On September seventh, a month after Naomi died, Jean stands in the doorway of the cottage that was Naomi’s and is now Eliana’s.
“Oh it’s fabulous,” says Jean, watching Eliana and Eliana’s father Zeke put the finishing touches on the new interior paint job – the walls a white tinged faintly with pink, the trim pale turquoise.
Eliana in old jeans and a paint-stained T-shirt, her long brown hair in a bun, comes to stand next to Jean and survey the room.
“We’ll leave the windows open on these warm days,” says Eliana, thrilled with her new digs, “and in a few days the last of the paint fumes should be gone. Then I’ll move in. Can you believe it?”
“I can,” says Jean, putting her arm around Eliana. “Mum would be thrilled.”
“I’m keeping the beautiful tables and bookshelves Ezra made,” says Eliana, searching the walls and trim for imperfections and finding none. “And my generous parents are buying me a spectacular sofa and matching armchair and a queen-sized bed.” She looks at her father on a ladder painting the wall above the kitchen sink. “Thank you, Papa.”
“You’re welcome,” says Zeke, doing his best to conceal his sorrow about Eliana leaving home, though she’s only moving a few miles away. “Your mother loves buying furniture.”
“Oh and I’m getting the most exquisite rug,” says Eliana, giving Jean a look of amazement. “Made by a Navajo weaver who spins her own yarn from wool from her very own sheep, and she dyes the yarn with her own dyes from plants she gathers in the desert, and she weaves the rugs on a wooden loom her husband made for her. Each rug takes months and months to make. Mine is seven-feet by nine-feet with a turquoise border and beautiful reds and browns.” She gives Jean a worried look. “I might be afraid to walk on it.”
“Oh don’t be,” says Jean, feeling Naomi speaking through her. “A good rug likes nothing better than to be walked on.”
“And guess what?” says Eliana, excitedly. “I’m taking care of Zuzu tomorrow morning for four hours while Jahera and Maahiah and Shafi preside over the scholars.”
“Oh do walk the baby over to William’s house, would you?” says Jean, blushing. “I mean… our house. We’d love to have a visit from you and the holy child.”
When Jean departs, Zeke comes down the ladder and washes his brush in the sink.
“Well I guess that’s that,” he says, looking around the spacious room. “Two coats should suffice. Anything else need doing?”
“I think we’re done for now,” says Eliana, pained by her father’s sorrow. “Want to go to the café? My treat?”
“No,” he says disconsolately. “I need to get home and do some writing.”
At which moment, Healing appears in the doorway holding Zubina on his hip – the baby girl now seven-months-old, a strawberry blonde, and keenly interested in everything and everyone.
“Ahoy,” says Healing, who has recently risen from the depths of mourning his mother. “Maahiah and Jahera are making tea and coffee, Darby and Marjorie have procured a bag of Luisa’s scones from Café Brava, and we’re sprawling on the deck with the dogs. Please come join us.”
“Thanks,” says Zeke, forcing a smile. “But I have to go,”
“Oh come on, Papa,” says Eliana, taking his hand. “Stay a little while. Please?”
Zeke bows his head as if ashamed and murmurs, “Okay.”
“Good man,” says Healing, gazing around the big airy room. “Looks fabulous in here. Seems so much bigger with the walls white. Professionals couldn’t have done it any better than you two.”
Zubina holds out her arms to Eliana and says, “Yana.”
“Did she just say your name?” asks Zeke, amazed. “Or was that just some random sound?”
“That’s what she calls me,” says Eliana, taking Zubina from Healing. “Yana.”
“Yana,” says Zubina, smiling at Eliana.
“What does she call you, Healing?” asks Zeke, having forgotten that Eliana started calling him Eek when she was seven-months-old.
“Howie,” says Healing, making a goofy face at Zubina. “That’s her take on Shafi, and now Oz and Raaz are calling me Howie. And this morning Jahera called me Howie. A most unexpected development. I don’t think it will last, but one never knows.”
Zeke laughs a hearty laugh, his first such laugh in a very long time. “If ever someone was not a Howie,” he says, laughing again, “that someone is you, Healing.”
