The felines of the premises by Ásdís Ingólfsdóttir
The street is full of emptiness after a dry, cold winter. Everything is dusty and grey. Even the cats look tired and sad when I arrive home from work. They are not my cats but they are the felines of the premises. They consider my garden an important part of their private domain. Every morning at the break of dawn, the old male cat who lives next door, Lassie the Cat, takes a stroll around the garden. He checks the backyard and the terrace to see if there are any intruders. He walks slowly and every step is firm and settled as he walks the pavement around the house. He jumps up on the roof of the shed, graciously for his age, and with squinting eyes searches the surroundings for enemies. The Norwegian forest cat from down the street is a dangerous opponent. When he has made sure that no one is in sight, he jumps down and lays himself to rest on top of the litter bin under the lilac tree.
It was spring when we first got acquainted. Lassie the Cat was a cute black kitten with a white muzzle and white socks on his little feet. One day he got lost. The neighbour put a note in our mailbox asking for help. We looked in every corner of the garden and in the shed. But we did not find him. Everyone on our street looked for little Lassie. It wasn’t until three days later that we heard the weak sound from underneath the newly-built wooden terrace and found him trapped there, close to death. He was so weak that he could hardly keep his eyes open or lift his head when we got him out through the opening we had made in the terrace floor. After he recovered, Lassie the Cat became the guardian of our house and garden.
Josephine, the female cat from across the street, comes over a little later. And Lassie has to step down; the queen has arrived. She does not show any interest in opponents or other threats. She has the power in her paws and thinks she is fully entitled to it. So, he jumps down, and up she goes to her throne, the newly-warmed top of the litter bin. He looks around to ensure that all is in order and takes his place at the gate. The day has started and all is well. He settled for this arrangement a long time ago. Before he had full power but then she arrived with her pompous attitude and shifted his world.
For years the cats in the neighbourhood respected that Lassie the Cat was the king of our garden. No cat dared to come into our garden or sneak around our house. Until that pesky she-cat moved in across the street. She is a big three-coloured cat and used to having her way. And she wanted to spend her days in the sunny garden amongst the flowers and take a morning nap on top of the litter bin in the shade of the lilac tree. And she was ready to fight for this privilege. The day after her arrival, the battle commenced. She confronted Lassie the Cat on a beautiful spring morning. The whole family woke up as the howling noises of the cats at the gate got louder and louder. The two cats were staring each other in the eyes and walking slowly in circles without losing their intense gaze. And then she lifted her paw and BAM Lassie the Cat was shifted to the side. He never did stand a chance, being somewhat fragile and thin ever since he was trapped and starving under the wooden terrace for days. He had not grown into a large cat and she dethroned him effortlessly and made her royal entry into the garden. When I came outside the next morning to go to work, she was sitting gloatingly in the middle of the pavement, looking at me as if I was in her way. At the gate, Lassie the Cat looked at me as if to say that he was sorry; it is better to keep the peace than fight for a status. And so it has been every day after that. Me and Lassie call her ‘Cocky Kitty’ behind her back.
When I take the rubbish out on this greyish spring afternoon, Josephine is in her place. I have to lift her off the litter bin where she is taking her afternoon nap. It feels like she is trying to make herself as heavy as possible. But I am not giving up and I grab her firmly and lift her up. She meows at me and jumps down. When I go back into the house she is sitting in the flowerbed, grinding her teeth and looking at me like I have done something terribly wrong. Maybe she knows that I feel as if I am taking some revenge on Lassie’s behalf when I lift her off the litter bin and the grey afternoon gets a little less grey after our encounter.
In my mind Lassie the Cat is king of the garden.