Odd Cat by Dan Branch

The Montana weatherman promised near-high temperatures today. It’s mid-afternoon. If Miss Weather were right, I’d be inside the old ranch house, adjusting every fan to cool down the inside air. The clink and click of ice in my water glass might just block the sound of buzzing mosquitos. Thankfully, today, the weatherman is wrong.

Rather than the promised 100 degree sky blast, it is in the mid-seventies. Instead of peering out one of a ranch house window, I’m sitting outside in a chair, sketching a nearby mountain bluff. Small grasshoppers bounce over the meadow grass, but none land on me. No mosquito buzzes by.

My Irish grandfather and his new wife homesteaded this ranch in Central Montana a hundred years ago. He died when my mother was eight years old. With the help of her bachelor brothers, grandma held on and dug in, surviving hale storms that flattened the standing wheat just before harvest time. She passed the ranch on to her children when she died.

After finishing my drawing, I spot a brown haired cat crawling out from underneath the house’s front porch. It twirls its raised tail high after reaching the back porch, and then sways it back and forth like a metronome.

My sister and I have already passed in and out of the ranch’s back door many times today without seeing the cat. Now, here she is, looking like she is about to mug me for cat chow. She purrs when I near the door, looking like cat’s do when begging to be picked up and hugged.

I’ve seen the cat on every recent visit to the ranch. It always appears in late afternoon and demands to be invited into the house. When we don’t let her inside, the cat sulks on the back porch until we bring out a cup of dried cat food and scatter it on the porch. Then, she sucks it down and disappears back under the house.

No one lives in the ranch house anymore, not even the cat. Most farm cats soon turn feral after left to hunt for mice around ranch property. They hide in the high grass, watching the farmer’s family while not being watched. Like the hunting cat that lives under our porch, the ferals keep mice from taking over their ranch houses. But I’ve never seen one that begs for an invite inside like our family’s pretty feline.

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