“So I once thought,” says Healing, laughing, too. “But now I like it, especially when Oz calls me Howie. He puts the emphasis on the How and he sounds like a New Yorker. Tickles me no end.”
When Raaziyah and Ozan get home from Arjun’s house at half past twelve, they sit at the kitchen table with Healing eating carrots and cucumbers and hummus while Zubina sits in her high chair devouring smooshed banana and applesauce from a spoon deftly wielded by Maahiah.
“There is an extremely rare two-point-three minus tide an hour from now,” says Healing, consulting his tide chart. “Which means we will be able to walk on the beach all the way to where Mercy Bay meets the sea, something only possible a few days every decade. A trek of about seven miles round trip from the end of Gulley Road. You twins up for such a long walk on sand? Jahera and Jean and William are coming and we shall bring along dates, cookies, apples, and jugs of water.”
“Of course we can walk that far,” says Raaziyah, exchanging looks with her brother to see if he agrees with her.
“Of course we can,” says Ozan, who isn’t quite sure how far seven miles is.
“Excellent,” says Healing, winking at Maahiah. “I think you can, too.”
“Can Moosh still walk that far?” asks Ozan, knowing Healing worries about Mendelssohn getting tired on long walks.
“He can, but we won’t ask him to come today,” says Healing, touched by Ozan’s concern. “Nor will we take the short-legged dogs or Puccini who has a problematic foot. We will take Coosi, Moshe, Flora, and possibly Zoya. What do you think Maahiah?”
“You might have to carry Zoya the last mile or so,” says Maahiah, wiping the smoosh off Zubina’s face. “I’m sure she’d love to come.”
“No carrying dogs today,” says Healing, getting up from the table. “We’ll take our three dogs and William’s two and leave the rest of the pack to enjoy the sunny backyard.”
“How many more days until Mama comes home from Portland?” asks Raaziyah, sighing. “She loves minus tides.”
“I believe we noted the days of her brief hiatus from movie-making on the Degas calendar,” says Healing, pointing to the calendar affixed to the wall above the table of succulents where the parrot cage used to be. “If you will find the square with the 7, which is today, and count forward from there to the square with your mother’s name writ therein, you will have your answer by subtracting 7 from that number.”
Raaziyah goes to calendar, finds the square with a 7, and counts, “Eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen.” She looks at Ozan. “What’s fourteen minus seven?”
“Well,” says Ozan, frowning thoughtfully, “I know seven plus seven is fourteen, so fourteen minus seven is probably seven.” He looks at Healing. “Right?”
“Brilliant deduction, Oz,” says Healing, getting dates out of the refrigerator for the expedition. “Dazzling.”
Moments before the minus-tide adventurers sally forth, the old landline phone on the kitchen counter rings.
Maahiah shifts Zubina from one hip to the other and picks up the phone.
“Weintraub constellation. This is Maahiah.” She listens for a moment and gives Healing a look to say A new case for you.
“I’ll call them back this evening,” whispers Healing.
“He’s not available right now,” says Maahiah, bouncing Zubina when she starts to fuss. “He will be glad to return your call this evening. I am his aide-de-camp, so to speak. May I tell him more specifically what you’re calling about?” She listens intently. “Oh I see. How difficult for you. How long would you say this has been going on?”
“Come on Shafi,” says Ozan, tugging on Healing’s arm. “The minus tide is going out right now!”
“So true,” says Healing, waving to Maahiah as he follows the children out the door.
The beach at the mouth of the Mercy River is vast even at a modest low tide, but today the tide is so low the breakers are barely visible in the distance – the sky overcast, timelessness holding sway, humans and dogs thrilled by the enormity of the beach.
Yet despite the excitement of seeing a school of dolphins and a pod of whales, and even with a long rest when they get to where Mercy Bay merges with the mighty Pacific, the children are knackered with two miles left to go on the return leg of the journey, which necessitates the grandparents giving their grandchildren piggyback rides.
“Just carry me a little more, Howie,” says Ozan, riding on Healing’s back. “Then my legs will be ready to go again.”
“Me, too,” says Raaziyah, who is riding on Jahera’s back. “Just a little way more.”
