Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Michigan J. Cat

"You made tuna last night."

"How do you know it's tuna?"

"Can opener. Everything else has a pull top. Whitefish, turkey, stew, lamb, or at least the varying re-concentrations of something or others that get pressed into a can and labelled something you can relate to and think we like to eat. They all have pull tops. Except tuna. You have to open it with a can opener."

"You've been paying attention."

"Our relationship, until now, has had limited dynamics. Food, attention, that sort of thing."

"Litter box cleaning."

"Would it make you feel better if I flushed for you?"

"Forget it."

"Uh huh. Anyway, it's been restricted in our interactions. Limited to the simple things. Food, water. So a lot of things repeat. You start to sense patterns. Can openers, pull tabs. I'm sure you see it in your world."

"We call them ruts."

"Hey, you're talking dirty."

"Ok, boring then. But I get it. Patterns."

"Patterns. You look for them. See what they mean. Some mean danger, some mean something good. Some don't mean a thing. They just are."

"Boring."

"I guess. The way you and Colleen used to sit on the couch. You'd watch TV. She'd lean into you. You'd twirl her hair and stroke her neck. It didn't mean a thing. It wasn't dangerous and nobody was getting fed. So I guess that was boring."

Harry looked out the window above the kitchen sink for a moment. "Not boring." he said.

"So what's boring?"

"Not that. That meant that we were comfortable and happy. With each other. With the way things were. We felt safe."

"We sleep."

"So do we. Together."

"That wasn't sleeping. That was a lot of thrashing around. It meant danger to us."

"Before she left her old man, it meant danger to us too."

Boris yawned and let his jaw snap shut. That part of the conversation at least was ended. Before he started talking (the cat was talking, right?) that was a non-verbal signal of annoyance. Harry guessed it still was.

"Before I feed you, can I ask you something?"

"I'm getting hungry." Boris scowled for a moment. "Ok. Go ahead."

"You're talking."

"And you're awake. And you're sober. Satisfied?"

"No no. Not that. I know I'm in control of my senses. But you're talking. You're a cat. Let's leave the larynx aside for a moment. Your brain has the capacity of speech? Of thought?"

"And it's not the behemoth that your brain is? Is that where you're going?"

"It's not the size of a human brain."

"Size matters? Didn't you watch the news last night? Guy got stuck in a cave? That's a brain?"

"He's an adventurer."

"Every day is an adventure. Doesn't mean I stick my head in a fanblade. Remember what I said about spotting patterns? Some are dangerous. Look, let me explain it another way. Your computer; couple of years ago, you moved the big one out, now you're working on the little one?"

"The laptop. So?"

"So the first computers, Eniac I think it was. They were huge. Now they're small. But by all accounts they're better. Just because my brain is smaller, why should it not adhere to that trend?"

"How do you know about Eniac? Don't tell me you read Wikipedia when I'm not home."

"Oral tradition. We don't have a written history. It's all oral."

"So there was a cat at Eniac?"

"Geeks replacing vacuum tubes need friendship too."

Harry put the bowl down. Boris, who had been talking, had been talking as his face drew more and more into a scowl. Non verbal cue, Harry supposed. There was a knock at the door. Boris kept eating. His bowl was on the other side of the small counter that separated the kitchen from the dining room. As such, the kitchen door was in another room and not an immediate visual/aural stimulus. Harry supposed noise alone didn't bother the cat. It was when things started to compound that Boris usually ran away at various speeds. Harry looked over to the door where Jim was looking in and holding his hands up, palms out and fingers extended away from his body.

"What's up." Harry said, suddenly a little more adept at linking body gestures to the spoken thought. He motioned Jim in.

"What's up?" Jim asked.

"Morning. Not a lot. How you?"

"Not bad, hey Boris," the cat kept eating "Wondering if we're running Sunday?"

"Yeah. We are. Seven as usual? Doing twelve?"

"Yep. What're you doing?"

"Talking to the cat."

"Ok."

"He's answering."

"Ok."

"As in answering. Words. Thoughts. Complete sentences."

"You ok?"

"Fine. Boris?"

The cat kept eating, chasing a last flake of tuna around its bowl. He worried it up the steep side and then gravity pushed the morsel back towards his mouth where he caught it on his tongue and drew it in. He sniffed the bottom, then the sides of the bowl and satisfied that nothing was left, sat back on his haunches, licking his chops.

"Boris?" Harry asked again.

The cat angled his head and looked at Harry. Then he looked at Jim. Then back at Harry. He meowed. He got up and walked into the living room where he sniffed at the couch then jumped on to lay down. Harry smiled at Jim.

"See ya Sunday." Jim said, grabbed a banana from the fruit bowl on the butcher block island and walked out the door.

"Sunday." Harry said and said no more. He closed the door behind Jim. He took his own banana and walked into the dining room. He picked up the empty cat dish, walked back into the kitchen and put it in the sink. He filled it with water to soak. He cracked the stem of the banana and peeled the peel back a third of the way down the fruit. He took a bite and walked into the living room where he stood at the couch and looked at the cat. The cat looked at him. The cat said nothing. Harry said nothing, eating his banana. When he was done, he went back to the kitchen, threw the peel into the compost bucket, then walked back through the living room and up the stairs to the bathroom. He stopped for a moment halfway up the stairs and looked at Boris for a moment. Boris was looking out the living room window. Harry continued to the bathroom at the head of the stairs and just as he was closing the bathroom door the cat sang out:

"Hello my honey, hello my baby, hello my ragtime gal!"

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