Wednesday, August 10, 2011

New to the Neighborhood

by Charlie Harris from Classified as Murder, May 2011, the latest in Miranda James's Cat in the Stacks series, Book 2

I'm new to this blog, and I reckon it's not that different from being new to a neighborhood. I moved from Houston back to my hometown -- Athena, Mississippi -- about three years ago, after my wife died. My two children, Sean and Laura, were grown and out on their own, and my beloved Aunt Dottie had left me her home in Athena.

Feeling suddenly rootless in Houston, I decided to "head for home" and settle back in Athena. Thanks to a legacy from Aunt Dottie, I don't have to work full-time anymore, but I've been a librarian for nearly three decades. I like keeping busy, so I found myself a part-time job at Athena College, cataloging rare books and overseeing the college archives.

I love my job, because I've always loved being around books, and the opportunity to care for and catalog rare books is extremely satisfying. I also volunteer a couple of Fridays a month at the public library, just to keep my hand in on the public side of librarianship.

So there I was in Athena, reacquainting myself with the town and old friends from school and college days, settling in to that big house. For a few months it was a bit lonely, but on a cold November day I found an unexpected gift hiding in the bushes near the public library.

At first I thought it was a bird of some kind, thanks to an odd chirping sound, but when I delved into the bushes I found a cat. He (as I soon discovered) looked to be about a year old and was shy at first, but not skittish. He allowed me to rub his head, and he rewarded me with more of his chirping and some rumbling purrs. He had no collar, and I figured someone had abandoned him.

Off to the vet we went, where Diesel (I called him that because of his loud purr) received a thorough examination. He was in excellent health, but to my surprise the vet informed me he was about twelve weeks old at the most. Turns out Diesel is a Maine Coon cat (the only breed developed here in the U.S.), and I discovered that he could easily weigh twenty-five pounds at maturity (around three years of age). Diesel hit twenty-five pounds by the time he was two and just kept growing. He's one big kitty, and he gets long looks wherever he goes.

No one ever turned up to claim him, for which I'm profoundly grateful. He's a wonderful companion -- affectionate, loyal, intelligent, and rather sociable. He goes pretty much everywhere with me (except for church and the grocery store, basically), and he charms practically everyone he meets.

Some might think it strange that I take a cat with me everywhere -- with a harness and leash, by the way -- but we Southerners are often known to be slightly eccentric. I'm over fifty now (but not by much), and I figure I'm entitled to whatever eccentricity I want.

Things have been a tad more complicated lately because of the murder investigations that Diesel and I have been involved in. Finding dead bodies is disconcerting, especially when it's someone you know.

But that's a tale for another day ...


  1. Everyone at Killer Characters seem to have interests quite compatible with yours, so I'm sure you and Diesel will settle into the neighborhood easily. You won't be able to avoid tripping over bodies, but everyone seems to take that in stride. Enjoy! Hope someone greeted you with homemade coffee cake.

  2. Welcome Charlie!

    I'm sure you'll fit in nicely with your new neighbors.

  3. Thanks, Liz and Dru! It looks like a pleasant bunch, despite the collective high body count. Occupational hazard, though...

  4. Welcome, Charlie and Diesel! I'd bake you some cookies to welcome you to the neighborhood, but trust me, you don't want that. I also have a Maine Coon--Grendel. He's a full-figured kind of guy and would love to go with me everywhere (he has separation anxiety), but with my life he's safer at home.

  5. It's great to have you here on a regular basis, Charlie & Diesel! My two Siamese cats are delighted to have more feline friends and I know that you'll soon be taking the murders in stride. Looking forward to reading about more of your adventures!

  6. Charlie, there's nothing eccentric or Southern about taking a cat out in a harness and on leash. My Mochie walks on a leash. Come to think of it, I do live in the South . . .

  7. Welcome, Charlie! As a lapsed librarian, I understand the lure of the library. I think you and Diesel will make for real good reading.

  8. Welcome, Charlie!
    Despite our hobby (of solving murders) we're a very friendly bunch.

    PS Diesel, Bingo the black cat says Meow!

  9. If we could have a cat in our household, we'd have a Maine Coon. First book is on the nightstand, can't wait to meet you, Charlie, and Diesel. Love that name and how he got it.

  10. Welcome Charlie! Diesel sounds like a lovely companion. I'd take him everywhere if he were mine.