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“Ma’am we’ve had reports that there is an overload of cats living here,” Officer Hugh insisted.
“From who? I want names! I demand to know who reported me!” Mom shrieked.
She was wearing an old blue house dress with an apron and head scarf. It was the same linen dress I had seen her in for years. And she was barefoot, as she liked to be while at home. Yet her feet looked calloused and cracking with age. Mom was in her early eighties. But she still lived independently and managed quite well, all things considered.
The worst part was that several of the cats had emerged by this time, sniffing out into the porch to see what all the commotion was. Murphy, her big, black, alpha cat led the way. Behind him pattered Kisser, Lucy, Larry King, Pally, Cessy, Pin, and the kitten. Mom turned and shooed them back inside. I hurried up the front path.
Officer Hugh, eyes widened, was adamant. “We can’t divulge names due to privacy. But we are expected to investigate and act if need be. Step aside please and let us assess the situation here.”
“No!” Mom exclaimed and began shutting the door in his face. But Hugh managed to get one foot in the door and pried it back open.
By this time, Mom and I had made eye contact. She gave me a frantic gaze of sheer panic. “Cherie!” she called.
Leaping over a puddle onto her bottom step, I said, “It’s okay Mom, I’m here now.”
Turning towards Officer Hugh, I said in a respectful tone, “What’s going on? I’m her daughter.”
“We’re doing a field call is all,” he said flatly. He was losing hair on his head, yet it grew profusely otherwise. Long black hairs peeked out of his nostrils, grayish cottony tufts plugged his ears, and the top of his uniform shirt was packed with dark, wiry hair.
“I can answer any questions if you like,” I said, hoping to mollify him.
He looked at me with cold curiosity but remained silent.
“Mom has a few cats that’s true. But I help her so it’s really no problem,” I insisted.
It was a bald-faced lie. Mom had more than a few cats. And she had stopped having me over several years ago when the situation began to escalate. But I had no qualms about lying on behalf of my mom and her dear kits — that’s what daughters are for, right? Besides, I had a passionate dislike of anything governmental as strong as if I harkened from the Ozarks. So screw them.
I said, “I know how the people around here like to report others. But believe me, they have nothing to talk about in this neighborhood full of parties and dope.”
My comment was apt. The area was old and run down, almost a plea for urban renewal clung to the air. With out-of-season Christmas lights hanging here and there, rickety fire escapes and metal accordion fences, crumbling sidewalks and a dusty, hollow smell of abandonment everywhere, it allowed for the wildest excesses ever, nightly in fact.
The two men exchanged cynical smiles but remained silent. Turning to address my mom full on, Officer Hugh said, “Ma’am you’ll have to let us in to assess matters.” He now had his whole leg and not just one foot bracing open the front door. He was trying to worm and squirm his way further in.
My mom began to press the door shut with her full might.
Beth and I exchanged worried looks. Glynnis walked over and joined us. Several passersby on the sidewalk stopped and stood gawking. I frowned at them, but they just kept staring.
“Ma’am I’m asking for the last time, let us in or we phone the police.”
“Awahhhhhhhhhh!” Mom shrieked. She had her arms outstretched to block them. She went into full fight mode. Her face turned a deep scarlet colour, her wrinkles became like war lines, her eyes were hooded slits.
I flushed with fear as I was certain she was having a stroke or heart attack.
Hugh pushed his way in while his partner phoned the police.
Mom continued to scream. Neighbours gathered about. Children on bikes stopped riding and watched. Teenagers strolling past or on skateboards gathered, enthralled by the fracas. A couple pushing a stroller said to their wee one, “See, that poor grandma is sad.” The baby sucked her fingers thoughtfully.
Like a flash I was up the front stairs, Mom continuing to shriek as we embraced. I could feel her heart beating, her chest heaving. I reached to adjust her blue head scarf that had gone askew. The nylon was soaked with sweat and it stuck to her head. I loosened it with one finger and it reminded me of peeling sunburnt skin away.
Officer Hugh had disappeared into the house, counting cats I feared.