“I’m available for schlepping duty,” says William, taking pictures of the children on their grandparents’ backs. “Should who would fardels bear need to be relieved of said fardels.”
Healing laughs at William’s reference to a line from Hamlet and retorts, “To grunt and sweat under a weary life seems to be our fate today, and well worth it.”
“How heavy are these two?” asks Jean, whose days of picking up children who weigh more than twenty pounds are over.
“Last time we weighed them,” says Healing, striding along, “Oz topped the scale at forty-four pounds, Raaz at forty-six, but that was several weeks ago and methinks the numbers have grown swiftly in an upward direction.”
“Okay,” says Jahera, out of breath. “William’s turn to carry you, Raaz.”
“I can walk now, Jadda,” says Raaziyah, getting down.
“Could you carry me a little further, Shafi?” asks Ozan, yawning. “Then I’ll be ready to walk again.”
“I’ll get you to that big log I see looming in the distance,” says Healing, feeling confident he can carry Ozan another quarter-mile. “Then we’ll only be a mile or so from Gulley Road.”
“We’ll stop and rest as many times as we need to,” says Jahera, still breathing hard from carrying Raaziyah.
“And one of those rest stops will be that big log,” says Healing, smiling at Jahera. “Where we will eat the last of the cookies to sustain us for the final leg of our journey.”
A few minutes after supper, too tired for even the beginning of a bedtime story, Ozan and Raaziyah crawl into bed in the guest room where Zubina is snoozing in her crib, and they are fast asleep the moment their heads hit the pillows.
Maahiah settles on the sofa accompanied by Miguelito and two cats, and takes up her knitting – the other dogs resting by the fire. Jahera goes upstairs to her studio to process the hundreds of photos she took today, and Healing adds a log to the fire before getting situated at the kitchen table to call the fellow who called earlier today with a dog and cat conundrum.
“Good evening. This is Healing Weintraub returning Steven Bishop’s call.”
“Oh thanks for calling me back,” says Steven, his voice warm and full of song. “Darla Rosenfeld suggested I call you. I’m another artist who relocated here from Los Angeles in the wake of Susan and Paul Cheshire moving here and opening their gallery. I’ve been here for a year now.”
“Splendid,” says Healing, immediately liking Steven. “What is your art, if you don’t mind my asking?”
“I’m a potter,” says Steven, simply. “Bowls and vases and plates and mugs, and fanciful teapots, too.”
“Wonderful. And what seems to be the difficulty with your dog and cat?”
“Well,” says Steven, hesitating to begin, “my dog Tom is three-years-old, a mix of Golden Lab and possibly Mastiff and who knows what else. He’s ninety pounds, light brown, shorthaired, very friendly, and… well the thing is there’s nothing physically wrong with him, it’s just that since I got my cat Jerry, Tom has changed. He’s much less affectionate now and… it’s hard to explain, but… for instance, he used to love sitting on the sofa with me and now he won’t.”
“Does Jerry sit on the sofa with you?” asks Healing, writing at the top of the page Tom the dog, Jerry the cat.
“She does. But she and Tom like each other. They get along fine.”
“Aside from no longer sitting on the sofa with you, how is Tom less affectionate?”
“Well he used to come to me for pets, and now he doesn’t. He still loves it when I pet him, but he no longer asks to be petted.”
“And you attribute this change to the coming of Jerry,” says Healing, writing First came Tom, then came Jerry.
“Well that’s when Tom changed, so…”
“Did you get Jerry when she was a kitten?”
“Yes. Two years ago.”
“So Tom was one when you got Jerry.”
“Are you free tomorrow afternoon?” asks Healing, who has home school duty tomorrow morning.
“Yeah, I’m here all day,” says Steven, eagerly. “I’m exactly three miles up Baskerville Road. One-one-seven-nine-four. On the left side of the road.”
“Oh. You bought Dino Andrini’s place,” says Healing, writing Good old Dino.
“Yes,” says Steven, surprised. “Did you know Dino?”
“Everyone who has lived in Mercy for more than ten years knew Dino,” says Healing, laughing. “We all bought fish from him right off his boat. I’ll tell you more about him when I see you tomorrow. Shall we say twoish? And might I bring my wife and grandkids? I’m sure they’d love to see your pottery studio.”
