Social Guy

I first accepted Lauren's hospitality seven or eight years ago. She keeps a quiet, dignified residence on a cul-de-saq in a cozy subdivision. We have abundant open space. A wet-weather creek is bordered by dense foliage. Good fences keep dogs out without impeding my movement. When I first moved in, Lauren already had a resident -- an elderly pinto-marked fellow. Lauren called him Ol' Boy.

Ol' Boy was a decent sort. When I first walked into the garage, he acted as if we might have been brothers. He showed me the food bowl. Like I didn't know it was there. The garage door stays open just enough that we come and go as we please. Lauren puts out plenty of food and fresh water. We always are pleased to occasionally take in a boarder. Most are just casual friends looking for a good meal and a dry place to sleep. Sometimes a hard luck case shows up. If someone needs stitches or worming, Lauren sees to it.

When I moved in, Ol' Boy was already somewhat over the hill. Unless the weather is wet, I take a stroll around the neighborhood every morning. Ol' Boy never did join me. I developed a circuit and I'm faithful to it, weather permitting. I know where good handouts are to be had. For me, it's easy to make friends with the ladies. I don't give the men a second look. It's the women who control the milk. I go to every open door and shout good morning. A lot of the people are hard of hearing, so I speak up right smartly and sometimes I have to repeat myself. I can clean up several saucers of milk without feeling too full.

Walking that circuit every day is how I got my my name, Social Guy. After I had my route pretty well established, I would sometimes spend a night with new friends. One time when I was doing just that, Lauren came knocking on the door. I heard her talking, "Have you seen a neutered male tabby? He's about this high. He's real friendly. He didn't come home last night. I'm worried."

Just as she was saying this, I sashayed up and purred so that she would know I was OK.

"Is this him?" my new friend asked. "He came crying at our door and we were afraid he might be lost. I'm sorry you were worried. Of course you must take him home."

"Oh he can visit with you if you want. But I do wish he'd come home at night. He's just being social. In fact that's his name now: Social Guy."

That's how I was named. Usually, I do my circuit drinking the milk and go back to Lauren's garage. Sometimes, I catch an invitation to visit. Often it's just a friendly tour of the place and then back out. But, occasionally, I'm needed overnight or longer. I'll tell you more about that later.

As I said, Ol'Boy was slowing down but still good for light duty. We made a fine team. There was a toy poodle a few doors down in our cul-de-saq. Almost every day his lady brought him by our garage door. We would lie in the deep shade back from the door about a tail length and give him the evil eye as they went by. The little freak didn't always realize we were there, but some days he did notice. When that happened, he would go into hysterics. We just laid still and telegraphed insults. He'd shriek and lunge, jerking on the little leash until his lady picked him up. She'd carry him away while he squirmed and wiggled as if he wanted to get into the garage with us. We always enjoyed watching him make a fool of himself. It livened up the lazy afternoons.

One day, the walk-by didn't go exactly according to the usual script. When the poodle came by with his lady, we were, as normal, recumbent on the garage floor, transmitting insults from the deep shade. As they walked across our driveway, he sensed us. He started his routine, screeching "Yip, yip!" in that little falsetto voice while tugging frantically on the leash.

Suddenly, something went very wrong. For him. He slipped out of his restraint. In a heartbeat he was up the driveway wriggling through the crack under our door and into our garage.

As soon as he was past the door and into the shadows with us, he turned off the sound effects. He probably weighed ten pounds after a big dinner. Ol' Boy was about eight pounds. I was a little lighter but carrying less fat. Eight pounds of well fed, sharp clawed garage cat can take care of ten pounds of lap dog any day. With two of us on the job, there was never any doubt of the outcome. Ol' Boy leaped straight up and came down squarely atop the trespasser's back. His claws gripped right through the pretty curls and ribbons. Keeping a good hold with three feet, he lifted a fourth and used it as a gimlet to encourage that little pest to run in circles. It was like a carnival ride only the music was "KI YI YI.! KI YI YIP OW OW! YEOW!" He ran about shouting in terror and ricocheting off the walls and garbage cans.

