Mrs. Collins came to see Grandma this morning. I hid in the backyard, but the window was open so I could hear what they said. Seems ol’ Mister was hunting in her yard again. If she don’t want cats up in there, she oughtn’t put all them feeders and houses and whatnot out for the birds. That’s like setting up a smorgasbord in front of hungry folks, then telling them they can’t eat. Soon as you turn your back, that buffet’s gonna be stripped bare, and not one of them will feel bad for having a full belly.
It’d be one thing if those bird lures were hung high up where the cats couldn’t get at them, but Mrs. Collins don’t want to crane her neck to see the birds, so she hangs them at eye level. Well, eye level from where she sits in her chair most of the day. Come to think of it, this is the first time I’ve seen Mrs. Collins move. When I first got here, I thought she might’ve died sitting in that chair, and no one had noticed. She was there when I went to bed at night and there in the morning.
Okay, I don’t really get up in the morning when I’m on vacation. Grandma says a growing girl needs her rest. I sure wish I could live with her all the time. Ma says I only want that because I never had to live with Grandma. She swears if I was here all the time, I wouldn’t get so spoiled. Course, I don’t see it as being spoiled, just because Grandma makes the sorts of food I like and lets me spend hours reading without having to stop and do chores. Not that I don’t pull my weight. I spent half a day weeding her garden. Got the sunburn to prove it. But Grandma understands how you can’t set a book down because not knowing what comes next is so distracting you wouldn’t be good for anything anyway.
Oh, right. Mrs. Collins and the cat. She told Grandma that if she didn’t keep ol’ Mister inside, she’d call the animal control people to take him away. Grandma asked if Mrs. Collins was volunteering to chase the rabbits and squirrels from her garden the way ol’ Mister does. Well, Mrs. Collins didn’t take too well to that. She huffed and sputtered and called ol’ Mister a menace. Grandma said as how she reckoned that was his job, the same way a dog guards a farm yard. Then she asked if Mrs. Collins thought putting a bunch of raccoons in front of a farm dog wouldn’t have the same effect as putting bird feeders within reach of a barn cat. Mrs. Collins screeched about how it was different, since birds aren’t vermin; they’re beautiful, delicate creatures who don’t deserve to be slaughtered like that.
“How do they deserve to be slaughtered, then?” says Grandma.
I couldn’t help but laugh at that, especially since I could imagine Mrs. Collins turning all purple with outrage. I covered my mouth, though. Grandma doesn’t like it when I eavesdrop, even if it is the what most folks around here do. I swear if they didn’t gossip, they’d have nothing to say at all. Back home, you have to be really close to someone before you discuss their business in the wrong company. The way they do it here just doesn’t seem respectful.
While Mrs. Collins sniffed in outrage and tried to make Grandma change her way of thinking, I snuck off to find ol’ Mister. I figured there was no point in listening anymore. No one gets Grandma to change her mind, unless it was what she was gonna do anyway. Well, almost no one. I did manage to convince her that Russia wasn’t Russia anymore. I mean, it is, but it’s smaller, and there’s a bunch of little countries where it used to be huge. She knew about some of them, but she wouldn’t believe me about how many.
I had to go to the library and beg them to let me take home the volume of the encyclopedia with all the maps in it. They don’t like you to take out reference books, but the lady at the library knows Grandma, and she said I’d never win the argument if I didn’t have proof in hand. Not that it was an argument so much as a discussion. I showed Grandma the new map – and it was even out of date because Kosovo wasn’t a separate country yet – and Grandma said it seemed I knew a thing or two after all. Neither one of us mentioned that Kosovo wasn’t ever a part of Russia to begin with, because we figured Russia always sort of thought the Slavs and Slovaks and the rest of the people around there half-belonged to them anyway. Folks around here get a bit sensitive about stuff like that. As if you could tell a Czech from a Slovak and any of them from the Slavs once the lot of them got to America.
But back to the cat. I found ol’ Mister asleep in Mrs. Collins birdbath. You heard right. There wasn’t a drop of water in the thing, so I don’t know how she thought she was doing the birds any favors, seeing as how when it’s dry, it looks an awful lot like a platter. I don’t know if ol’ Mister had the blue plate special or not, but I wasn’t leaving him there for the old witch to pick up. I watched that movie when I was little, and I don’t care to see what a tornado looks like up close, even if it does take you to a magical land. Oz didn’t seem any stranger than Kansas, but that’s not saying much. I dropped ‘ol Mister in the garden, where he curled up, burped out one feather, and fell asleep.