Kage Baker didn’t really like most people. She had to get to know them individually, which she didn’t do often because she was busy and shy. Those who did get her attention long enough to get to know her – and didn’t scare her – know that she was a good friend, faithful and true, and a right lot of fun once she had a couple of rum and Cokes in her.
Kage also didn’t like Nature much. She gave her civilized preferences to Lord Ermenwyr (“I HATE Nature!”) and much preferred to observe the natural, wet, fuzzy, sticky, smelly, hot, cold world through a thick pane of glass. Gardens were her preferred outdoors environment, the more clipped and securely bedded the better. With easy access to modern plumbing, and a lawn chair with a drink holder.
Even in her books, few Operatives really liked animals – including humans. One of the only exceptions was Raven, an illegally augmented raven (of course) who becomes the partner of a young Operative in Mendoza In Hollywood. And, naturally, the endless and mostly implied passions of Nefer for hoof stock. As chief assistant researcher, I too learned things about bison I have since laboured in vain to forget …
Since I have moved back to Los Angeles, I’ve been re-immersed in the tide of Nature. Living, as I do, close to both Griffith Park and the Los Angeles River, I am rich in the company of furred and winged neighbors. We have a squirrel feeder; a bird feeder on the window as well as a bowl on the porch for the ground feeders; scads of nectar-rich flowers for the butterflies and hummingbirds. After dark, raccoons, skunks and possums waddle up to eat the spilled seeds and nuts. During the day, young ravens and hawks come by to see if any other smaller visitants are catchable ; it’s especially charming when the fledglings are accompanied by their mamas, teaching them patiently how to nail a squirrel or a pigeon.
At night, bobcats and mountain lions come and sit on our cars. We never see them; but cat prints as large and larger than my hands make it plain they have been out there. They seem to like sliding down the windshield. All cats are the same, in odd ways.
Recently, our next-door human neighbor sadly deceased; her house has been steadily worked on for months, being renovated by a team of house-flippers. In the course of their landscaping efforts, they trimmed or cut down several trees – which unfortunately, were condos for roof rats. And now, there are roof rats all over the place. Roof rats are an introduced species, Rattus rattus, smaller and more gracile than the Rattus norwegicus which you find all over downtown Los Angeles. I happen to like rats, when encountered on a social basis; but the current wave of rodentine refugees are not especially fun.
They don’t get into the house often – we have two cats now, and I think the smell of them upsets any rat adventurers. However, accidents do happen … over the weekend, one of the tree rats managed to fall down the chimney and put on a desperate show in the fireplace. This was kind of funny during the day; but in this heat Kim and I sleep in the living room, for the air conditioning. And a rat in the fireplace is just not conducive to rest.
Our fireplace is kept closed with both a metal net curtain, and glass doors; we have an artificial log in place, so in the summer there is no actual fire – although the very splendid fake fire is complete with wonderful waxing and waning lights, that are beautifully soothing. The rat, however, must have thought he’d gone to ratty Hell, because he ran up, down and all around behind the doors, frantically seeking an egress. Or maybe it was the avid attention of our younger cat, who seemed to think the rat-under-glass was a special television show just for him.
Our elder cat is a large but delicate and ladylike red Maine Coon cat, yclept Ashby, who simply watched the rat from the top of my desk. Our younger cat, though, went nearly as crazy as the poor rat. Edward is a jet black Maine Coon – just 6 months old -who is already bigger than Ashby, and we spent a horrendous night with Edward the Black periodically throwing himself at the fireplace doors (BOINNNNG!), and sending the rat into loud insane scrabbling all over the place. Between futile attacks, Edward cried piteously (Maine Coons have tiny, sweet little voices) for someone to give him the rat.
I did not sleep. Kimberly, Edward and the damned rat finally all fell asleep around 4; and sometime during the next day, the rat managed his escape. Or maybe he died of stress from having an enormous black lunatic banging on the fireplace doors. Whatever, he has not been since. Edward, though, still checks the doors every day just to make sure there is no-one lurking in there – but Edward, despite being enormous, is still just an innocent little baby who expects miracles to come down the chimney.
During the long, noisy night, I amused myself by imagining what Kage would have had to say if she had been cooped up with a crying, 14-pound baby cat and a demented tree rat. I’d probably have had to administer several ounces of rum and chocolate, and hoped she’d fall asleep as well … but, you know? At least I was home with my loved ones.
Nearly anything is bearable under those circumstances.