Mira loves spotting cats. She is great at it. I am fairly observant too, but her eyes seem sharper and her ability to spot feline hiding spots seems highly tuned. She lets out a small yelp or a dramatic “caaatt” in a low voice when she spots one.
Cats are evening routines though.
Early mornings, on the other hand, I grab Mira as soon as she wakes up, pick two dog biscuits and rush out of the house. Since I know the walk to be short, I do not mind Mira’s weight, and her sleepy smell goes well with early morning sounds as she looks around for Booboo and Spotty.
Booboo, our resident canine, is energetic, poised, and even at 15, seems to be given to surprising bouts of energy and bite. He has acquired the habit of following Mira around, expecting, and always receiving food crumbs from Mira, much to the exasperation of the adults.
Mira is happy and Booboo is chastised but full.
This drama and tirade unfold regularly during feeding time.
At night, Booboo saunters off to the shed reluctantly, a downgrade from his luxurious mat in the hall, mainly because he and Mira feed off of each other’s unpredictable ebbs and flows and that is never a good situation when the entire house is willing vehemently for them both to fall asleep. This does not mean Booboo gets a bad deal, because invariably there are fish or chicken bones scattered for him to discover and enjoy at his leisure if the bandicoots and rats don’t get to the treats first.
He gets the first biscuit in the mornings.
The second biscuit is for Spotty, the local semi-stray who leads a more vagabond life.
Her many beds in the homes of her well-wishing humans are not as sheltered, or as private as Booboo’s, and in true vagabond fashion, she might or might not be found there at whatever time you go in search of her, but you get the feeling that she has a more relaxed and laissez-faire approach to her life. If she is present in any of her many spots, she gets up, lazily jumps over the walls with some strategically placed stones, and makes her way to us.
I am not even sure she embraces her canine nature fully, because, one night, I saw a cat warily eating from Spotty’s bowl even as Spotty was staring at the cat with one eye open at paw’s length.
A radical cat, or, a cat positive dog.
Walking back with the mercenary Spotty for company, because she clearly offers graded treatment towards those who feed her and those who don’t – regular biscuit treats, head pats, and questionable legal counseling for her immigrant status in the layout seems to assure some sort of protection, with growls at strangers and bandobast for useless errands – we pass the night-flowering jasmine.
The night jasmine’s faint scent always catches my attention when I walk past the shrub, the flowers all scattered on the floor, spent after an intense and brief nightly existence. The lingering fragrance from the delicate and wilting flowers always seemed to hold promises of a floral life well-lived.
One night last week, I was driving slowly back home when I saw two cats playfully dash out onto the road, blurring into the halo of yellow light cast by the headlamps of the car in front of me, and race under the car. I thought I saw one cat, the one that was chased, get caught under the wheel.
The cat writhed and died, one of its eyes squished out and hanging by a bloodied tendril, and we could only watch the inevitable end. The car had not even bumped when the wheel went over the head. The other cat was circling around, edging closer to its dead companion, peering between the legs of the human circle, sensing something was wrong.
As I drove back and parked the car, through the images of the cats, and the blood on the road, and the frantic animal pawing of the air in vain, came the strong smell of the night jasmine. The sweet smell suffused the grisly scene, lending it an air of dignity, and the cat’s untimely end seemed to take on a quality of oneness with the plant. Reaching out to and shrouding the animal in its death throes was the impassive shrub, its expressionless shape quietly evoking a tone that matched and elevated the moment that none of us humans could.
Such is the air in the vicinity of the shrub, perfumed so delicately but with a gentle firmness that I am convinced that one night with the plant, just one budding, flowering, whithering night with the plant, is enough to look at the fallen flowers next morning with envy as to how they rule the nights.
Every night the night jasmine produces a profusion of tender white flowers with bright orange centers, pulsing with scent, baring their many buds into the night, opening underneath dark skies, seducing distant stars, and spreading themselves to passing clouds.