Vignette of a daily twilight ritual in our backyard
The day wears on, as days do, and even the tenacious hangers-on amongst the twilight’s photons finally take their leave. Both the streetlamp near our house and an array of porch lights hanging over the back doors of several neighbors stand by in eager anticipation.
All these lights are automated and sensor-activated, waiting to respond when the ambient light intensity wanes below a pre-set threshold. In a few minutes they would all fire up in near unison and self-importantly illuminate their back doors and a patch on their respective yards.
The streetlamp, of course, puts them to shame by its dazzling luminosity though. You can almost hear it announce, eloquent in its silence, “Let there be light!” — and in that instant dissipates the diaphanous darkness of the dusk descending upon the terrain. That tall, gaunt, cyclopean bringer of light applies a shimmer to the public-facing side of our townhome — including its retaining wall that looks in on the hedge around our back lawn — and illuminates both three-quarters of the lawn and the adjacent concrete, motorable path that separates plots of land in our neighborhood.
In summer — and sometimes during spring too — we leave the lawn unmowed for a couple of weeks, allowing the grass to grow unhindered, especially after an opportune shower; we don’t mind the odd tuft of crabgrass or a patch of three-leaf clover or the ubiquitous dandelion flourishing along with the burgeoning blades. As the evening draws close to the night, the verdant field can be seen to express its barely suppressed excitement via delightful susurrations in the tall grass, for this is the eldritch time when the earth comes alive, with crickets, some enterprising stink-bugs, scintillating fireflies, several litters of neighborhood bunnies, an occasionally visiting possum couple, and all other manners of life.
It is around this time, on most days of the week, that I gingerly roll in our Silver Subaru onto a metaled parking pad that traverses one corner of our back lawn. I clamber out of the driver’s seat, grab my laptop bag from the back seat, and — beep! — lock my car. For the next few seconds, the clop-clop of my soft-soled boots on the concrete garden-path approaching our patio adds to the vital vibrations of the lawn that is by now well-lit.
But unbeknownst and unseen to me, a pair of watchful eyes stalks my steps from behind the tall grass or our next-door neighbor’s rose bushes. In a matter of seconds, just as I am about to latchkey self and laptop bag into the patio, he breaks out his ritualistic butt-wiggle and viciously pounces on my trouser legs… rubbing his body against my calf and purring loudly until I reach down and scratch between the ears of this fearsome natural predator of the neighborhood.
One doesn’t usually place introductions in the epilogue, but I realize this vignette remains incomplete without at least some introduction to our purring pawsome predator. Meet Mister, alias KB. Once abandoned by some (I can only assume) heartless people who moved out of our neighborhood leaving him, KB regally inhabits the porch of our nonagenarian next-door neighbor and rules over an extended plot of land that includes, but is not limited to, our conjoined backyard garden and lawn.
Having lived unhoused for a long time, KB has adapted to the struggling but free life of an outdoor cat. He zealously guards his territory against cats visiting from nearby neighborhoods, frightens birds and bunny rabbits that dare encroach his patch of grass, and yet was completely copacetic towards a mother-child possum duo that shared his living space one winter and ate from his food bowl. (The child possum, now an adult, still comes by occasionally to say hello and partake from the remnants on KB’s bowl.)
Even though his love for our neighbor is boundless — he pays no attention to anyone else around when she is out and about — he does seem to have developed an affection for my wife and me. Every morning, evening, and night, he sits on the steps outside our sunroom door and demands peremptorily, as cats do, to be fed and given head and cheek scratches. Sometimes he deigns to step inside, make good use of a scratching post we have there, and lounge on the table; sometimes he curls up on a smallish cat bed we keep for him in the sunroom and gets his forty winks.
During one particularly harsh winter, we bought KB an insulated cat house with a heated pad inside and placed the cat house inside a larger dog house of some durable plastic material in order to protect it from the elements. It pleases us to no end to find him sitting inside, especially when the temperature drops outside.
For his annual health checkup and vaccines, we take him to the same vet who cares for our cat babies, and he proceeds to charm the vet clinical staff by being an absolute cuddlebug. Every time that happens, we mentally cuss out the unknown, unseen cruel family which had cast him out, all the while feeling glad and grateful that our neighbor and we still have his trust.
In turn, KB loudly greets us everyday, without fail, when we get back from work and occasionally seeks to contribute to the family food reserves by bringing us dead mice, which he neatly lays out on the steps to the sunroom.