When I was about 7 or 8, in my neighborhood there was this Crazy Bird Lady. Crazy Bird Lady had a son, named Vixen. Odd name for a kid, and he was a psychopath. This tall, lanky, white-haired demon used to chase neighborhood kids with a machete and even locked a few kids in the sewers (he'd open them up, drop the kid in, leave them there). He also used to have parties at his house with his drug-dealing friends. Sometimes the deals went sour. The police were there a lot.
But apart from Vixen, Crazy Bird Lady was in of herself, also deranged. Most of the time we saw her outside, she had her hair in curlers, wore a quilted housecoat, and had a cigarette in one hand, pouring water from a glass on her front yard flowers. That's not what made her deranged. Her backyard was fenced in with very high, thick shadowbox fencing. You couldn't see in unless you climbed a tree. Inside the yard was a local wildlife bird sanctuary of her own making, with tons of feeders, nesting boxes, and bird-themed art and paraphernalia. She apparently sat in her rec room, looking out a big sliding glass window at her bird kingdom. But even that wasn't why she was called Crazy Bird Lady.
She was called Crazy Bird Lady because she was ill-tempered, ranting at passersby about how she hated cats. She did hate them with a passion. I don't think she was very religious, but she did say that cats were the devil's agents, and screamed at them, and chased them from her yards, screaming obscenities not becoming to an elderly woman in the 1970s.
We had neighborhood cats. We had Felix, Caesar, Mickey, Ling-ling (yes, a Siamese, how did you guess?), Anthony, and Cleopatra. And one three-legged cat nicknamed "Lucky." Most of these cats were fairly innocuous, except Lucky, and he rather stood out because of his hobble. All the cats roamed everywhere, except Lucky, who stuck to his yard when he got older. Lucky somehow managed to climb up a crabapple tree in the morning, and sat on the edge of a thick limb, at about human eye level. How he climbed the tree, I don't know. The rest of the cats were seen crossing the street, sleeping under cars on hot days, or maybe fighting once in a rare while. They never howled at night, nor did they knock over trash cans, fishing out a complete fish skeleton that they ate from a trashcan lid like the cartoons. They were just a background presence. I grew up with Daisy and Shasta, but they were indoor cats, and lived to be quite old.
The story goes that one day, Crazy Bird Lady suddenly burst into a meeting of the Southridge Women's Club, and before any of those women got over the shock of the woman coming (*gasp*) uninvited (!), Crazy Bird Lady started ranting that if she saw one more of the neighborhood cats in her yard, she was going to shoot them! Now, this story got to me after a long trip through the rumor mill, so I am not sure what really happened, so I skipped most of the details which may or may not have been true. But now people were talking about Crazy Bird Lady's threat, but none of them ever took their cats in. Maybe they couldn't bear the thought of a litter box, or just didn't know how to deal with spraying, I don't know. But the cats were out and about while the humans were safe indoors, gossiping about Crazy Bird Lady and her love of birds, privacy, ranting at passersby, her drugged-up son, and making people feel uncomfortable by barging into polite social gatherings uninvited.
One day, Anthony and Cleopatra turned up missing. The owner, well aware of Crazy Bird Lady's latest threat, came to her house and asked if she'd seen them. Then, according to the story, Crazy Bird Lady was very quiet, mumbled something about cats being where they shouldn't belong, and "How should I know where your stupid cats are??" When the owner left the driveway, on a hunch, she opened up Crazy Bird Lady's trash can lid, and Lo! There was Anthony, who had been shot in the head, it was said, by a BB gun.
Minutes later, the police arrived. I was young when this happened, but as I recall, animal control was called, as well as an ASPCA person. Heated argument ensued in which the Crazy Bird Lady was almost arrested. But she wasn't. This was also a few weeks after a very big incident with the police, her son, and a party he was having where a fight broke out and someone poured peach paint all over someone else's custom Chevy Van (with the Diamond bubble windows and interior shag carpeting).
This must have been the critical blow, because a week later, a moving van showed up, and over a weekend, the Crazy Bird Lady, her son, and all their possessions were gone.
A "for sale sign" was in the yard for a while, and then my mother's good friend-to-be Carolyn moved in. Poor Carolyn, she moved into the Crazy Bird Lady's house, and already got off to a bad start with the neighborhood. But that's another story.
My cats have always been, and always will be indoor only cats. On top of cars, ticks, fleas, dangerous machinery, and cruel kids ... there is no reason for my cats to be outside. They do fine inside, where they will live to a ripe old age.
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