The first installment:
Gouda, the Garden Cat: A Broomstick Corner Tail
Tucked away at the edge of the city of Brussels is a neighborhood called Le Coin du Balai, which means Broomstick Corner in English. Long ago, the people who lived in this neighborhood used to go into the forest to gather sticks to make broomsticks to sell at the market. Many people who live there today still hang a broomstick in their front window.
This particular Coin du Balai story began when two people, a husband and wife, moved into one of the old houses of the broomstick makers. The husband went to university every day to study, leaving his wife home alone.
The wife loved the wild garden behind their little house. To keep busy while her husband was away, she worked in the garden. She spent hours working, cutting back the thorny blackberry bushes and pulling the morning glory that spiraled around the trees and other plants. It took a very long time, but eventually she began to discover a whole world where the plants used to be. She found many treasures, including a surfboard, wheelbarrow, and a sandbox with marbles buried in the sand.
She even found a bathtub!
The woman’s most exciting discovery was a little orange, black, and brown striped cat with a white bib.
The cat had been living in the garden for nearly two years. It had dug a little cave beneath the lilac tree, where it slept every night, hidden away from the bigger cats and the fox who came prowling from the forest at night in search of food.
During the day, the cat would go on adventures in the gardens of Le Coin du Balai, playing with the other cats and looking for mice to eat. Sometimes, the cat would have to fight other cats to defend its territory lest another cat try to move into its garden home. It was from one of these fights that the little cat lost a small piece of its ear.
The cat been very surprised to find a person in its home. The woman had been surprised as well.
Hello, little cat, she had said. She beckoned to the cat to come over for a cuddle, but the cat had been living away from people for a long time and was afraid to come too close.
Every day, the woman came to work in the garden, and the cat came to watch. Sometimes, the woman brought treats for the cat. Her favorite treats were the little pieces of Gouda cheese the woman would place in a small dish for the cat to find. The cat ate them all as quickly as she could because she never knew when she might find food again.
Soon, the woman began to call the cat Gouda. The cat liked this. She was still very afraid but found that she enjoyed having company. She would run after the pieces of dirt and little sticks that went flying through the air as the woman dug holes for posts to fix the wall that was leaning at a very dangerous angle from the neighboring garden.
After many weeks had gone by, the woman began to call to Gouda the cat from a place up above the garden when the cat was walking in the garden below. Gouda would look up and mew. Then, she would walk beneath the Lilac Tree, crawl up the trunk of the tree beside it, jump onto the roof of the house next door, and come to stand on the edge.
The woman began to place more treats and even entire cans of food for Gouda up on the roof of her house. Gouda loved to climb trees and jump up high, so it was very easy for her to find her way to the food.
Sometimes, the man would come and crouch by the window and shake a stick with a long string and a mouse attached to it. Gouda loved to jump up and grab the mouse with her paws.
One day, Gouda was up on the roof, eating her food (she still ate it as quickly as she could), when all of a sudden she sensed that someone was watching her. She looked up and saw a big, fluffy, white cat with clear blue eyes looking back at her through the window.
The woman appeared and opened the window.
Go, ahead, Fin, she said to the big cat. Go say hello.
The big cat jumped down and walked right up to Gouda!
Gouda ran to the other side of the roof and started licking her paws, pretending to ignore the cat. He lay down opposite her and purred.