SEPTEMBER 24, 2011 6:33PM

Dramatic Conflict, with Cats

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Hanging out with Cris in the morning while she makes a cheesecake to take to a dinner she's invited to. She was talking about her aunt, who lives in the city and whom we used to take to Golden Gate Park every Sunday to feed the feral cats. (I was thinking about that period of our lives the other day. The period of taking Aunt Dora to the park lasted several years, and while it was going on it seemed as if it would never end. But it did end, when the feral cat population dropped below that which required a Sunday evening visit [though Dora still went in the mornings], and now I can't even remember when it ended -- at least two years ago.)

Cris began talking about the other cat ladies who also went to the park to feed the feral population. The cat ladies of the park don't form as close an alliance as you'd think. It takes a certain kind of person to be so invested in the welfare of feral cats that they go every day to the park and into the bushes to the protected places, behind fallen logs and such, where the cats like to be fed. Such a person is likely to be more comfortable around cats than people, and each has her own ideas about what each cat wants or needs, whether it is a candidate for adoption, and so on. Thus the relationship between the cat ladies is more like a détente than a friendship. They help each other sometimes, but other times have a beef with one another over territorial or tactical issues. One woman, whom I'll call Penny, befriended Dora for several years, but now they're on the outs.

Cris went on to tell me that Penny had a husband who hated cats. "Not allergic to cats, or indifferent to them, but someone who thinks that cats are a curse, are vermin. How could someone who loves cats marry someone like that?"

I said it was an interesting dramatic conflict, to marry someone who hates what you love. Is there some condition, I said, where music actually causes physical pain -- like something Oliver Sacks might write about. What if that person were to fall in love with a musician? That could make an interesting story.

Unless you're Patricia Highsmith, who published a whole book of short stories centering around pets (which sounds horrible unless you know that Highsmith never wrote sentimentally). Then you would definitely make it about cats.

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It has more possibilities than, say, the fact that you love pasta and I'm wheat intolerant. I'm glad Penny is out of the picture. She was insufferable. There is quite a collection of insufferable feral cat ladies in Golden Gate Park. My aunt is the social charmer of the lot, and she hates people. Our lives are weird.
I love the turn that you took in the third and second to last paragraphs. Made me grin...and also recall the man who mistook his wife for a hat...