June 4, 2009 § Leave a comment


Mouchette has been here three days. The first night, we kept her locked in the bathroom. Fitzroy knew she was there, of course, and crept up to the door a few times, sniffing and looking through the crack (none of the doors in my apartment really close). Then this cat, who has never given his reflection in the mirror even one glance, no matter how many times I held him up and pointed it out to him, walked over to the long vertical mirror in my bedroom, stood up on his hind paws, his front paws resting on the glass and gazed at himself.

Has he finally realized he’s a cat? Was he checking that his hair looked okay?

The first day, they hissed and spat at each other. They still do that, but with less intensity. He wants to jump on her, in both the wrestle-play and sexual sense, and she, half his size, rebuffs him, her white-tipped paws waving, headlight eyes glowing devil-yellow. This makes him sulk and retreat, sitting humped like a meatloaf*, his white ruff ruffled. Meanwhile, the slink-princess creeps up behind him and nips at his fat tail. 

She can stretch her body to an unnatural length when she needs to, like a cartoon character or a superhero. On her hind legs, she looks like a black felt-tip pen or a licorice twist, sprawled on the table she’s the charred hotdog a child has cooked and abandoned.

She can climb up and around the bookshelves—which contain, as well as books, open boxes of beads, framed photos, little bowls, bells, ceramic hyenas and other thoughtful gifts I’ve received over the years. She can wind her way through the lipsticks, pencils, necklaces, face cream and pill bottles on my bureau; burrow through my basket of important, ignored papers; and squeeze inside a drawer left open a couple of inches. My apartment is to her what all children want, a fabulous, slightly dangerous unmediated test of agility and balance.

She purrs when I stroke her skinny ribs but startles easily and won’t let me pick her up. She stares up at me with her piebald face like an urchin who’s been told not to speak to strangers and won’t, even if her mother is gone for the rest of her life. She comes running whenever I lavish affection on Fitz, demanding to be part of the cuddle, but she’s not used to people: she butts me with her head, then shies away from my lifted hand.

At her latest attempt, Fitz laid a caramel-and-cream paw on her back, bent down and grasped her neck between his jaws. Just like tigers do it on PBS! Oh, Mouchette, aren’t you excited!

 She wasn’t.

* CAT–One hell of a nice animal, frequently mistaken for a meatloaf. – B. Kliban



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