“Cerveza!? No!” Winnie hollered at the black and tan streak that darted in front of us and tried to scurry out the front door. “Darn cat,” she said more calmly, scooping up the black and tan feline. “She does that every once in a while. I don’t know if she sees a bird out there or what. Henry, Cerveza; Cerveza, Henry.”
I extend my right forefinger close to Cerveza’s nose but don’t touch her, instead choosing to let the cat initiate any contact. She sniffs my finger, bumps it with her nose and then turns her head to the side and rubs her neck against my digit. “Good evening, Cerveza. Pleasure to meet you,” I say, the irony of Winnie’s last attempt at an introduction not lost on me.
“Here, sweetie,” Winnie coos to the cat, “Mama’s got to hang up her coat,” she adds, stroking Cerveza four times before setting her down and walking to the small coat closet that is directly in front of us. Cerveza circles between our legs, meowing mightily, and as Winnie stows her coat in the closet she says, “What’s the matter, baby? Out of water? I’ll be right with you, sweetie.
“Well,” she continues, “I promised you a tour; guess we’ll start with the breezeway. Come on,” she says nodding her head to the left.
In the living room, Winnie kicks her shoes off, flinging them toward the front door, and sets her purse down on an end table next to a love seat. “You can leave your jacket there if you’d like,” she says, patting the furniture’s arm. I do as I’m bidden and we make our way through the kitchen to the former screened in porch, which we enter by taking a single step downward. I’m certain the room has been captured as living space by adding sliding glass doors on the front and rear sides of the house. It has a strong smell of cat and I sneeze. “Bless you!” chimes Winnie, smiling at me as she checks Cerveza’s food and water. “You are out of water, aren’t you? Sorry, little pussycat. Give me a minute.”
There is an open exterior door that can be closed to shut the breeze way off from the kitchen. The top of the door has a large pane glass window and the bottom a small cat door. The presence of the open door convinces me that Cerveza’s room was once either just under roof or at best a screened in porch. I wonder if Winnie added the sliding doors to the space or if someone else created the three-season room. As Winnie steps back into the main house to attend Cerveza’s needs and desires I look around the tiny room.
The breezeway is dominated by a television and a comfortable looking L-shaped sectional couch. The cat’s food and water sit in one corner while a litter box and scratching post predominate another. The sliding doors in the front are hidden behind closed curtains but the ones in back reveal a narrow deck and a good sized, if unkempt, back yard. I walk to the rear doors and see that the deck is much larger to my left; to the right is a stairway that leads down to the yard.
“Well, that ought to hold her,” Winnie announces. Cerveza is crunching on some food in a corner of the room. “Poor, baby. I wonder how long she’s been out of water.
“So, this is the breezeway. When it’s nice out we can open up these sliders on both sides of the house and get a lovely cross breeze. Come on,” she added, tilting her head back up the step that leads to the kitchen, “let me show you my digs.”
“Her digs,” in addition to the TV room, include a kitchen, a front living room, a dining room, a full bath, two small bedrooms along the back of the house and a master bedroom in front. None of the rooms are large, all show signs of age but, cat litter smell aside, the house is neat and tidy. Winnie’s bedroom is overly full and I make the assumption that her room contains the suite of furniture that she once shared with Davey. She’s made the smaller of the two back bedrooms into a home office and bookshelves line three walls. The third bedroom looks more like a guest room than one that her daughter lives in and when I ask if April is a neat freak Winnie says, “Hardly. She prefers to sleep in the basement. I’ve got my floor and she’s got hers. I’d take you down there but it’s a mess. Let me show you the deck!” she adds excitedly.
We step out onto the deck and I casually slip my arm around Winnie’s waist. The deck is expansive but dated. The red stain is reminiscent of the eighties and the seat benches that line the railing would doubtlessly fail a modern code inspection; too great a risk of a child standing up and then toppling over the side. It’s also quaint and nicely accoutered with a new looking outdoor cushion less couch, a table and chair set, complete with closed sun canopy, and a glorious looking fire pit. “You have a fire pit!” I exclaim.
“We do! Isn’t it great? I know the house isn’t much but I love our backyard.”
The backyard slopes away from the house dramatically but levels off at the bottom. A large black oak dominates the left corner of the yard and neighbors have provided mismatched privacy fences on two of the yard’s sides, while a low, chain-link fence separates the neighbor’s lawn on the left from Winnie’s. The yard could use some sprucing and the tree some trimming but it appears a lovely urban retreat. “Wow! I’ll say. Great is just the word. Very nice!”
“Thank you. The backyard is really what sold us on the house. Do you have time to sit a while? There are cushions for the couch in that box next to the firewood.”
“That sounds great. Do you mind if I start a fire?” I thought about adding that storing firewood on the deck was like asking termites to move in but decided to wait for an opportune moment. We had surged back and forth between delight and discord enough for one night and I didn’t want to damp down the ambiance we were creating.
“Mind? I’d love it! Everything you need to build a fire is in with the cushions. Would you like something to drink? Beer? Wine? I don’t think I have anything stronger.”
“Whatever you’re having would be great. Thanks.”
Winnie turns to me, reaches up on her tiptoes and kisses me. “Be right back,” she says and heads into the house.