Can You Make A Cat Laugh?

June 21, 2010 § Leave a comment

My friend said recently that I anthropomorphize too much; cats don’t get bored. Then why is Fitzroy standing on his hind legs, tapping on my shoulder and meowing? He’s got half his dinner on his plate. Why does he jump out of the window seat and skid around corners to follow me to the bathroom, where I perform the same exciting acts I always do? Listening to him prowl and growl at night, I can amuse myself pretending he’s my father reincarnated, but now at my mercy. When he attacks Mouchette for no good reason I remember long childhood trips in cars, and being stuck on the island in the rain.

Sometimes he lies on the bathroom threshold, keeping watch. The toilet has its mysteries beyond my engagement with it. And when I sweep back the bathtub curtain, surprising him…doing something…how his eyes glow! I remember being in his position, scorning the big folk for having such a dim idea of their surroundings, as if things and places existed only for their most obvious functions.

Now he’s on the cardboard box the air conditioner came in, which I saved because Mouchette likes sleeping on it. I indulge her (and it is an indulgence; the box is half shredded, leaving my bedroom looking like the inside of a pencil sharpener) because she never bites my elbow or pauses doltishly while standing on my keyboard. She merely wakes now and then, squeaks weakly, and pokes her little head at me (just the size of a dirtball fitted into a child’s palm). But today the big redheaded Easter-Bunny impersonator has claimed it. He’s digging frantically at the seam to cave in the top so he can fall in along with my checkbook, notebook and stray papers.

Yes, they’re bored. I’m bored too, but only because I’m not doing all the things I should or could. I have no excuses. I paid a lot in therapy to get rid of those excuses, so they went. It’s lonely without them.

To entertain the family, I sing. The non-humans appear to enjoy it. I sing the songs I liked as a child while rocking my grouchy cat. (Mouchette won’t allow me to rock her. She crouches and watches with her big round eyes.) I’m looking forward to the new iphone, which has an app that records and tunes your voice, making all the necessary adjustments so you can sing to professional accompaniment and sound the way you always knew you should. Well, you—maybe you can sing already. I can’t carry a tune. It was a wonder at school. The teacher would ask me to sing a note just to give everyone a good laugh.

Don’t you like that expression, “It was enough to make a cat laugh?” Few things are. Maybe that’s why they’re bored.

Dream Song 14

Life, friends, is boring. We must not say so.
After all, the sky flashes, the great sea yearns,
we ourselves flash and yearn,
and moreover my mother told me as a boy
(repeatingly) ‘Ever to confess you’re bored
means you have no
Inner Resources.’ I conclude now I have no 
inner resources, because I am heavy bored.

Peoples bore me,

literature bores me, especially great literature, 

Henry bores me, with his plights & gripes 

as bad as achilles,

who loves people and valiant art, which bores me. 

And the tranquil hills, & gin, look like a drag 

and somehow a dog 

has taken itself & its tail considerably away 

into the mountains or sea or sky, leaving 

behind: me, wag.

–John Berryman


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