The Death of Goldman Sachs

A misleading title to draw readers into an occasionally true story

01 November 2020

A couple of weeks ago Cindy was woken in the wee hours by sounds of animals fighting in our garden. As she investigated, she saw two coyotes run off, leaving our cat's body behind. A state of nature is a state of violence, and our feline predator was quickly turned into prey. Yet our garden has high fences all around, making it an unlikely spot for coyotes to explore. So is there more to that night than a simple act of nature?

But first let me say more about cats. I've never been a pet owner, didn't have anything as a child, and never felt the urge as I grew. I can put it down to the frequent travel that came with my job in pre-covid times, but it's probably due to me being too selfish to look after an animal. Cindy, however, came complete with cats, and for several years I knew I could never rise above #2 in her affections.

In time my rival died, and we were catless. Cindy seemed happy with the state of affairs, then her brother told her about two kittens that turned up at his house in Vermont. We took them on, although these wildlings never showed much sign of domestication. They turned up for their food, and promptly left with nary an opportunity for a stroke. They didn't last long, one caught a car on a busy road, the other just disappeared.

It seemed that such surly animals had put us off cat-keeping, then we were told of an old lady who had to go into nursing home, and needed someone to take care of her cat. Her old name was something boring, and being a cat she never deigned to recognize it. Since she was the fattest cat we'd ever seen (some nineteen pounds) we naturally re-christened her “Goldman Sachs”, or “Goldie” to her friends.

Can you see how she got her name?

She was more friendly, at least to Cindy, probably because she fed her. Goldie had a habit of over-eating and then throwing up, so Cindy used a timed bowl to feed her small amounts several times a day. Goldie would sit impatiently watching for the bowl to rotate. But our portion control worked, and she got down to a much more respectable weight after a couple of years.

In her previous life, she'd stayed in her keeper's apartment, but our house isn't set up for an indoor cat, so she soon learned to roam outside. Unlike the wildlings, she didn't go far, sticking mostly to our garden and those of our neighbors. When we did a major house renovation she got a cat-door built into the wall, with a granite step to ease her travels. She soon learned that outdoors was a great source of toys, which she could bring into the house and play with, although their batteries soon ran out and she would leave them for the staff to clean up.

Cindy designed our garden as a woodland, not for her are the lawns that dominate so much of American suburbia. Several trees have grown tall since we moved in, and we enjoy seeing the birds among the leaves. Since we live in a thickly settled suburb, we don't get many exotic birds - although I would hardly be a judge of that. But two favorite birds we did get regularly were a pair of cardinals. Mr Cardinal, in particular, was one I liked as we don't have such a striking red bird where I grew up. Cardinals are a loyal pair of mates, so the two were always together, just a few branches away. It's wrong to anthropomorphize wild animals, but we couldn't help being happy at the sight of a loving couple.

The last two paragraphs should suggest the tragedy. One evening Goldie sauntered into the house, a lifeless Mrs Cardinal in her mouth. The next day we were now sad to see Mr Cardinal, chirping futilely for his beloved.

We weren't the only ones to see Mr Cardinal searching for his now lost mate. The chipmunks had lost many of their kin to Goldie, and they sadly told Mr Cardinal of his mate's fate. But while the chipmunks had become accustomed to their frequent loss, Mr Cardinal was made of sterner stuff. He had loved Mrs Cardinal for many years, and enjoyed dancing with her among the trees too much to let this stand.

Almost certainly not Mr Cardinal, as I shot this in South Carolina, but to this human all cardinals look the same.

But how does a cardinal carry out revenge on a cat? He could turn Goldie into a beetle and then eat her, but he knew neither the spells nor any friendly wizards in our quiet suburb. He could run her over with a car, but he wasn't tall enough to reach the pedals. However one thing he did have was his airborne knowledge of the neighborhood. He'd noticed a young couple of coyotes setting up a starter den in the nearby woodlands, perhaps he could lead them towards a fresh feline breakfast?

There aren't many humans awake at summer's dawn in the suburbs, but the coyotes were still wary of the two-legged infestation on the land. But Mr Cardinal is as persuasive as he is red, and demonstrated his usefulness by leading them to some closer dining opportunities. He wasn't too happy with his role as a canine yelp, as he prefers to steer clear of nature's violence on the ground. But when his doubts rose, he remembered Mrs Cardinal harmonizing on the sweetgum tree, and reaffirmed his resolve. Soon he was able to persuade the coyote couple to partake of that very specific cat.

To cement his plan, however, Mr Cardinal needed more help on the ground, someone to lead the coyotes to the right route into the garden. It required all his diplomatic skills to persuade the chipmunks to take part in the plan. The chipmunks were, of course, delighted at the prospect of Goldie becoming a dish rather than the diner. They were less keen on the chosen means of their deliverance. After all, the coyotes were just as likely to treat one of them as an appetizer. There was a tense and heartfelt discussion in the burrow network, as the rodents weighed the choice between fear and fear. In the end they decided to go with Mr Cardinal's plan, reasoning that even if one of them ended in a coyote's belly, the coyotes weren't the ever-present danger that was Goldie's toy habit.

So came the fateful morning. Goldie walked up to her private enterence, her staff still asleep, and a couple of hours to go before the rotation of the feeding bowl. She pushed the flap and slipped into the dawn, enjoying an early morning prowl before facing the difficult decision of which chair to snooze in for the next few hours. Maybe she started to think about her staff's breakfast and whether their offering of the empty yogurt bowl would be worthy enough of her tongue. She probably fancied a good scratch on the oak tree at the bottom of the garden. But as she prowled, the message got out through the woods, and the coyotes made their approach through the gap in the fence that the staff hadn't yet fixed. The resulting fight was short but noisy enough call the humans, so the coyote couple had to flee before they even had chance to pull out some coffee to go with their warm breakfast.

The coyotes returned the following night, but left only footprints to mark the reappearance. They searched for Goldie's body in vain, as she was now lying in state in her residence. True to their word, they didn't grab any chipmunks as a consolation prize. Mr Cardinal expressed his disappointment, but privately felt it was the coyotes' fault for a sloppy hit job. Not that he minded, as his wife's killer was now ready for a burial, although one that was more decorous than how his wife was laid to rest. We marked Goldie's grave with a stone generously painted by our neighbors' children, who would cat sit while we were away from home.

The chipmunks were very happy with how things turned out, and the following night they held a raucous celebration, but not loud enough to wake the humans. That might have been different had they been able to follow their wishes to let off fireworks, but fireworks are illegal in Massachusetts. We still see Mr Cardinal in the trees, and we hope he finds a new mate.

Significant Revisions

01 November 2020: Published

27 September 2020: Started drafting