The Black Cat

I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells. Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living, it’s a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope. Which is what I do, and that enables you to laugh at life’s realities.
Dr. Seuss

The black cat stood in the middle of the living room and mr-ow-ed at his humans. They stared at him and scowled.

“What do you want,” said the female one. She had the perpetual brow-furrow of a much older woman. Once she had been soft and loving towards him, understanding of his special requirements (solitude in the bathroom, company at the breakfast bowl) but since the small people had arrived, she mostly frowned at him and kicked him out of bed. And her toenails were sharp, almost as sharp as his claws, not that he would ever use them on her. Except for that one time when he was sleeping on her feet and dreaming he was a jaguar chasing gazelles across a hot, sandy plain. That time had been an accident but she had still reacted as though he was trying to kill her.

She didn’t want an answer, the black cat knew. She was asking what he wanted not so that he would answer, but so that she could somehow diffuse her anger. He didn’t know why she was so angry with him. Today he decided to answer.

“A little respect,” he said, recalling a pop song by the same name, must have been at least ten years ago. The black cat had no real sense of time.

The female and the male exchanged glances. The small people laughed.

“He talked!” said the smallest one.
“No, it must have been Daddy,” said the bigger one.
“Uh, wasn’t me,” said the male.
“Did you just talk?” said the female to the black cat, “Did you just quote ERASURE to me?”

The black cat sighed. She was still angry. He had revealed a bit of himself, some of his deepest self, and she was still angry. Someone like that is determined to be angry, the cat recalled. His shelter mate had told him that. Oh, what was that cat’s name. Blinker, Binker, Binkie. Something asinine like that.

The black cat stood on his hind legs and crossed his front legs in front of his chest. He knew this was the appropriate body language to use when confronting someone.

“I am so much smarter than you,” he said, his eyes locked with the female’s eyes. “I know things about you you don’t even know about yourself. Shall I list them?”

There, just a bit of panic in her face now. Just a slight realization that she was not as contained, or as tidy, as she thought.

“You, you, and you,” the cat went on, uncurling one paw to point his knife-like claw at each of the small people and the male, “you at least try. You at least treat me like a sentient being, even if you do force me to eat off the floor, a floor none of you would eat from. You don’t attempt to entertain me or please me, but you don’t treat me like a stone covered in fur. Not the way SHE does.”

The female refused to meet his gaze. Good.

“You have food,” she said to her feet, “you have water. You have a clean litterbox.”

As though listing the things he had would somehow make him feel better about the things he didn’t.

“You,” he countered, “have love. You have smiles. You have someone to warm your body against at night. You have someone to scratch behind your ears if they’re itchy. You –”

“I am a human,” she interrupted.

“That is where you’re wrong,” the black cat replied, “I happen to know that underneath all that human meat is the soul of a chicken.”

“A…what?” said the male.

“A…what?” said the small people.

The black cat enjoyed his audience. He took a deep breath and took a moment to groom his left shoulder. That one spot had been bugging him for a week.

“A chicken,” he went on, “a barnyard chicken. The kind that pecks and pecks and pecks at stones to find a speck of grain. The kind that clucks mindlessly for hours when she could be making plans for escape. The kind that enjoys her captive life because every morning the eggs are retrieved and the relief is so great she forgets she will lay more, have them taken, lay more, have them taken.”

Shock. Good.

“I entertain the thought that you will someday come to see your own failings, realize that I am your superior in so many ways. And then, I remember that you are not smart enough to even understand how stupid you are.”

She began to weep. It hurt the black cat, more than he thought it would. He hadn’t seen her cry in such a long time. He remembered seeing her tears dropping on the naked head of the bigger small person. He had sat, alert, watching her from the other side of the couch, waiting for her to ask for his help. She never did.

The cat dropped to all fours again and walked over to brush against her leg. Instead of shoving him away, she stroked his back.

“I didn’t know,” she said.

The black cat opened his mouth to reply, but changed his mind. Instead he just purred.

This goes out to our own black cat, Seamus, who knows more about me than just about anyone in the world and keeps his mouth shut, thank god.

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