The Death of Goldman Sachs

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A couple of weeks ago Cindy was woken in the wee hours by sounds of
animals fighting in our garden. As she investigated, she saw two coyotes run
off, leaving our cat’s body behind. A state of nature is a state of
violence, and our feline predator was quickly turned into prey. Yet our garden has
high fences all around, making it an unlikely spot for coyotes to explore.
So is there more to that night than a simple act of nature?

But first let me say more about cats. I’ve never been a pet owner, didn’t
have anything as a child, and never felt the urge as I grew. I can put it
down to the frequent travel that came with my job in pre-covid times, but
it’s probably due to me being too selfish to look after an animal. Cindy,
however, came complete with cats, and for several years I knew I could never
rise above #2 in her affections.

In time my rival died, and we were catless. Cindy seemed happy with the
state of affairs, then her brother told her about two kittens that turned up at
his house in Vermont. We took them on, although these wildlings never showed much sign
of domestication. They turned up for their food, and promptly left with nary
an opportunity for a stroke. They didn’t last long, one caught a car on a
busy road, the other just disappeared.

It seemed that such surly animals had put us off cat-keeping, then we
were told of an old lady who had to go into nursing home, and needed someone
to take care of her cat. Her old name was something boring, and being a cat she never
deigned to recognize it. Since she was the fattest cat we’d ever seen (some nineteen
pounds) we naturally re-christened her “Goldman Sachs”, or “Goldie” to her
friends.

Can you see how she got her name?

She was more friendly, at least to Cindy,
probably because she fed her. Goldie had a habit of over-eating and then
throwing up, so Cindy used a timed bowl to feed her small amounts several
times a day. Goldie would sit impatiently watching for the bowl to rotate.
But our portion control worked, and she got down to a much more respectable
weight after a couple of years.

In her previous life, she’d stayed in her keeper’s apartment, but our
house isn’t set up for an indoor cat, so she soon learned to roam outside.
Unlike the wildlings, she didn’t go far, sticking mostly to our garden and
those of our neighbors. When we did a major house renovation she got a
cat-door built into the wall, with a granite step to ease her travels. She
soon learned that outdoors was a great source of toys, which she could bring
into the house and play with, although their batteries soon ran out and
she would leave them for the staff to clean up.

Cindy designed our garden as a woodland, not for her are the lawns that
dominate so much of American suburbia. Several trees have grown tall since
we moved in, and we enjoy seeing the birds among the leaves. Since we live
in a thickly settled suburb, we don’t get many exotic birds – although I
would hardly be a judge of that. But two favorite birds we did get regularly
were a pair of cardinals. Mr Cardinal, in particular, was one I liked as we
don’t have such a striking red bird where I grew up. Cardinals are a loyal
pair of mates, so the two were always together, just a few branches away.
It’s wrong to anthropomorphize wild animals, but we couldn’t help being
happy at the sight of a loving couple.

The last two paragraphs should suggest the tragedy. One evening Goldie
sauntered into the house, a lifeless Mrs Cardinal in her mouth. The next day
we were now sad to see Mr Cardinal, chirping futilely for his beloved.

We weren’t the only ones to see Mr Cardinal searching for
his now lost mate. The chipmunks had lost many of their kin to Goldie, and
they sadly told Mr Cardinal of his mate’s fate.
But while the chipmunks had become accustomed to their frequent loss,
Mr Cardinal was made of sterner
stuff. He had loved Mrs Cardinal for many years, and enjoyed dancing with
her among the trees too much to let this stand.

Almost certainly not Mr Cardinal,
as I shot this in South Carolina, but to this human all cardinals look the same.

But how does a cardinal carry out revenge on a cat? He could turn Goldie
into a beetle and then eat her, but he knew neither the spells nor any
friendly wizards in our quiet suburb. He could run her over with a car, but
he wasn’t tall enough to reach the pedals. However one thing he did have was his
airborne knowledge of the neighborhood. He’d noticed a young couple of
coyotes setting up a starter den in the nearby woodlands, perhaps he could
lead them towards a fresh feline breakfast?

There aren’t many humans awake at summer’s dawn in the suburbs, but the
coyotes were still wary of the two-legged infestation on the land. But Mr
Cardinal is as persuasive as he is red, and demonstrated his usefulness by
leading them to some closer dining opportunities. He wasn’t too happy with
his role as a canine yelp, as he prefers to steer clear of nature’s violence on
the ground. But when his doubts rose, he remembered Mrs Cardinal harmonizing on
the sweetgum tree, and reaffirmed his resolve. Soon he was able to persuade
the coyote couple to partake of that very specific cat.

To cement his plan, however, Mr Cardinal needed more help on the ground,
someone to lead the coyotes to the right route into the garden. It required
all his diplomatic skills to persuade the chipmunks to take part in the
plan. The chipmunks were, of course, delighted at the prospect of Goldie
becoming a dish rather than the diner. They were less keen on the chosen
means of their deliverance. After all, the coyotes were just as likely to treat
one of them as an appetizer. There was a tense and heartfelt discussion in
the burrow network, as the rodents weighed the choice between fear and fear.
In the end they decided to go with Mr Cardinal’s plan, reasoning that even
if one of them ended in a coyote’s belly, the coyotes weren’t the
ever-present danger that was Goldie’s toy habit.

So came the fateful morning. Goldie walked up to her private enterence,
her staff still asleep, and a couple of hours to go before the rotation of
the feeding bowl. She pushed the flap and slipped into the dawn, enjoying an
early morning prowl before facing the difficult decision of which chair to
snooze in for the next few hours. Maybe she started to think about her
staff’s breakfast and whether their offering of the empty yogurt bowl would
be worthy enough of her tongue. She probably fancied a good scratch on the
oak tree at the bottom of the garden. But as she prowled, the message got
out through the woods, and the coyotes made their approach through the gap
in the fence that the staff hadn’t yet fixed. The resulting fight was short
but noisy enough call the humans, so the coyote couple had to flee before
they even had chance to pull out some coffee to go with their warm breakfast.

The coyotes returned the following night, but left only footprints to
mark the reappearance. They searched for Goldie’s body in vain, as she was
now lying in state in her residence. True to their word, they didn’t grab
any chipmunks as a consolation prize. Mr Cardinal expressed his
disappointment, but privately felt it was the coyotes’ fault for a sloppy
hit job. Not that he minded, as his wife’s killer was now ready for a
burial, although one that was more decorous than how his wife was laid to
rest. We marked Goldie’s grave with a stone generously painted by our
neighbors’ children, who would cat sit while we were away from home.

The chipmunks were very happy with how things turned out, and the
following night they held a raucous celebration, but not loud enough to wake
the humans. That might have been different had they been able to follow
their wishes to let off fireworks, but fireworks are illegal in
Massachusetts. We still see Mr Cardinal in the trees, and we hope he finds a
new mate.




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