very cold out. A strong wind from off the Pacific Ocean a half-mile away was definitely bringing more clouds by the next afternoon. The cat was big, probably a male, and its orange fur glowed in the porch light. “OK, one night.” Famous last words.

The chip turned out to have an initial registration date from eleven years ago. The registration had long expired. A rambunctious beast, it turned out, who must have perfected his act of drumming on windows until he’s let out at several other residences during the past decade. The first few nights were on the sleepless side. “Dogs have owners; cats have staff” is the old saying, and this cat regarded us as staff that needed to be properly trained.

He is still here, though I fear his habit of crossing the street to visit Jill’s house, without looking for traffic, is going to lead fatal consequences some day. It’s been hard to accept that a new cat lives where I once cared for my beloved Cordelia, but Rupert has a raffish charm and he certainly knows how to campaign. More than a few neighbors have reported that he spends time on their porches, wooing the attention of their small children. “Rupert” still feels like a temporary name, like an alias for someone trying to make up for someone else’s mistake. We have yet to take him to the vet, though a visit can’t be put off too much longer.

In the meantime, the chastening of an incompetent President continues to be the main order of business in Washington, D.C. Power ill-gotten can never lose its dubious legitimacy, and the process of indirect elections is hardly serving as an exemplary means of staffing the public sphere by a large-scale human relations department. In contrasting the very local and the national scenes, Rupert probably has a better chance of being ensconced in this house four years from now than Trump has of being re-elected and occupying the Oval Office in the spring of 2020. My bet: even if he’s removed from office, Trump will run for election again in 2019. Extraction from office will only exacerbate his lust for the illusion of political dignity. That man has grown too fond of the panoply of public rallies to settle for being a re-run on the History Channel. Unlike Nixon, Trump will demand our attention again. You heard it here first.