“Great. A reason to tame the chaos.”
“Oh please don’t go to any trouble. We enjoy chaos.”
“Not this much chaos,” says Steven, laughing. “Trust me.”
The next morning after breakfast, two leaves are added to the kitchen table to allow for five students and three teachers to each have a place at the table – Raaziyah, Ozan, Esther, Arjun, Jahera, Maahiah, Healing, and the new student Georgia Fidelio who is six-years-old and Italian.
“Today,” says Healing, smiling around at everyone, “we will begin with our usual round-table discussion. Arjun. Would you please start things off for us today?”
“When we were walking here this morning,” says Arjun with his slight Hindi accent, his black hair recently cut quite short, “four wild turkeys crossed the road in front of us and Darvin said this was a good omen. Then Esther asked what an omen is and Darvin said an omen tells us something is going to happen. But he didn’t know why four wild turkeys meant something good would happen.”
“What if there were only three wild turkeys?” asks Raaziyah, looking at Healing. “Would that be a good omen, too?”
“Probably,” says Healing, nodding. “A matter of magnitude I would imagine.”
“Would seven be even better than four?” asks Esther, wrinkling her nose.
“Seven is my favorite number,” says Jahera, smiling at Esther. “So it would certainly be better for me.”
“What’s so good about wild turkeys?” asks Ozan, pursing his lips. “Mama says they eat ticks, which is good, but we don’t want them in the vegetable garden or they’ll eat everything.”
“When cooked properly,” says Healing, who knows firsthand of what he speaks, “Wild Turkey meat is delicious, and one adult wild turkey will provide enough meat for thirty people, which is why I think they are considered a good omen. They represent abundance.”
“I would like to see a wild turkey,” says Georgia, with her charming Italian accent. “Maybe we can go outside and look for one now.”
“That’s a wonderful suggestion for a field trip,” says Jahera, nodding to Georgia. “This morning, however, we are going to work on writing the letters of the alphabet. Then we’ll have a snack and recess, and then we will walk to the library to return our books and check out new ones.”
“We might see some wild turkeys on our way to the library,” says Raaziyah, who finds Georgia enchanting.
“Sometimes we see them in the ravine,” says Ozan, who is considering marrying Georgia when they’re both a little older. “We can go look during recess.”
“But first,” says Jahera, handing around big squares of butcher paper, “we are going to practice writing the letters of the alphabet.”
“I’m already pretty good at this,” says Ozan, confiding in Georgia.
“So am I,” says Raaziyah, drawing a capitol A at the top of her page. “See? Now watch me draw the little one.”
“I know how to make letters,” says Georgia, nodding confidently. “But it’s good to keep practicing.”
When Arjun, Esther, and Georgia depart at noon, the collective has lunch on the deck and Eliana recounts the many things she did with Zubina this morning.
“The high point of ZuZu’s day so far,” says Eliana, smiling at the baby girl sitting on Jahera’s lap, “was when ZuZu slapped the water in William’s pond and the sound made Harpo bark. Zuzu gave him a startled look and slapped the water again, and Harpo barked again, and Zuzu laughed and slapped the water again. And she’d be slapping the water still if we’d let her. Wouldn’t you Zuzu?”
Zubina beams at Eliana and says, “Yana.”
“Irrefutable proof of the child’s sophisticated sense of humor,” says Healing, arching his eyebrow.
“After lunch,” says Jahera, passing Zubina to Healing, “Raaz and Oz and Shafi and I are going to visit the new potter in our midst. Steven Bishop. He bought Dino Andrini’s place a mile past your folks’ house on Baskerville Road, should you care to join us, Eliana. Shafi is looking into his dog and cat situation.”
“I’ve met him,” says Eliana, arching an eyebrow. “My mother had the listing. He’s very handsome and charming and single, and he’s forty-eight, which is just the right age for Tova. I’d love to come. And on the way back we can stop at my folks’ place and pick some early apples.”
