Two or three times a week, my neighbor stands in his back yard (back to back with my back yard) and calls my name. Over and over. Ordinarily I can’t see him because of the wood fence and overgrown foliage (on his side) dividing our lots, but sometimes he climbs onto the roof of a shed he built overlooking my yard as he yells (in his bathrobe), “KAY-Cee. Miss KAY-Cee.”

My neighbor keeps cats. When asked once how many he has, he said “three,” complete with gesticulated scare quotes, because three is the limit under some local ordinance. Actually, “keeps” and “has” overstate the degree of control he exercises over the local herd of cats. He names them and, apparently, feeds them, but he leaves them to fend for themselves for months at a time while he completes computer consulting projects out of town. Cats being cats, the herd tends to disperse during his absence, so my neighbor’s return is always announced by his efforts to round up the missing. Miss KC, evidently, has been awol for quite some time.

Unless he really is calling me. We used to converse with some regularity as I worked in my back yard and he stood in his bathrobe watching me and offering suggestions. That was before the wood fence went up and after the stone wall came down in the 1994 Northridge earthquake. I met my neighbor the morning of the earthquake when I found the garden wall collapsed and him standing on his side of the rubble. His first words to me were, “This is your wall”. On and off for a year thereafter he provided running commentary as I labored in my garden, plainly of the opinion that a gardener would do a much better job. Finally the new fence reached the top of the to-do list.

How do I know he is not calling me? I don’t know for a fact that he has a cat named Miss KC. Has he forgotten my name? Why would he give it to a cat? Why don’t I answer?

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