Manny lives just around the corner from me, in front of the big red building on Sixth Avenue. He's fearless and happy. I first noticed him when he was living on my block about two years ago. He would flop on the sun-drenched sidewalk, squinting his eyes at me and showing off his gray and black stripes. Each day, I would inch a little closer to him, testing the boundaries. Eventually I reached down to pet him, and he pushed his head back into my hand wanting more.
Although he has no collar and is clearly a street cat, Manny is more trusting than just about any cat I've ever met. Perhaps his trust comes from the endless supply of cat food left for him by passersby. One elderly man in particular — a long-bearded, thick-lensed retiree — seems to be responsible for most of his daily feedings. His name is Danny and he is a former postal worker who now spends much of his time walking to the grocery store and back, where he buys, among other things, cat food for Manny. One time I saw Danny walking down the street, and out of nowhere Manny came chasing after him. When Danny reached the stoplight, Manny caught up with him and tapped him on the leg. Danny looked down and mumbled, "Oh," through his gray beard and then promptly turned around to feed him.
Last year I took a picture of Manny and posted it to Facebook. My caption: "This guy's been ruling our street for the past several months. Unless there are objections, we've decided to name him MANNY."
BB: "That cat spends a lot of time in our planters and on our stoop. Because of its wandering ways I took to calling it Sojourner Truth. However, after realizing it's actually a he we re-dubbed him Charlemagne..."
BB: "Oh, I always wondered about his ear!"
SF: "I assumed Charlemanny was an outdoor resident of one of the houses he hangs in front of (green house?). So friendly."
Apparently he has many names: Charlemagne, Kitty, Tiger, etc. He will always be Manny to me. The name "Tiger" was given to him by the fellow who owns the big red building on Sixth Avenue. This gentleman has done a fantastic thing — he has turned the gated front stoop of his building into a Manny sanctuary. He has even gone as far as to build him a cardboard house, complete with a plastic, rainproof roof. Next to the house is a small folding cot, which Manny can lounge in. The wrought-iron gate that separates Manny from the public is lined with vertical bars, spaced just wide enough for him to slip through but narrow enough to keep out dogs and mean people. With his fancy new abode, Manny has found a few companions, in particular a petite, similar-looking cat named Fanny. Fortunately for Fanny, Manny is very generous with his food and his space.
At least twice a day I walk out of my way to check on Manny. When he sees me coming, he typically sallies over and plows into my leg. He likes it when I scratch him under his chin. Danny also stops by at least once or twice a day to deliver food. In fact, Manny spends the better part of his day greeting people on the sidewalk, chasing leaves and taking naps in his house. During the night Manny can often be found on the cot with Fanny at his side. I'm fairly certain he's smiling.
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Michael Hearst is a composer, multi-instrumentalist, and writer. He is a founding member of the band One Ring Zero, whose albums include Planets and As Smart As We Are, and his solo works include Songs for Ice Cream Trucks and Songs for Unusual Creatures. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.
Books mentioned in this post
Michael Hearst is the author of Unusual Creatures: A Mostly Accurate Account of Some of Earth's Strangest Animals