One of the locals whom I grew to love during my time in Provence was a cat. A mangy little black and white thing called Domino, who became the fourth strong female presence of the house I was staying in.
Domino had belonged to an old man in the village who’d recently passed away, his house now empty, with a for sale sign on it. Shannon spoke of it as the bane of her existence, but I heard her each morning. Footsteps down the stairs, keys opening the door to the Bistrot. Domino meowing. “Yes, yes, I know,” she’d say. And then the rummaging through the closet for the cat food. The funny thing about Domino was she would only eat one type of cat food. She’d meow and cry and carry on each morning until she was fed, if Shannon was out of her cat food and tried anything else, she’d refuse it and carry on with her meowing and complaining, driving Shannon insane. Topped with the ladies of the village stopping in with concern to ask what was wrong with le chat as they passed by on the morning pilgrimage to the boulangerie for a baguette.
I didn’t believe Shannon at first, and on one of my trips to Le Marché in Apt I threw a few packets of cat treats in my basket. Thinking I’d make fast friends with Domino. The damn thing looked at it as though I’d poisoned her. Wouldn’t eat a morsel. Wouldn’t even taste it. I wanted to be irritated but it made me smile. She obviously wasn’t familiar with the common expression, beggars can’t be choosy.
As Domino continued to settle in and claim the patio of the Bistrot as her new home, locals in the village left little envelopes of cash in Shannon’s mailbox to help buy food for her. There was talk of building her a little cathouse so she’d have shelter come the cooler winter months.
I had a deep respect for Domino. Each time I passed her on each of my many walks, eating her morning meal, or curled up on a patron’s lap, or sitting on her own chair, on one of the clean cushions which drove Shannon mental, I couldn’t help but smile and wonder at the instincts of animals. She could have chosen any house in the village, any other hand to feed her. But here she was. And so was I.