Alva's little ritual
Alva began every morning with a little ritual.
Standing at the back door of her restaurant, she held an over-sized stainless steel bowl the cook used for mixing biscuit dough. He made biscuits by the double dozen starting at four every morning until the last ones had been sold, usually around ten. “Come on, little ones,” she called and made a small chirping sound by pursing her lips together and pulling in. The bowl was filled with scrap food from the day before. “Come on, you little ole fur balls.” She placed the bowl on the concrete block outside the door. The cats came running from behind trash cans, under the green dumpster, and atop a pile of old boards left the year before by a construction crew. A small black cat with white paws jumped from one of the fences that separated back yards like lined-up dominoes all the way down the alley. Eight cats crowded around the bowl, nudging one another out and moving in from another position until they all finally settled into a mass of hunched shoulders and twitching tails.
Alva stood up, hands on her ample hips. She smiled. “Now ain’t that goo-ood?” she said to the cats. “You be fat and sassy right soon.” Some of the cats were already fat from eating a steady supply of food every night at closing and every morning when Alva’s Café opened for business.
“Raoul,” Alva called turning toward the inside of restaurant, “come looka here at these kitties.”
Raoul came to the door, wiping his hands on a white apron neatly tied around his middle. He was a powerfully built man with muscles that middle age had not softened. “Humph,” he said. “Them cats is overfed, you ask me.”
“I ain’t asking you.” Alva clapped him one on the upper arm.
“Whatchoo gonna do when them has more babies? You just increasin’ the problem.”
“I already called the lady at the Hew-mane. She’s comin’ tomorrow to take them and get them fixed and find them homes. I tole her any of them as she gots left, she can bring on home to me.” Alva squeezed past Raoul. He ran his palm back and forth over his half-bald head.
He stood there a few more minutes. One of the younger cats came up and rubbed his leg. “Thass a good kitty cat,” he mumbled and leaned down and stroked its orange fur. Then he looked up and caught Alva watching him. They both started to laugh.
“You ole thang,” Alva crooned.