Sunday, November 4, 2012

Dancing With Leo



It’s 6:30 in the morning and I’m looking for my pigeons.  I peer through the custom-made blinds that hang in front of my newest window. I’m proud of this window because it wasn’t here when I moved in seven years ago; it is my imprint on this house, a major positive change.  I think other people will enjoy this window too.

But right now I’m focusing on the absence of pigeons in my mesquite tree, which is right outside and happens to be another positive imprint of mine.  I love my mesquite tree.  I hung a birdfeeder in it and I fill it every morning, knowing that mainly I’ll get pigeons, and that’s okay.  I just want some birds out there for my cats to watch.  But there are no pigeons sitting in the mesquite’s branches now, and no pigeons hanging upside down from the feeder I filled, flapping their wings indelicately.  

I want to know why.

My gaze finally travels down to the ground where it comes to rest on a  lean black cat crouched in my mesquite’s water well, like a soldier waiting behind a ridge before the attack at dawn.  He’s smoking a cigarette.  It’s Ballsy, my kitten’s biological father.  He wants a visitation.  

Just then, Leo jumps up onto a forbidden table and tries to climb through the open blinds to stand on the window ledge.  This is a major no-no.  I growl, pick Leo up by the scruff of his neck and bring him to my chest, all seven months and nine pounds of sleek domestic panther.  I step close to the window again with Leo gently wrapped in my arms.  “That’s your biological father out there,” I say.  I’ve never denied it.  I’ve been telling him this every month or so when Ballsy comes around to check in, but I don’t think Leo gets it yet.  Maybe he’s not ready for it.

I tilt the blinds open even farther so we can see Ballsy even better.  He is maybe ten feet away, perfectly still, close to the ground with his balls tucked underneath for once.  He’s facing the window, his confidence apparent, his black chest puffed out.  Leo does the same thing when he’s mad. Ballsy stares at where we are behind the window, his cigarette dangling from his lips.  He holds himself exactly like Leo does.  He has the same mouth.

Leo stares back, still silent, unwilling to look away from Ballsy for any reason, not even for the word that rhymes with “greets” but starts with “t”.  He forgets to flex his toes and scratch me, or his new thing, puncturing me.  His muscles relax in my embrace, but I can still feel the pounding of his heart.

“That’s your other dad,” I try again, knowing that this might confuse him, but he isn’t getting the biological thing, and Ballsy is waiting right outside.

“I thought Nabe was my dad,” Leo chatters.  Nabe is our neighbor who found Leo on the day he was born, which happened to be Easter earlier this year.  His umbilical cord was still attached, and he was covered with dirt, wet and shivering, crying.  Nabe called me over for backup, and together we got us all through the next few critical days, with Nabe running to the animal clinic for supplies, me getting up every two hours at night to bottle-feed, and Leo staying alive.
 
“Nabe is definitely your dad,” I assure Leo, nuzzling my chin to his ear.

“Well how can I have two dads?”  Leo chatters, turning his head away from smokin’ Ballsy just long enough to give me a withering you-are-so-stupid look, which I have no idea where he learned, since he’s always with me.  His snarky glare reminds me of how I felt when some kid in the third grade tried to tell me that the Easter Bunny wasn’t real.  It was during art and we were making baskets.  I looked at him the same way Leo just looked at me and said, “What do you think, Andy, that the whole world’s lyin’ to ya?”

Of course, as I know now, the whole world was indeed lying to me, and to everybody else. Andy just found out sooner than I did.

I pause to gather my thoughts, rocking back and forth to the song on the radio, dancing with Leo.  This situation isn’t exactly like that one, but still, the day will come when I’m going to have to explain to my baby why he feels one way about that shifty ex porn star lounging around in our yard, and another way about Nabe.  I know I’ll get that right because I had a very similar discussion with myself in 2008.

I look down at Leo.  His defiance has given way to sleep.  I look outside, and Ballsy is gone.  Visitation is over.  Good.  Stay in the tribe, I tele-coo to my kitten, passing on the best advice ever given to me.


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