Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Cats


For the second time in as many days, your evening walk was enhanced by, among other things, visits with two different, neighborhood cats (as opposed to cats from two different neighborhoods) appearing and wanting some contact.  You paused in your stroll to greet each one. Each wanted additional contact beyond brushing against your pants leg.  Each wanted—and got—scratched along the spine and behind the ears.

Were this feline contact canine instead, you’d feel no need to remark about it; dogs often have some occasion to share attitude with you or anyone else who comes their way.  Cats are another matter altogether.  For the eighteen months of your residence here on Sola Street, you’ve crossed paths with a marmalade cat who scarcely gives you the time of day, perhaps because the cat has seen you fussing with Sally, perhaps for the simple reason that the marmalade cat feels no chemistry with you.

Your first great animal friend was a cat, perhaps bored because his owner was away much of the day and you were not away but rather hunched over your red Olivetti portable typewriter, causing aluminum keys to strike an inked, silken ribbon, which then transferred an image to a sheet of manuscript paper.

After this cat’s second afternoon visit, you invited him to tea, which occasioned the kind of conversation with a butcher you were pleased to have.  The butcher’s response was even more pleasing to you because a simple question of what he’d recommend for a cat coming to tea produced an outburst redolent of some internal pressure.

“Why,” the butcher wondered, “do people think butchers have the answers to all their problems?”

“Because,” you ventured, tentative, “butchers always seem so cheerful.”

You could not have wanted a better response from him, a short, punctilious man who resembled the late actor, Adolph Menjou.  “Do I seem cheerful to you?  Do I seem a happy man?  I had to pay a chiropractor sixty-four dollars for a series of treatments brought about by the need for me to haul sides of beef around.”

This was the kind of conversation you wanted in your then stories, conversation that derails story from the ordinary and sends it scurrying into uncharted discovery related to the grudges many of us nurse over the unfurling of events from the reality mill.

Many individuals have a strong, spiritual bent.  Their beliefs drive them to observe, sometimes even invent, ritual which reenacts some universal religious theme.  You have a turn-up-the-flame bent; you want the story heated to a place where the characters are pushed well beyond the point of the ordinary, where their hidden agendas seem almost at risk to the point of wishing to depart for greener pastures.

The butcher suggested kidneys for the cat, doing so in a backhanded sort of way that put took you out of your cosmos and stationed you in his.  “For all I care, you could offer the cat kidneys.”  You took his sarcasm as a sign that his irony had special meaning to the cosmos.

You don’t know about that. Although your contact with the cosmos has been extensive over the years, you can’t say you’ve learned how to decode the cosmos.  You do know that the cat who came to tea had an inordinate fondness for beef and lamb kidney.

When you were unable to secure it fresh, the cat, who eventually became Sam, settled for Kitty Queen chopped kidney.  Whenever the advance check came in for the next novel, you bought Sam a case of Kitty Queen chopped kidney, which you kept on the back porch adjacent the laundry things.

You know something about the fierce independence of cats.  You know a bit more about your dog, Sally, and her Rodney King, can’t we all just get along attitudes.  Even more to the point, you know how unthinkable it is to contemplate life without an animal nearby to interpret the random events that befall with hardly any effort.

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