Saturday, June 29, 2013

Cats and Dissatisfaction: Primal Forces in Story

Dissatisfaction is a major dramatic force.  Dissatisfaction produces struggles, ripples of protest,  reminiscent of a metaphoric cat.  The cat was if not satisfied, then by no means unsatisfied, cat-like in its behavior.  Dissatisfaction is a cat, resisting being placed in a carrying case for a trip to the veterinarian for shots and or treatment that will in the long run provide a more comfortable present and future for the cat.

Even if not satisfied, the cat is busy doing cat-like things until a greater force wishes to take said cat to the vet, at which time the cat becomes an instrument of drama, displaying such dramatic qualities as acute reflexes, suspicion, and a near preternatural ability to misinterpret movements or gestures made in its direction.

You are at the moment caught up in the struggle between the actual cat and the one of the metaphor you've introduced here.  You have had cats in your life, many of whom have left you with a fond regard for the species, based on your perception of specific friendships formed with specific cats, misadventures with other cats, and crossed-purpose relations with still other cats, a more or less analogous metric of comparison to your relationship with humans.

Your present cat is a better-than-imagined success in that you wished an animal presence to fill a void left by a dog.  You've had dogs in the past who were not pleased with the results of their visits to veterinarians, and you in fact had two cats who, although not overjoyed at the prospects of visits to a vet, wallowed themselves to be taken without the need for a cat carrier.  

Your present-day cat made the trip from the animal shelter to your  abode in a case you selected with thoughts devoted to the cat's comfort.  The ladies at the animal shelter who put your about-to-be cat spoke praises of the cat carrier you'd purchased, one of them telling you how her own cat would probably want to hang out in such a cat carrier as this.

In a broad, general sense, you are acute to the responses, surmises, and reactions of other persons, part of a package you hope translates as empathy.  The lady who praised your cat carrier was responsible for you, despite evidence to the contrary, hoping your cat might indeed like to hang out or at least enter on some basis of equipoise into the cat carrier.  

The fact of two ladies needing to secure your cat into the cat carrier could have served as a warning, but in general, your cat was (and still is very much so) an affectionate cat, seeking human contact.  This led you to make assumptions not borne out by fact.

There were earlier attempts to get your cat into a carrier, consultations with friends who are themselves in relationships with cats, and a serious study of a You Tube film featuring a veterinarian who demonstrated how to secure a rather cranky-looking cat into a cat carrier much less commodious and aesthetic than the carrier you got for your cat.

In a shift of the real with the theoretical, your actual cat becomes the abstraction, the need for getting him to a veterinarian is the actuality, thus the art of drama switches roles with the banality of reality.

From your experience with cats, you conclude that a cat who is not fated to visit a veterinarian is, if not a satisfied cat, by no means a dissatisfied cat, thus no real story.  Getting your not-dissatisfied (yet) cat to the veterinarian changes the playing field of reality to the stage of drama; it is the equivalent of the opening scenes of Hamlet.  Agenda stalks the battlements.

The way to bring satisfaction into drama is to have someone confront the satisfied person with an accusation--"You're too damned satisfied with (fill in the blanks)"--or a challenge: "I'm tired of you sitting around with that fat cat look of satisfaction all the time."

If you were intending humor here, you could attempt to start a story with getting a cat or equivalent into a carrying case for a visit to a veterinarian, but you are not trying for humor, you are wishing to demonstrate how satisfaction and dissatisfaction can be manipulated to create dramatic circumstances which will produce the destabilizing, lack-of-stasis atmosphere associated with a story in progress.

Characters who are dissatisfied want something.  They wish to be left alone, to be allowed to participate in something with a greater hand in the outcome.  They wish to be paid more, to be given credit, to work less, to have help, to get out of a Sisyphus-like situation; they may want love.  They may resent certain characters who appear to be satisfied with such things as the status quo, with prospects for the future, with prospects for their stated and unstated needs having some potential for being realized.

Characters who are satisfied arguably wish to continue being satisfied, but relate to drama only to the extent that they become targets of the dissatisfaction of another character or group of characters.  We can identify with the characters who are satisfied if we are given sufficient reason to suspect the motives of the dissatisfied characters.  We can also side with the characters who resent the apparent smugness and lack of inertia resident in the satisfied characters.

In a real sense, acquiring a cat to fill a void left by a dog makes perfect sense--until the cat has been in a fight, either with a neighborhood cat or a chain-link fence, and the newly acquired cat would be on the receiving end of some attention to the tiny puncture wound on his back.  At this point, the sense or vector line of the story resides in attempting to get the cat to the vet or risking the cat's recovery with a splash of an antiseptic salve that worked wonders on the now absent dog.

Thus story has complications, contingencies, potentials for improvisation that come from the single most basic condition of drama:  two or more individuals enter a scene (or landscape) each convinced of the absolute rightness and moral authority of their respective positions.

The cat, back from the vet, still thinks to want affection from you, still is willing to accept supper, which it eats with a satisfied gusto--before taking off into the late afternoon.

Perhaps you've missed the potential for humor after all.  True enough, there is no story in persuading a dog to go to a vet.  The dog in question for whom you experienced the void which led you to consider a cat was in fact frequently used in filmed advertisements for the veterinarian to whom you wished to take the cat.  The dog in question appeared to enjoy the attentions lavished when given shampoos at the grooming facility of the veterinarian.

There is intrinsic and extrinsic story in making plans to take a cat to a veterinarian.  You have some scratches to show for your efforts and a cat who has been missing for some hours.  The cat will probably think things over in time for its breakfast, but consider this:  the cat has a collar to which is attached a medallion with its name, your name, address, phone number, and the phone number of the vet.  The cat also has a medallion affixed to its collar advising that the cat has an implanted microchip which, if scanned, would give your name, phone number, address, the name and phone number of the vet, and the name and contact information of a cat rescue facility.

Imagine a story in which, after some time, you receive a phone call in response to one of the medallions the cat wears.  "We have your cat, whom we're holding for you to come and fetch.  You do have a cat transporter, don't you?"

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