So Healing, Jahera, Eliana, Ozan, and Raaziyah pile into Jahera’s electric car, the kids secure in their car seats, and Jahera pilots her car up the curves through the redwoods and onto a straightaway transecting a large swath of meadowland surrounded by some of the wildest forests remaining in California.
The entrance to Steven’s property is no longer distinguished by a giant old boat anchor as it was when Dino owned the place, the anchor replaced by a fanciful mobile hanging from the branch of a tan oak, the mobile composed of several green, blue, red, and gold ceramic stars.
Lining the driveway leading to the farmhouse are newly planted apple trees where once languished derelict fishing boats Dino collected over his forty years here, and gone, too, are the several tiny houses built by Dino’s daughters Felicia, Nora, Maru, and Emma – Felicia now an architect in Denmark, Nora a yoga instructor in Liverpool, Maru and Emma carpenters in Bellingham, Washington where Dino now lives – each of Dino’s daughters born to a different mother.
The big farmhouse, formerly dingy gray has been recently painted a light adobe brown with red trim, the rotting front porch replaced by a big deck. The barn wherein Dino’s daughters kept their four horses has been converted into Steven’s pottery studio. Adjacent to the barn is the large greenhouse in which Dino grew marijuana, the previously filthy glass now sparkling clean and revealing several lemon and orange trees thriving in big tubs.
Jahera parks next to a small electric pickup truck and everyone climbs out as Steven emerges from the barn with his big dog Tom – Steven, as Eliana forewarned, very handsome with short brown hair and glasses, his potting outfit an old red T-shirt and loose-fitting trousers.
Tom, a large happy hound, hurries to Healing for pets before turning his attention to Ozan and Raaziyah, both of whom he knocks over in his zeal to befriend them.
“Sorry about that,” says Steven, speaking to the children as they junp up and try to hug the excited dog who knocks them over again. “He doesn’t know his own strength.”
“Our dog Moshe knocks us over, too, when he’s excited” says Raaziyah, getting up again and hugging Tom. “He’s way bigger than your dog.”
“Can we see in the barn?” asks Ozan, looking at Steven. “Shafi says you make bowls on a wheel.”
“Yes, I do,” says Steven, shaking hands with Jahera and Healing and Eliana. “My son and I spent all morning making order out of the chaos.”
“His son being moi,” says an effeminate young man appearing in the wide entrance to the barn, his curly brown hair falling to his shoulders, his accent mildly French, his attire a billowy white blouse, purple tights, and black rubber boots. “Marcel.” He bows grandiloquently. “Visiting from Montreal. Who are all of you?”
“I’m Oz,” says Ozan, approaching Marcel and shaking his hand. “Short for Ozan. It means poet in Arabic.”
“I’m Raaz,” says Raaziyah, coming to shake Marcel’s hand, too. “Short for Raaziyah. It means a joyful gift from God.” She frowns. “Some people don’t believe in God. But I do.”
“So do I,” says Ozan, nodding in agreement. “Only God might not be a person. He might be all the stars and everything.”
“I didn’t believe in God until I met you,” says Marcel, gazing in wonder at them. “And now I do.”
“I’m Jahera,” says Jahera, shaking Marcel’s hand. “Oz and Raaz’s grandmother.”
“I’m Healing, their grandfather,” says Healing, bowing to Marcel. “Though this mob calls me Shafi, which means healer in Arabic, and recently they’ve taken to calling me Howie. I will answer to all three.”
“I’m Eliana,” says Eliana, also bowing to Marcel. “I live with them and play music with Shafi. In Hebrew Eliana means God has answered, though my Catholic Mexican mother didn’t know that when she named me. She just liked how it sounded.”
“So do I,” says Marcel, clearly smitten with Eliana. “Like a song.”
“Come see the studio,” says Steven, ushering everyone into the vast room where he has four potter’s wheels and several big tables upon which are bowls and vases and teapots in various stages of completion, along with seven kilns: three small, three medium, one enormous.
“What instrument do you play?” asks Marcel, hovering near Eliana. “Don’t tell me.” He closes his eyes. “You play the violin like Paganini, you sing like an angel, and you play…” He opens his eyes. “The accordion.”
“How could you possibly know that?” asks Eliana, squinting suspiciously at him.
