What’s a Fellow to Do?

Walking my dogs past a house for the hundredth time we saw its owner, for the first time, emerge from the front door, following a creaky old black and white cat, the man’s old human eyes solicitously upon it.

“That’s an old cat,” I said across the fence. I like cats, though I prefer dogs.

“No,” my neighbor said, “he was run over by a car.”

“Oh no!”

“This is his first time out since then.”

The creaky cat, black with a comely white V on its breast, crept into the fenced garden. My dogs, Baskervillian in bulk, watched with interest.

“What happened?”

The old man shrugged. “I got home from work early. That gate was open.” He pointed to the back of his driveway. “She was covered in blood and leapt into my arms, crying.”

“Omigod,” I said.

“Cost me $2,500,” the man said. “Had to wear a mask to take her to the vet.”

“Did she run in front of a car, or what? Were her bones broken?”

“No, no broken bones. But she lost her teeth. One got smashed into her lower jaw. Had to take her back to the vet two weeks later to fix that. Cost me $2,500.”

“Did anyone see it? Did she run out in front of a car?”

“I s’pose.”

We watched the creaky cat pick her way through the weeds. My dogs watched through the fence. No indication of wanting to go after the cat. Just watching. Curious.

“That’s great they saved her, man. I don’t know what I’d do without my dogs. I take them for a walk every day, then we go back to the house. What else can you do these days? I’m s’posed to get my second shot tomorrow. You got yours?”

“There ain’t no virus,” the man said, watching his cat.

I said, “Umm …”

“It’s just the newspapers. They lie. They ain’t no virus.”

“I’m a newspaper editor,” I said. “My old college roommate just died of it. He was a doctor.”

“They ain’t no virus,” he said. “It’s just what the newspapers say.”

“I didn’t hear it from the newspapers.”

“The newspapers and the Democrats, they wish there was no police at all.”

“No they don’t.”

The old man watched his cat chewing a blade of grass, and so did I and my dogs.

“I’m a Republican,” he said.

This entire conversation was equable: no raised voices, no aspersions cast. We might have been discussing the Broncos’ prospects this year.

(For the record: I have been a reporter and editor for 37 years. And yes, I can remember short conversations verbatim. I had to learn it, and I learned it.)

“Only Fox news tell you the truth,” the old man said. Not much older than me.

“Umm …”

“The newspapers, they just tell you what they want you to believe. It ain’t the truth. It’s a pack of lies.”

The four of us — two men and two dogs — watched the slow, hesitant progress of his pretty cat through some straggly weeds, protected by a fence.

“Except Fox news,” I said.

“Yup.”

“You ever watch anything else?”

“Nope.”

“Then how do you know Fox is telling the truth?”

“The rest of ‘em, they just a pack of lies.”

He keeps a nice yard. Little fountain in it and a gargoyle and flowers and stuff. My dogs have walked me past it 100 times, none of us seeing anything there but the yard and the little fountain. Not the old guy, not even a cat.

“Well,” I said, “me and my dogs, we got to walk on. Peace.”

I gave him the peace sign, but left off the second half of that equation. Was that small-minded of me?

Then me and my dogs, we walked on.

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