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Dear Arnie: How happy we are this morning to see the little white spot of your head with its black tam. We happen to be looking out the window at the passersby, our weather vane, to see what they are wearing before venturing out. There you are, poking your nose

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Thu 11 Jan 2007 1:00 AM

Dear Arnie:

How happy we are this morning to see the little white spot of your head with its black tam. We happen to be looking out the window at the passersby, our weather vane, to see what they are wearing before venturing out. There you are, poking your nose out from your hole in the yellow stone pillar of the Grazie Bridge, looking intently at the rushing brown river water just below you. Joy!

 

You were gone for a long time Arnie. Where did you go? We worried ourselves sick when the story came out in The Florentine newspaper that hundreds of cats in the city had been poisoned by some lunatic. We tried not to include you in our thoughts of the massacre, but as the days and weeks passed by, we resigned ourselves to it, and wondered what to do. Leave Florence? The muskrats were gone too. A friend said not to worry, they had moved down river but we checked there, too, but no sign of them or you. Is your friend back now too, the man who came every day to carefully wad up little balls of wet cat food and drop them over the side so that they landed perfectly on your little ledge of a terrace beside the river?

 

When we first saw you many months ago, we couldn’t imagine how you’d arrived at your hole. Did you swim? Did someone throw you over the side? At a moment when the water was low in the river, did you walk there and get caught when it came back up?

 

How silly we were to try and rescue you with a laundry basket tied with meters of telephone wire and lowered over the side of the bridge. We filled it with dry cat food to entice you in. Everyone knows that cats who get a taste of wet food never turn back. You popped back in your hole at the sight of the giant basket and raining food pellets and didn’t show the slightest sign of curiosity as it sat teetering on the ledge next to the calm water below you. American girls on the bridge thought it was so funny and had their picture taken ‘next to the rescue.’ When we called the fire department for help, they described you perfectly, informing us ‘he lives there.’ Up the basket came. We slunk home to position ourselves at our window with binoculars and wait for your return.

 

Back you came, again and again, all spring and summer. Along our daily journeys, we included a stop at the corner of the bridge to look down and say hello. We told visiting family and friends what we knew of your story. We wrote episodes of your life in our heads. Then, one day the muskrats were gone, and you too. The story of the killings appeared in the paper. We were devastated. We couldn’t stop looking for you, hope fading with the onset of winter rains. We asked whoever would listen if they’d seen you, but to no avail. Crossing a bridge down river a few days ago, we looked at the water out of habit. We saw that one of the muskrats was back. Celebrating, we rushed home to have a look for you, but we were disappointed.

 

And then this morning! Were you off visiting a girlfriend over at the Uffizi the last few months? Did you move down river for a last chance to sun at the rowing club? Did Fagioli Restaurant keep you occupied with bistecca bones in the back alley nearby? Were you posing for ceramic cat portraits at San Lorenzo? Do you and the muskrats holiday together? We imagine luxury for you despite the precariousness of your home over the rushing water. You choose your hole with a view. Why not? We have ours up high in the palazzo across from you.

 

With affection,

Your neighbors

on Lungarno Torrigiani,

Kate McBride

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