CHÂTEAU DE CHATS
Madam Blancheflor DesRosiers and her lawyer Tristan Patenaude, Esquire, sat on a park bench in Mont Clair Park. The park bench faced out toward the houses of the neighborhood that surrounded little Mont Clair Park. Madam Blancheflor and Tristan had been coming to this park bench for several days now, facing that particular house with the big tree.
A woman emerged from that house and sat down upon the porch step and lit a cigarette. She gazed at little Mont Clair Park across the street, watching the dog walkers, the children playing soccer, the lovers leaning on the benches, and yes, there was that older couple again. Perhaps they were new in the neighborhood.
Tristan whispered to Madam Blancheflor, “Try not to stare at her. Look around. Look at me.”
Madam Blancheflor looked up into the sky, saying, “She lives alone. The lawn is unkempt. She has too many cats.”
If one were not staring one would not have seen the cat foreheads and cat ears above the overgrown grass where the cats had curled to nap. When the woman had emerged and sat upon the porch, several cats stood up from the grass veil, stretched in a tall arch, and then sauntered toward the woman. She was soon surrounded by two black cats, a black and white cat, two white cats, and two grey tabbies. They waited their turn to be stroked and petted, their faces upraised and their eyes narrowed in pleasure.
Then the Contrôle d’Animal (Animal Control) truck halted in front of the woman’s house. The woman stood up. The cats did not run.
Two men emerged from the truck wearing black shirts and pants, gold badges, and speaking into police radios.
One officer spoke sternly, “Ma’am, you were clearly advised that you can have no more than three cats. Your neighbors are complaining.”
The woman protested, “Complaining about what? And… they are not my cats. I am only feeding them.”
The other officer quipped gruffly, “You feed them, you own them.”
The woman held up her hands, “This is not right. They are only here because I feed them.”
The first officer recited, “We will take them to la fourrière (the pound) where they will be adopted.”
The woman turned her hands into fists, “You take them to the shelter where they will be killed in no more than a week! It is immoral! I drew them here by feeding them. It is not their fault,” and the woman’s voice broke, “Please. They are my little friends. If I stop feeding them, they will no longer gather here.”
Madam Blancheflor and Tristan could hear the whole drama.
Madam Blancheflor stood up and commanded Tristan, “We must interfere. Follow me.”
Tristan arose to catch up with Madam Blancheflor who was striding across the grass, “Blanche! I advise against this. You must listen to me.”
Madam Blancheflor called out to the officers, “Gentilshommes (Gentlemen). I am Madam Blancheflor DesRosiers and this is my lawyer Tristan Patenaude. Forgive me, but we have overheard this entire unfortunate incident.”
The two officers stood at silent attention. The woman with the cats was stunned with only a tear in motion upon her face.
Madam Blancheflor then turned to Tristan, “Tristan, will you have a word with these gentlemen, please?”
Tristan nodded in surrender and gave a wry smile. He motioned the two officers behind the big tree in the front lawn.
The woman stared at Tristan and the two officers conversing in the shadows. She spoke askance to Madam Blancheflor, “I’ve seen you for a couple days now. Who are you? I mean, why are you doing this?”
Tristan shook each officer’s hand and placed a folded bill into each of their palms. The officers strode to their truck without a word and drove away.
Madam Blancheflor smiled kindly and placed the fingers of her left hand upon the woman’s shoulder. The woman turned and still Madam Blancheflor held her fingers gently upon the woman’s shoulders. The woman was embarrassed for some reason but Madam Blancheflor was her savior and she seemed like a very nice lady, whoever she was, and so the woman said, “I’m Alycia,” and Alycia laid the fingers of her own right hand upon Madam Blancheflor’s fingers, “I can never thank you enough.”
The cats were circling them both.
Tristan came back over and stood. Alycia thanked Tristan and Tristan nodded.
Alycia had the strangest feeling that Madam Blancheflor wanted to hug her and Alycia rationalized to herself, “That is what nice old ladies do.”
Madam Blancheflor’s eyes began to glisten but she suddenly said to Alycia, “I am glad that we were here to help. We’ll leave you and your entourage,” looking down at the milling cats, “to consider a remedy to this situation.”
Alycia smiled and Madam Blancheflor and Tristan turned and slowly walked back toward the park bench. Tristan leaned toward Madam Blancheflor to whisper, “How do you feel?”
Madam Blancheflor replied softly, “You were right. It would not have been the right time to tell her. Maybe next time.”
Tristan said thoughtfully, “No, Blanche. I have come around to your way of thinking now. Alycia seems to have become a fine young woman. But she seems lonely. I think it might fill some gaps in her life if she finally met her birth mother.”
Madam Blancheflor whispered through shame, “She has.”
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