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Rated: ASR · Fiction · Romance/Love · #2259218
Who is the man sending notes by kitty mail? Melinda wants to meet her pen-pal.
“It seems mad to have romantic feelings for a man you’ve only met through his letters,” thought Melinda as she removed the latest note from the cat’s collar. But her pulse quickened as she unfolded the paper, eager to read his words. It was so much fun, exchanging notes with a mysterious neighbor.

It had started two weeks ago, when a cat had strolled through her back door and wandered around the kitchen.

“Well, do come in, make yourself right at home,” Melinda had said to the cat, since it had already done just that. She had noted the white paws, white chest and mouth, with black ears and a mask like a raccoon’s. “Oh, a Snowshoe cat! You’re a pretty kitty, though you look like a bandit!” The cat had wound itself around her ankles, purring loudly, and Melinda had fallen in love.

The cat had come back every day after that, standing up to paw at the latch until the screen door opened, or meowing loudly if that failed. The cat would cuddle in her lap, or sit somewhere and watch whatever she was doing. She would talk to it and it would meow back, almost like a conversation. Her recent retirement had left her a bit at loose ends, so she was pleased that such a handsome and intelligent cat would consider her good company.

“You’re a clever kitty, so adorable and friendly. I wonder where you live?” For fun, she had jotted on a Post-It note that she taped to the cat’s collar.

Dear owner. Your cat visits me daily. I hope it is okay. Such wonderful company! What is his name? (I call him Bandit). -- Melinda S.

The next day, the cat brought return mail, a slightly larger note in a little case clipped to the collar.

Hello, Melinda S. My name is Ranger—can you guess why? Hint: William Tell Overture. My owner is a nice man who treats me kindly and doesn’t mind if I visit, so long as you let me leave on time. --Ranger

Mel laughed, and got it immediately. The overture was the theme music for an old TV show, The Lone Ranger, about a masked Texas Ranger who rode the old west with his native American sidekick, Tonto, rescuing maidens and solving crimes.

Dear Kind Owner, It’s cute that you write as the cat, Kemo Sabe. Ranger is talkative and sweet and knows when it’s time to go home. But why don’t you speak for yourself, John Alden? -- Melinda

Dear Priscilla, My owner is a bit shy, which is why I meow on his behalf. But he does like Longfellow, and watching old movies and TV shows, as it seems you do as well? --Ranger

Dear Shy Owner, Could it possibly be that like Cyrano or Quasimodo, you are reluctant to show yourself, but instead send the delightful Ranger as your emissary? I assure you that appearance is less important than character....

Dear Esmeralda, My owner admires your kindness and I assure you that his nose is quite average. In fact, lacking a hunchback but possessing his own teeth and hair, he fancies himself far from ugly. Silly fool. In Hugo’s novel....

Note by note, Melinda discovered his wide-ranging intelligence and a shared interest in poetry, literature, classic movies, hot buttered popcorn, wine by the fireside, and ocean cruises. Ranger revealed that his owner was single, retired, and about her age. The letters got longer, sharing more of of their views and interests and personal lives. Melinda’s desire to meet her pen pal grew with each one.

One afternoon, as she was walking to explore her neighborhood, she spotted a masked cat washing itself in a front window. “Ranger!” she exclaimed. Snowshoe cats were rare and it had to be him! The cat stopped grooming and stared at her.

She wandered up and down the street, working up courage to ring the doorbell. What if nobody was home? What if he wasn’t the way she imagined him? What if everything he had said was a fabrication, like that idiot on the one dating site she’d tried? Yet after all their sharing, she felt as if they knew each other well. And why would Ranger lie to her? She smiled at the thought, and walked to the door. Her heart in her mouth, she rang the bell.

The instant the door opened a crack, Ranger ran out and rubbed against her legs. She looked up to see a pair of sparkling brown eyes, a cute snubbed nose, an acre of freckles, and a warm smile.

“Hello, there. From the way Ranger’s acting, I’m guessing you’d be Melinda.

“I am. And you’re Shy Owner, yes?”

He laughed. “Ranger’s not going to introduce us. It’s time to speak for myself. I’m Shane Ryan. Shall we go for a stroll?" He offered his hand to shake, then held on gently. Melinda was happy with that.

"Now," he began as they headed off, "Let's discuss shared custody of the cat.”
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