Marcel smiles sheepishly. “We were having dinner at the East Cove Hotel on Sunday and you and Shafi were playing for a wedding party in the banquet room. You were brilliant. I couldn’t take my eyes off you.”
“You’re a cad,” says Eliana, blushing. “Are you a musician?”
“I am,” says Marcel, smiling alluringly. “Can you guess my instrument?”
Eliana closes her eyes and says, “Clarinet.”
Marcel’s jaw drops. “How did you know that?” He turns to Steven. “Did you tell them, Father?”
“I told them nothing about you,” says Steven, as amazed as Marcel. “I didn’t even tell them you were here.”
“How did you know?” asks Marcel, impulsively taking Eliana’s hand.
“I’m a witch,” she says, haughtily. “Your mind is an open book to me. But fear not. I’m a good witch and won’t hurt you.”
“Can you show us how to make a bowl?” asks Ozan, gazing intently at Steven. “Please?”
“I thought you might ask,” says Steven, nodding to Ozan. “So I readied a few balls of clay to give you a demonstration, after which I’ll help you and your sister make bowls.”
“Are you a potter too, Marcel?” asks Jahera, delighted to see Eliana so taken with the charming young man.
“I am,” says Marcel, nodding graciously to Jahera. “Growing up in my father’s studio it was inevitable, but I only throw now when I come to visit my father, which is not often because I’m in an orchestra in Montreal.” He looks at Eliana. “But I love it here and I want to come more often.”
“You should,” says Eliana, matter-of-factly. “Mercy is the fount.”
“I agree,” says Steven, beckoning for the children to follow him. “My work has exploded in the best of ways since I moved here.”
Steven sits at one of the potter’s wheels, places a ball of clay in the center of the throwing surface, and gets the wheel spinning with a few powerful kicks. Now he drizzles water atop the spinning ball, places both hands around the moistened orb, and in the next moment lifts the clay into a cylinder into which he inserts his thumbs and spreads the sides outward to form an exquisite bowl.
“Voila,” says Steven, slowing the wheel and beckoning Ozan to come sit on his lap. “Now we will affix a fresh bat to the wheel and you and I will make another bowl, and then your sister will help me make one, too.”
Bowl making at end – Jahera having taken hundreds of pictures of the children assisting Steven – Marcel leads the giddy twins and Jahera and Eliana on a tour of the grounds while Healing and Steven and Tom go into the farmhouse to meet Jerry, Steven’s big gray tabby who is napping on the sofa in the spacious living room.
Jerry wakes when humans and dog enter and jumps down from the sofa to rub against Healing’s legs and mark him with her scent.
Healing bends down and picks up the cat, and Tom immediately heads for the door to rejoin Marcel and the other visitors.
“Oh stick around Tom,” says Healing, setting Jerry on the sofa and giving Tom a look to say I’ve got a treat for you.
Tom hurries to Healing.
“Where does Tom hang out in the evening when Jerry’s on the sofa?” asks Healing, giving Tom a chewy treat and squatting to pet him.
“By the fire,” says Steven, sadly. “It’s where he spends the night now, too. He used to sleep at the bottom of my bed, but now Jerry does and Tom doesn’t even go in the bedroom anymore.”
“So this clearly has to do with Jerry,” says Healing, continuing to pet Tom. “Though it isn’t that Tom doesn’t like Jerry. And I think Jerry would be fine with Tom sleeping on the bed and sharing the sofa with her.”
“Then why did Tom stop doing all those things?” asks Steven, clearly disturbed by the change in Tom. “And why did he stop approaching me for affection?”
“Shall we sit?” asks Healing, nodding hopefully.
“Yes,” says Tom, gesturing expansively to the room. “Anywhere you like.”
Healing sits on the sofa, Jerry claims Healing’s lap, and Tom heads for the door.
“Oh don’t go, Tom,” says Healing in his loving way. “Come be with me.”
Tom returns to Healing, accepts another chewy treat, and Healing resumes petting him, with Jerry purring all the while on Healing’s lap.
“As you say,” says Steven, sitting in a nearby armchair, “they’re fine being close to each other, yet Tom… oh I don’t know. Maybe it’s okay this way.”
