Carl’s Places: A Map, by Katie Vautour

September 2023

Each morning, Carl pokes his fluffy grey head through the rails of the staircase for a quick scratch before bounding downstairs for an always-exciting breakfast of both wet and dry food. After finishing that, he leaps onto the wooden shoe rack – now dubbed his “launchpad” – beside the front door. Either Mike or myself opens it, and Carl leaps outdoors to begin his day. Unless there’s a downpour, a blizzard, or howling winds, that is. If any of those happen to be the case, Carl sighs and curls up into a corner of the couch (usually stealing Mike’s spot) and takes a nap until the weather improves.
Outside, Carl’s first daily post-breakfast stop is always his visit to his friend Spencer, the bulldog who lives across the street. Carl’s arrival is announced by Spencer spinning in circles with a frenzy of barks, and both himself and Carl receive a surplus of snacks and treats. Carl is often a guest in Spencer’s home, and while Spencer has been rumoured to have gained a few pounds thanks to Carl’s association, Carl maintains an active lifestyle, and has a tendency to walk off his calories.

Carl normally checks in at home every so often, but one particular time we hadn’t seen him all day, and he failed to appear after Mike called out for him, which was unusual. Carl was nowhere to be found. So Mike and I went for a walk around the block to investigate the cat’s whereabouts, but we didn’t have far to go until we heard some desperate mewling and scratching emanating from a house several doors down; our neighbour Gary, who mostly lives out of town now, but pops by occasionally, had stopped by that day to check in on the place. At some point when the door was open, Carl had strolled in for a casual look around, and ended up locked inside. Fortunately, I happen to have Gary’s spare key, so we didn’t need to resort to busting down the door or smashing open the front window to rescue Carl.
Then, of course, is Carl’s relationship (or lack thereof) with Meow-meow, the rather nomadic neighbourhood feline. Having no special affinity to any particular person, Meow-meow has changed homes several times of his own accord. For the longest time, Carl tried desperately to befriend the tabby cat by following him around on his daily prowls, but Meow-meow remained indifferent to Carl’s attempts at friendship. So some time ago, Carl reluctantly gave up, and resigned himself to watching the aloof tomcat pass him by.
However, Carl often visits Roxy, who happens to be the current owner of Meow-meow. Roxy basically treats Carl to a day at the spa; she takes the time to give Carl a thorough, luxurious brush, while Carl eats Meow-meow’s food.
Close by Roxy are the two girls on Bond Street, who, when younger, would knock on the door and ask if Carl could come out and play. Poor Carl would gaze at Mike with big, sad eyes, pleading not to be handed over, even as the girls collected him in their arms. Then he was carried away around the corner, where he was destined to be coddled and dressed up like a baby.
Every day, Carl strolls along King’s Road. He is friends with the nice new couple there whose names we don’t know, but who keep treats for Carl. Carl knows that Joan is home if she is watching CNN, and that she too will offer him a snack. Then comes one of Carl’s favourite people: Bert, who carries around a mason jar full of cat treats. Carl and Bert often spend the afternoon hanging out on NIFCO‘s step together, though Carl tends to spend particularly warm days snoozing on his concrete block in the shade next to the house.
Carl often accompanies me to Food for Thought, where they keep a canister of catnip on hand especially for him. I frequently leave there with my spanakopita while Carl remains rolling around on the floor in a catnip-induced stupor.
“Carl! Want to go to Halliday’s?”
Upon hearing the word “Halliday’s,” Carl jumps up from wherever he may be, alert and ready for action. He trots along at Mike’s heels, and waits patiently on the step of the store while Mike buys his Dominion Ale.
Then of course, are our daily evening walks around the block with Carl. During these, Carl has made one thing clear: he is not impressed with indoor cats. He ignores them, passing by them with disdain, scoffing, almost: As if you can even call yourself a cat.
At the end of every walk, Carl bounds up Gary’s steps – the other Gary, at the other end of the street – to dig his claws into the rough doormat. Then he pokes his head between the rails for a quick scratch on the head.
So if you’re ever around King’s Road and see a fluffy grey cat sitting on a step, or lounging in the gutter in the shade of a parked car, with his head perched on the curb, do say hello to Carl. He would be pleased to meet you.

Katie Vautour is a visual artists and poet whose publications include An Unorthodox Guide to Wildlife (Breakwater Books).

Neighbourhood Map Key:

  1. Carl’s Home/Breakfast
  2. Spencer the Bulldog
  3. Gary’s House
  4. 4, Roxy and Meow-meow’s Place
  5. Little Girls
  6. The Nice Couple Whose Names We Don’t Know
  7. Joan’s House
  8. Bert’s House
  9. NIFCO Steps
  10. Concrete Block
  11. Food for Thought
  12. The Other Gary’s Steps
  13. Halliday’s Meat Market

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