April 8, 2010 § 1 Comment
Mouchette, my she-cat who once fled at any sudden movement and panicked at a touch, hiding under the bureau for hours, has come into her own. She still can’t meow properly—she makes a singing squeak-squeak noise, like an enchanted mouse—and she only nips me when she’s very excited, my hand on her belly, her little white paws clutching, claws scratching me like baby thorns—; but she’s the one charged with waking me in the morning.
She jumps, her eight pounds landing unerringly on one of my sore spots (25 years of muscle tension), then her purring face whiskers next to mine, she thrusts her hot little head under my palm so I have no choice but to cup it and murmur, “Good morning, Kitten,” then roll over on my stomach, hiding face and hands. She perseveres, purring industriously as she teeters up and down my spine, so confident of her charms, while (as I learn when I finally drag my eyes open) Fitzroy sits on the floor a few feet from the bed, watching in silence like a spymaster.
This used to be his job. She does it better. I’m reluctant to knock her from the bed, as I would him. Her trust was so slowly won. I do my best I to evade; I beg; finally I get up and feed the starving animals, whose dry food sits neglected in their bowls. It’s difficult to live with cats when you work at home. It’s hard to make jewelry with a cat among the beads, claws sliding over the crystals as he insists on closeness; hard to write while he meows angrily for an early dinner, then stands on hind legs to bite my elbow.
Mouchette is more feminine in her tactics. She purrs at full volume and twines around my feet, jumps up to knock over notebook and glasses (staring with surprise), moves from lap to laptop vibrating with pleasure, pushing out her squeaks—more happy, happy love, forever warm and still to be enjoyed—so it takes me, even now, a few minutes to realize she’s not just communicating how adorable I am.
Every night, I consider latching the door, leaving the cats in the living room. But when I look up at from my late night Kindle-fest to see Fitzroy spread like a fur shawl at the bottom of the bed and Mouchette lounging, legs dangling, in her new favorite spot—the box the air-conditioner came in, now forever next to my desk—watching me with her lambent yellow eyes, I don’t want to sleep alone. I’d rather be woken by the officious, delighted girl-pest. It’s worth it to be able to stroke her little head when I pass her melted over the arm of the couch, mid-afternoon, and watch her tip it up in her FDR pose, whiskered chin glinting, no longer at all concerned that I might be planning to twist it off.
Pangur, white Pangur, How happy we are
Alone together, scholar and cat
Each has his own work to do daily;
For you it is hunting, for me study.
Your shining eye watches the wall;
My feeble eye is fixed on a book.
You rejoice, when your claws entrap a mouse;
I rejoice when my mind fathoms a problem.
Pleased with his own art, neither hinders the other;
Thus we live ever without tedium and envy.
–Unknown 9th century Irish monk, translated by W.H. Auden