You Never See A Dead Cat Under A Tree

There is an idea floating around in the political spheres right now that explains why constituents will vote contrary to their best interests.  It's not a new idea by any stretch of the imagination, its root being something that theologists and artists of all walks have known since before written history.  The idea, however, is unique in the sense that it is currently being packaged for politics.  It  goes something like this: a logical point alone is insufficient; one that also allows the possibility for an emotional connection will win every time.  It's something the pundits practice in their daily, caffeine-induced frenzies and advice that Hillary Clinton rejected early in her campaign from a man by the name of Lakoff --the very man who put this idea into shrink wrap for sale on the political market.   

Not very smart to downplay the human heart in favor of the brain.  The heart wins every time.  I'm quite confident on that point.

The thing that is most incredible about the heart is its capacity for empathy and its willingness to see possibilities where the brain would weigh in favor of prudence.  It's the kind of heart that I wasn't expecting when I posted an ad to Craigslist explaining the situation on my block these last four days.

On friday one of the feral cats climbed up the tree in my front yard.  And when I say climbed, I mean took up the sport of climbing like a pointy-eared Petrach and went for the top of the tree some 60 feet above the asphalt.  Nobody knows why he went up there, nobody knows if anyone owns the cat (all signs point to no), and nobody knows how he's coming down.

One thing is for certain, though: he's not coming down on his own accord.  

He's let the entire block know this with his sad siren song, cat wailing that drags on for minutes at a time before he slumps his head back on the branch where he has made his stand.  My inbox fills up with people responding to the Craigslist ad.  Everyone has an idea.  Someone has tipped off the local media and the Denver Post shows up in the late afternoon.

Bob, a man who dismisses the Denver Post photographers by curtly explaining that the media is too opinionated and that he doesn't read the paper anymore for that reason, suggests openly that we could shoot the cat out of the tree.  The photographer running the HD camera stops recording Bob's tirade.  But the thing about the cat wailing for four days is that, secretly, it has obviously reached him on some level.  The photographers move on to interview other neighbors and Bob surreptitiously slides across the street, pounding on my door.  I step onto the porch and he produces a can of mustard packed sardines.  It's all he has to offer the cat, he explains.  

The cameras have brought everyone out.  Jesus, the garbage collector who called the fire department about the cat on friday, leaves his house, taking the corner real slow to have a peek back at the tree.  The fire department, it turns out, has no time for these kind of childish games.  Put a can of food at the bottom of the tree, the dispatcher tells him.  The cat will come down.

That would stand to reason.  

But, like Mr. Lakoff told Hillary, reason alone won't get you results.  And the internet is littered with accounts of people who have lost their cats when fear made it impossible for reason to prevail, for the cat to back itself down the tree.  Dehydration, hunger, exhaustion and, at some point, the cat just falls.  It's a tragic ending that I wouldn't have expected, something dreamed up by a kitty Cormac McCarthy.  The god of cats is not a benevolent one. 

Giovanni and her sister, Delia, have come out with their kids.  The Pentacostals from Chihuahua, the ones who blather in tongues into the early morning hours once a month when their congregation gathers next door, have come out.  Juan, a quiet, young man from Zacatecas who has suddenly been crowned "Chacarron" has joined them.  The hood rats with their boom car --the loudest one on the block, the one that I have made a game of cat-and-mouse with asking them almost daily to shut it the eff off --have all come out.  They want to know who's dog is in the tree and then post themselves at the corner to watch the show.  The Paletero stops pushing his ice cream cart to watch and Shaquille, Delia's oldest boy, yells at him: "Una paleta por el show."  A popsicle for the show.  

Giovanni ignores her sister's advice not to climb the tree and takes her first steps up the wooden ladder I have propped up to reach the first split in the elm that holds the cat.  "I can do anything I want to," she yells down, setting off a back-and-forth exchange of Spanglish that won't let up for the next two hours.  

Chacarron follows and the NorteƱos from the corner bring an extension ladder over to help.  "Para el gatito o para la chica?" the round one jokes.  For the cat or the girl.  Giovanni yells something back at him, but she's already too far up the tree.  She conducts herself like a surgeon talking to her assistant.  Martillo.  Hammer.  Clavos.  Nails.  Escalera.  Ladder.  She is creating a path along the trunk that takes her to the fifty foot mark before it becomes to difficult for her to continue.  The cat, the unreasonable and emotional creature that it is, won't budge, just barely out of reach.  

Tomorrow starts day five.  

The fantastic Lyn Alweis and Helen Richardson of the Denver Post.
Take Two.
Shaquille and the climbing rope.
Just in case the cat falls.  Nevermind Giovanni.

And the very nice piece that the Denver Post put on their website, featuring yours truly as the puffy-faced guy who appears like he just had all four wisdom teeth wrenched from his jaw and sounds like he may be high on Percocet.  Go figure.  Click Here.


delia said...

thank you for painting the perfect story, about the cat and neighbors. the pictures and the story go well together. once again thank from your neighbors( jesus, delia, shaquille, and shakira.

delia said...

Hola Mateo Como estas?
La historia del gatito y yo esta muy buena.Me gusto como le pusiste humor a la historia,claro el humor no es tan rojo como el que decimos nosotras.
Tu espanol es muy bueno icluso mejor que el mio diria yo.
de Giovanny Hernandez Chairez Espino Estrada de casas Rios Amen

ariel zambelich said...

there's always adventure on newton street, isn't there slaby?

ha. your fifteen minutes of denver post fame is magnificent. well done.