It is 8 p.m. on one of the longest days of the year as a solitary older man makes his way down a 104-year old sidewalk in a quiet neighborhood of a large North American city. The air is calm and warm, welcoming. “I’ve made it to another summer and thanks be to God for that,” he muses.
Our walking man pushes down towards 16th Avenue where it terminates right up near the BNSF railroad tracks. The RR right of way created an open area at this spot. Herbert, as he’s known, looks through the Cyclone fence. He sees the towers downtown, and by holding his gaze can make out the slopes of Forest Park in the farthest northwest reaches of the city. It’s pleasing—a few blocks from home and he can see clear to the end of the big town.
Having reached the high point of his perambulation and taken it all in, Herb heads up 16th. The concrete pathway is moss covered, cracked, heaved and sloped, all attributable to the very tall, narrow beech trees that line the street. To his left there’s industry, a stonecutter’s warehouse. On the opposite side are houses, one of which is a duplex having a low pitched roof suggestive of an Arts and Crafts style influence.
Crossing Woodward Street, Mr. Herbert espies one of his favorite things, a house cat taking the air. It’s a Tabby variety he calls Scottish Rex as it has the small ears with bent tips characteristic of that breed. Rex is not a pal per se, but our man on the street considers domestic cats to be the nobility in his neighborhood. Their self contained dignity and ease of occupation is remarkably similar to their cousins, Siberian and Bengal tigers, the paragons of the animal kingdom.
Continuing along he sees Marmalade Tabby, a long time friend. This medium hair, polydactyl denizen likes to brush by his legs and turn barrel rolls on the pavement for him.
Thus cheered, Herb pivots at Taggart Street, and is headed towards home. Ahead, people are doing major yard work, so the sidewalk is in use. He moves into the street and decides to continue on to 20th Avenue. There he catches himself walking fast and thinks to slow down as it’s a place where he’s met a friendly cat. Presently, he sees Blackie, an American short hair, and gives his high-pitched call as he bends at the waist and wiggles the fingers of his left hand. It’s a skill, knowing how to have a goof with an outdoor cat. Blackie starts over and pauses before coming to him.
Then surprise and a joy to behold, a second feline has come forth from his porch and hastens to join his better half in greeting our cat lover. It’s a twofer. Herb cuffs Blackie’s chin, greets the Tabby, then taps the former before closing the visit with a virtuoso move—stroking the backs of both animals at once. Nice.
As he makes his way back home Mr. Herbert feels a flare of joy and gratitude at having being received by a pair of the local gentry.
Matthew Sproul was born in 1960 in Barnstable (founded 1639), Massachusetts. He went to high school in Newport OR. Sproul studied at OSU and the U of O, and worked as a waiter and tree planter, prior to moving to Portland in 1988. He loves 19th century American painting, hockey and the Washington State Cougars.