The whole neighbourhood, street or forest, knows Garbage Day has switched to the second morning after the Weekend. Every Fur Person, whether in the Woods or in Town, knows when the Weekend is over, because that’s when the little apes toddle off to their school again.
We had just come off a huge Weekend, when the baby apes stayed in their dens and played with their parents and one another for more sunsets than I have paws to count with. If memory serves, they do this after every winter solstice. I’ve noticed that after any longish Weekend, Garbage Day changes—a habit that hasn’t escaped the notice of our Woods neighbors, either.
My den’s Garbage Gift is pitiably small—just one bag. But this particular bag was special. Pack Leader had packed some turkey bits in there, along with only slightly moldy cheese rinds and some sweets she said were Bad for Dogs and People, whatever that means. It seemed a shame, but Pack Leader feeds me so gloriously twice a day that I don’t ever quarrel with the offerings she sets on the curb on Garbage Day.
I guess she was still in a festive, generous mood from the big solstice Weekend, because she set our bag out on the curb just before we went to bed, offering our woodsy neighbors a chance to paw it over, as it were, before the Truck arrived in the morning to end the feast. She set it down; I blessed it with a bit of peemail as we ended the Evening Walk, and we went to bed.
Our snooze didn’t last long. Caterwauling, screeching, and a series of annoyed grunts woke us up in a hurry. Pack Leader hustled herself into some semblance of proper pelts and threw open the bedroom window, as I clambered stiffly onto the window seat. What a sight!
My furry friend Cranberry, who weighs about four of me, was grunting and weaving like a drunk, waving at our Garbage Gift with paws the size of my dinner dish. “I can’t sleep!” he complained. “All this noise! All this light! I need a midnight snack!”
“You think you’ve got problems!” snarled Princess Pusscat. (I tell you, if you haven’t heard a snarl from a cougar, you haven’t lived!) “I’ve got kittens to feed!”
“Oh, for Silva’s sake!” That was Ratchet, our pesky neighbor who, admittedly, is usually quite discreet—for a raccoon. “Why the hell aren’t you two hibernating? I thought I was the one who’s supposed to form a symbiotic relationship with the humans! So why not let me get on with it? They think they have “a garbage problem”—I can fix that—and I’ve got kittens to feed too, Princess!”
Pack Leader looked at me. “Have I been taking crazy pills?” she asked. “Or was there some special ingredient in that local wine I tried? I can understand what they’re saying!”
Well, that’s an improvement, I thought, telepathy being far more efficient than speech, especially for a muzzle as long as mine. Let me try a little Alternate Dispute Resolution.
“Hey,” I barked down at the hungry trio. “You need to know this: there’s nothing good for you in that bag. The turkey’s wrapped in saran, and the cookies and cheese in plastic. You’ll get sick!”
“I don’t give a grub!” yelled Cranberry. “I need a bite to eat!”
Princess sprang over the fence and yowled up at us. “Get your stupid human to throw me down a young human, then—something I can get my teeth into.”
“We don’t have any,” I barked at her. “We’re just a couple of dried-up old mammals here. You can find richer Garbage down the street, there, where the kids are.”
“Carnivores!” muttered Ratchet in disgust. “Don’t you idiots realise that human meat is full of poison nowadays? It’s time to focus on veggies—or at least turn omnivore. Just give me some chips or rancid peanuts and I’ll go home!”
“I feel terrible!” Pack Leader said. “We’ve got to do something! It’s the humans’ fault they’re so hungry!”
Don’t you dare go down there! I told her. You may be old and stringy but don’t think Princess wouldn’t try to chaw on you! Let a sage old wolfie take care of this—
But Pack Leader had disappeared downstairs. Would she venture outside to the curb? Alarmed, I reassembled my ancient bones to follow her, thumping first the front paws, and then the rear, down several steps before she came roaring back up, arms loaded with bags, boxes and pans.
“Help me!” she ordered; so I backed up my awkward backside, hauled it up each stair, and clambered onto the window seat once more.
“Share these!” I barked as Pack Leader flung down semi-stale buns (we never eat our bread in time), a cheese stick (wah!), last night’s garlic potatoes (double wah!), and the Christmas Fruitcake she had originally suggested we use as a doorstop.
Some pungent little orange fruits followed, making beautiful arcs into Ratchet’s waiting paws as Cranberry, absorbed, savored every last pithy bit of the fruitcake.
“Do you think the cougar can handle turkey bones?” Pack Leader flung them down over the porch roof anyway. “It doesn’t seem like much for such a big cat. Especially if she has kittens to feed.”
I tried hard to prevent Pack Leader from seeing my thoughts, but it was too late. “Tell her about the rabbits,” she said sternly, “or I’ll do it for you.”
But…my bunnies! I protested. Chasing those bunnies was the high point of our Evening Walk.
“You never catch them anyway. And there are zillions of them. Tell her!” Pack Leader glowered.
“Drake Street,” I barked obediently, although every syllable hurt. “Dumb bunnies everywhere. Go feed the kids.”
“Tell her to stay away from the streets and the humans, and we’ll try our best to see she gets fed,” said Pack Leader.
You’re nuts, I told her. It’s a cat. The cat dictionary does not contain words like honor or promise. Grow up already.
“Tell her anyway,” said Pack Leader.
I barked it out, like a complete idiot. It didn’t matter: Princess had already loped off to Drake Street in search of my bunnies.
Pack Leader didn’t put the Garbage Gift out at night again. One morning I found her looking quizzically at a bottle of our local wine, though. She caught my eye. “Think we’ll keep this stuff,” she said. “Too good to give away.”