“Did you have another dog or cat when you got Tom?” asks Healing, continuing to pet the happy dog.
“No,” says Steven, shaking his head. “In fact, it was one of the rare times in my life when I didn’t have another dog or a cat or both, and that was because a few weeks after my last cat died I went to Sweden where I was an artist-in-residence for a year. Then from there I went to Japan where I had another teaching gig for a year. I got Tom a few months after I got back to LA from Japan, and as I told you on the phone I got Jerry when Tom was eleven-months-old.”
Healing pets Tom a little more and says to him, “Go see Steven now.”
Tom goes to Steven and smiles beatifically as Steven pets him.
“I think I can explain to you why Tom’s behavior changed,” says Healing, pleased to see the love between Steven and Tom, “by saying that had you gotten Jerry after Tom was two-years-old, I don’t think Tom’s behavior would have changed. However, because you got Jerry before the physical patterns and priorities of Tom’s life were hardwired into Tom’s adult neurological system, and given Tom’s extremely cooperative nature, he interpreted your encouraging Jerry to sit and sleep where he sat and slept to mean that you, Steven, the alpha, had decided this was how things were to be. And I would guess that you were not fully aware of these changes in Tom until Jerry was no longer a kitten. By then, your doting on Jerry – and who can resist doting on a kitten? – convinced Tom that you wanted Jerry to be second to you in the family hierarchy, and Tom third.”
“Because he was still something of a puppy,” says Steven, ceasing to pet Tom and watching him trot out the door to find Marcel and those interesting visitors. “And if I had insisted he sit on the sofa with us and sleep with us, he might still be sitting on the sofa and sleeping on the bed and coming to me for pets.”
“I believe so,” says Healing, petting the purring Jerry. “And by the way, it’s not too late to train Tom to get on the sofa with you. It would entail picking him up and putting him beside you and rewarding him, and when he jumps down, going and getting him and repeating the process many times over many weeks until it becomes his habit to be on the sofa. But I wouldn’t do that if I were you.”
“What would you do?” asks Steven, plaintively.
“I would create a new situation for relating to him. Install a small sofa near where Tom spends his evenings now and invite him to sit with me while constantly referring to the seat as Tom’s sofa. I would make sitting there with him a several-times-a-day ritual until it became Tom’s habit to spend time with me there. Might take a while, but if you aren’t happy with how things are now, that’s what I recommend, though the easiest thing would be to accept that Tom is not unhappy about the current situation. You, Steven, miss the kind of closeness you had with him before his behavior changed, so it is incumbent upon you to establish whatever habits of closeness you desire to have with him, though I assure you he is perfectly happy with how things are now.”
On their way home from Steven’s house, Healing driving, Ozan says, “Steven is going to trim our bowls and fire them in his kiln and then we’ll come back and glaze them and he’ll fire them again and then we can take them home.”
“I’m going to glaze mine so it comes out red with golden spots,” says Raaziyah, excitedly. “And then I’m going to make a vase for the kitchen table.”
“I’m going to glaze mine so it comes out blue and green,” says Ozan, equally excited. “Then I will help Steven make a gigantic bowl for salad.”
“We’re going to have Steven and Marcel over for supper soon,” says Jahera, looking back at the children. “When Tova comes home from Portland. I think she’ll like Steven. Don’t you, Shafi?”
“She’ll love him,” says Healing, exchanging knowing smiles with Jahera.
“Well,” says Eliana, sighing melodramatically, “I’ll just cut to the chase. I’m madly in love with Marcel. Nevertheless, I’m not moving to Montreal. If he and I are going to have a relationship, he’ll have to move here.”
“Good plan,” says Healing, unable to keep from laughing.
“I won’t be surprised if he moves here,” says Jahera, gazing at Eliana sitting between Raaziyah and Ozan. “He’s crazy about you.”
“I already miss him,” says Eliana, her eyes filling with tears.
“Me, too,” says Raaziyah, pouting sympathetically. “He’s so nice.”
“I miss him, too,” says Ozan, nodding. “But we’ll see him again soon. He’s our friend now.”