Charlie’s Room: Herding Cats

The house was too quiet. Charlie and Marianne were at swim practice, and Isaac had the house to himself. He was trying to read, but turning the pages sounded unnaturally loud in the empty house. It was starting to feel a little creepy, as though the house was watching and waiting for something to happen.

And so Isaac left the house to whatever it was waiting for and went on a walk. He had to step back in for a moment for a coat. The air was just a little too chilly to be out for long without one.

He zipped up his coat as a breeze started to blow, scattering the dead leaves on the sidewalk. They chittered as they swirled around, looking and sounding like a plant kingdom parody of squirrels. On the trees, the green leaves were turning red and gold, the colors as much Christmas as fall.

That was when the first cat passed. Isaac didn’t really notice. His attention was on the leaves and looking in his pockets for his gloves. It was probably gray with stripes, but it may have been white with black spots.

He noticed the second one because it was so large and orange that it was hard to miss. It ran through the gutter, scattering the leaves left there in waves to either side of its path. And then the third and fourth cats came, two small black cats chasing each other in zig-zags down the sidewalk and narrowly missing Isaac as they ran.

After that, it was hard to keep track. A stream of cats flooded the street and overflowed onto the sidewalk on either side. They came pouring around the corner and just kept coming and coming and coming.

Isaac looked around. There wasn’t any catnip or fish or cardboard boxes leading the cats down the street. Were they running away from something?

What would the cats run from? And where did they all come from? Were they evacuating some super secret cat base that was set to self-destruct? Should he be running too?

And then he heard it. Off in the distance a voice was singing. Well, not singing exactly. This was music on a higher level. The voice was yodeling.

“Heeeere kitty-itty hee itty-hi del laaaaaaaaay

Ittty-itty ha del lee del laaaaaaay

Heeeeere kitty-itty Theeeeere kitty-itty

Itty-itty ha del lee del laaaaaaay”

Isaac relaxed. There was no imminent catastrophe that the cats were all fleeing. Obviously they were being herded. It made sense that it would take a superior herding method to herd cats.

He retraced his steps and stood on his lawn to watch the cats pass. There were so many different colors and patterns and sizes of cats. At one point, he even saw a bobcat pass by. Isaac hoped the bobcat came from outside the neighborhood.

Looking closely, he couldn’t tell whether the rest of the cats were local or just passing through. The few neighborhood cats he could remember looked enough like a dozen of the cats that passed by already that he couldn’t say for sure if he had seen them or not. Hopefully, if they’d decided to join the cat herd, they’d go home when they were done.

And the yodeling grew louder, until finally the yodeling cat-herder himself stepped around the corner, herding the last of the cats in front of him as he went. He was dressed in lederhosen, and wore a brown cap with a feather tucked into the hatband. There was a red bandanna tied around his neck, and he carried a walking stick that he tapped on the ground to the beat as he walked.

Isaac waved as he walked passed. The man briefly took off his cap and nodded as he continued to yodel. Then he, and the cats disappeared around the next bend in the road. Isaac continued on his walk, and the whole time he was sure that he could almost hear the yodeling cat-herder off in the distance.

“Heeeere kitty-itty hee itty-hi del lay hee hooo

Ittty-itty ha del lee del lay hee hooo

Heeeeere kitty-itty Theeeeere kitty-itty

Itty-itty ha del lee del lay hee hooo”