Orphans

Universities attract students like . . . well, you know like what. They’re a helpful crew, really. The new ones, all freshly scrubbed, except for the tats, some of which may be water soluble.

The First Year students arrive on campus, perhaps anxious or a little (not much) fearful. Who wouldn’t be? The job in front of them is such that few outside the university envy them. Education. A bitter pill better taken with sugar or some lubricant to make swallowing more easily accomplished.

And from day one, college students put their shoulders to the wheel or noses to some other device. Exerting, sweating and grunting, despite gym and tennis rules to the contrary. Launching into the practice of pedagogy.

All those tweedy old faces. Grim. Emotionless. Except for the somewhat youthful, herein defined as those still under 30. Thankfully, smoking is now virtually nonexistent at the university. Otherwise, the tweedy types doubtless would be puffing on their Meerschaums.

Educating – or, more precisely, re-educating – the professoriate is not child’s play. Which is why 18-year-olds were invented.

In the course of their four years – unless they have AP credit, which can knock off up to two – they make acquisitions. Stuff. Piles up everywhere. There are piles on top of piles.

One such acquisition is pets. Dogs, hamsters, exotic tropical critters. And cats. Lots of cats. So many cats and so many of them forced to run wild that portions of the campus become outdoor communal litter boxes. The fragrance dilutes and overwhelms the indigenous flora.

Each May, the students trundle off, leaving campus, doubtless to work the fields and harvest their families’ crops. The cats, though, often remain.

Left to fend for themselves, they are quick to become feral. From which there is no returning.

Sadly, months of domestication have not sharpened the cats’ instincts or abilities. “Spoiling” may not be an exaggeration. Neither is “unprepared.” And feral though they may indeed need to be – for there is no choice, is there? – the humans have also made them quite dependent and unprepared.

I’m reminded of this several mornings a week when I see the medium-sized yellow cat, crouching where the lawn meets the tree-line on campus.

Alone.

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