Soon a second voice was added to the sound effects. The yapper's lady was pounding on the garage door shouting, "Snookums, you come out of there right this minute. Snookums, do you hear me? Leave those cats alone!"

I positioned myself close to the door and whenever Snookums acted like he might try to squeeze out, I'd give him a swipe across the nose so that he was obliged to stay indoors to continue playing our game.

It was good sport, but Ol' Boy was having a little trouble maintaining position. And I could sense that the lady outside pounding on the garage door was about to go into a bad place for her. I gave a signal to Ol' Boy and together we claimed high ground atop the garbage can.

Snokums demonstrated the better part of valor and made his exit.

We heard his lady remonstrating as she carried him away. "You naughty boy! Don't you ever run away from me like that again! Where is your ribbon? Did you lose your pretty ribbon? Is that a scratch on your nose? Poor baby. Well you deserve it. Running away from me like that."

Thereafter, whenever Snookums walked by our place, he kept his eyes straight ahead and his mouth shut. Ol' Boy and I were on the top of the world. Those were the good times.

Ol' Boy passed away two summers later. I have a sense for some things. I knew his time had come and stayed with him until the end. Never left his side. We went into a corner of the garage away from the door. He curled up and I got next to him. It was summer but the concrete was cold. Even after Ol' Boy left, I stayed with his body. When Lauren came home, she cried and petted both of us. When she cried, I cried with her. She picked me up and hugged me and said, "What are you gonna do, Social Guy? Your buddy's dead."

I still miss Ol' Boy. It was generous of him to let me into the garage that first day when I wandered in out of the rain wet and hungry. I've always tried to pay it forward.

I have my route. The milk is good. The women are sweet. I ignore the men and they return the favor.

Now as I told you, I have a sense about certain things. I know when it is a person's time. If someone is about to pass, they often know it themselves. For some reason, other people don't always know. I've discovered that I can help folks be calm and make a more peaceful passing. What I do is offer to sit with them. It's that simple. Some people go out frightened and angry. But when I'm there, sometimes, they just quietly slip away into the next life.

It's not always that way. Once I was visiting with Lee and Jim. Lee was in one room talking to her daughter on the telephone. I was in another room with Jim. I knew he was about to have something happen but I didn't know what. Usually, I'd stay with Lee, but on this occasion, I kept right with Jim. Then Jim fell down and started jerking all over. I rushed into the room where Lee was talking on the telephone. Now Lee was about half deaf. She had a special telephone that was really loud. She didn't hear Jim fall and she didn't hear me howling right there beside her to come help Jim. But Lee's daughter heard me over the phone. "Mama, she said, what's that cat howling about?" "I don't hear the cat," Lee said. "Go get Jim to see what's wrong," said the daughter.

As soon as Lee got up, I ran ahead of her to the room where Jim lay. I was sitting on his back when she found him.

An ambulance came and Jim got well. That event made me a hero. Someone suggested I should go on television. I figure Lassie could have done at much as I did. No biggie.

A couple years later, I spent three days with Lee. It was her time and I knew it. Because of the earlier episode with Jim, I could come and go whenever I wanted. Lauren came and tried to take me home with her, but I jumped out of her arms and got back in bed with Lee. "If you don't mind him staying, I don't mind leaving him here," Lauren said.

"He calms Lee down. Please let him stay," they said. So I stayed.

After that story got around, even the men in the neighborhood began greeting me as I make my rounds. "Hello, Social Guy," they'll say. Generally, I continue to ignore them. The women still control most of the milk.

This morning, I did something different. On my route, I passed by an open garage door. One of the old men was puttering with something the way they do. He spoke to me. "Hello, Social Guy. You OK?" I figured Why not? I can't completely ignore all men all the time just because they aren't women. So I strolled into the garage and gave the old boy a nice friendly rub.

The next thing I knew, he jumped away from me like I was holding a snake. He ran into the house and I heard him say, "Honey, Social Guy was just now makin' nice with me. Do you think it means I'm gonna die?"

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