Cat Update

January 21, 2013 § Leave a comment


Mouchette is toughening up. We took her to the vet for a check-up and once in the carrier, she meowed in distress and complaint, but didn’t emit that otherworldly howl, with accompanying fear-stench, that once marked her dislocations.

In the office, on the steel table, she fought back, as she never has before. It used to be, by the time we got there, she’d be terrified into paralysis. But when the doctor insisted on looking in her mouth, she dug her claws into the woman’s arm—the gentlest, calmest vet I’ve ever been to—and I remembered the arrogant doctor at the last place who said she didn’t struggle with him because he knew how to handle her.

Mouchette struggles when she’s certain she hasn’t fallen into the hands of Nazi torturers, but is with those humans who won’t punish her for self-defense.

Her tongue mass hasn’t grown and she’s perfectly healthy. “Do they usually keep growing?” Charles asked.

“Sometimes they do. Sometimes they go away, and then come back. Sometimes they stay the same. They do whatever they want.” Oh, to be a benign mass on the back of Mouchette’s tongue, able to do whatever I want!

We brought her home and she hissed ferociously at Fitzroy, a good comeback to how he treated her when she returned from having her teeth out, then stalked restlessly around the bedroom: all that adrenaline, no place to go. “How’s her energy level?” the doctor had asked. Way too high. She races across the top of the bed and the bureau and around the room and jumps over me and is on the top of the bed again, and I know I’ve lost pills or glasses or pens again, that I’ll have to check under the furniture before going to sleep.

And then she sits on my chest, staring at me with her yellow eyes, her black/white nose like a graffiti tag, her fangs showing between her lips. The doctor had admired her fangs, as well as her whiskers and eyes and velvety fur. I didn’t say, “Don’t you think her chest is like angel feathers? What about her paws—aren’t they the most delicate and feminine you’ve ever seen? And the way her butt sticks up when you rub it—her slim haunches between my hands like a vase on a potter’s wheel…oh, I love that.”

I didn’t say any of this. It was Charles who solicited the doctor’s opinion on her beauty. Charles who feeds her five times a day (because she can only eat a little at a time and if you leave it out, Fitzroy will eat it) and stands over her watching like an anxious chef, like a chef auditioning for the President.

The President gave a speech today. I didn’t watch, but I read it.

“Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for and cherished and always safe from harm.”

Good luck with that, Barry. You can cherish all you want, you can confiscate and destroy every gun in the country, but our children will not always be safe from harm. The inevitability of harm is why children exist in the first place.

I do wish Mouchette could have kittens.

A lovely, strange poem

What the Angels Left

At first, the scissors seemed perfectly harmless.
They lay on the kitchen table in the blue light.

Then I began to notice them all over the house,
at night in the pantry, or filling up bowls in the cellar

where there should have been apples. They appeared under rugs,
lumpy places where one would usually settle before the fire,

or suddenly shining in the sink at the bottom of soupy water.
Once, I found a pair in the garden, stuck in turned dirt

among the new bulbs, and one night, under my pillow,
I felt something like a cool long tooth and pulled them out

to lie next to me in the dark. Soon after that I began
to collect them, filling boxes, old shopping bags,

every suitcase I owned. I grew slightly uncomfortable
when company came. What if someone noticed them

when looking for forks or replacing dried dishes? I longed
to throw them out, but how could I get rid of something

that felt oddly like grace? It occurred to me finally
that I was meant to use them, and I resisted a growing compulsion

to cut my hair, although in moments of great distraction,
I thought it was my eyes they wanted, or my soft belly

—exhausted, in winter, I laid them out on the lawn.
The snow fell quite as usual, without any apparent hesitation

or discomfort. In spring, as expected, they were gone.
In their place, a slight metallic smell, and the dear muddy earth.

–Marie Howe


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