Spitfire

June 4, 2009 § Leave a comment

Mouche.Fitz

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

stately_1692

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The Urchin Bride

June 2, 2009 § 1 Comment

ThePrincessBrideI wish it would be like this all summer, mild sunny days, perfect for walking, a little wind now and then, never too hot or too cold, and Charles doing the vacuuming.

We ended up not going out Sunday, because we were too sleepy. He’s sleepy when he visits because he’s away from his job, and his sleepiness infects me, even as I feebly try to tempt him with museums and shows. As usual, all we’ve managed is meals and walks.

Well, not quite. We got another cat from the shelter, a little slinky, black and white 10-month-old female named Mouchette. She looks a little like a weasel and a little like a skunk, but mostly like a Parisian waif who comes out only at night, wrapped in her threadbare black fur to haunt the cafes and bar, sometimes stealing a drink or a bit of bread, sometimes charming her way into a hot dinner. What a girl does to secure that is her own business.

Patricia who rescued her (months ago) delivered her—a house call was necessary to be sure we were proper parents. Fitzroy jumped off the windowsill and hissed at his caged bride and Patricia suggested we take Mouchette into the bathroom, so she could be in a small safe place. My bathroom is very small, so I waited outside as Charles went in with Patricia. She was very impressed because he got in the bathtub to sweet-talk Mouchette, who was cowering near the drain. Once he performed that stunt, the interview was effectively over. Of course, he’s leaving today but no need to mention that. I will take care of them.

Today, it’s been cat chasing cat, meeting to hiss and spit, cat running away. They stalk each other and flirt, then spring away like those little black Scottie dog magnets. Mouchette is more persistent than Fitzroy, because she was raised with other cats and is determined to affirm the social order. He’s aloof but once engaged wants butt-sniffing and body-contact rowdy play while she seems more interested in flaunting, aggravation and creeping.

I got her mostly so that Fitzroy would have a cat life, freeing me to work all day without feeling like I had to entertain him, but for now at least they are entertaining me with their performance of feline courtship rituals, which neutering doesn’t really affect.

They aren’t really neutered, anyway. Not where it counts, in the brain. He’s male; she’s female. Missing a few bits perhaps, but neither of them has any doubts what they are.

***

For my Cat Jeoffrey

For I will consider my Cat Jeoffry.
For he is the servant of the Living God duly and daily serving him.
For at the first glance of the glory of God in the East he worships in his way.
For is this done by wreathing his body seven times round with elegant quickness.
For then he leaps up to catch the musk, which is the blessing of God upon his prayer.
For he rolls upon prank to work it in.
For having done duty and received blessing he begins to consider himself.
For this he performs in ten degrees.
For first he looks upon his fore-paws to see if they are clean.
For secondly he kicks up behind to clear away there.
For thirdly he works it upon stretch with the fore-paws extended.
For fourthly he sharpens his paws by wood.
For fifthly he washes himself.
For Sixthly he rolls upon wash.
For Seventhly he fleas himself, that he may not be interrupted upon the beat.
For Eighthly he rubs himself against a post.
For Ninthly he looks up for his instructions.
For Tenthly he goes in quest of food.
For having consider’d God and himself he will consider his neighbour.
For if he meets another cat he will kiss her in kindness.
For when he takes his prey he plays with it to give it chance.
For one mouse in seven escapes by his dallying.
For when his day’s work is done his business more properly begins.
For he keeps the Lord’s watch in the night against the adversary.
For he counteracts the powers of darkness by his electrical skin and glaring eyes.
For he counteracts the Devil, who is death, by brisking about the life.
For in his morning orisons he loves the sun and the sun loves him.
For he is of the tribe of Tiger.
For the Cherub Cat is a term of the Angel Tiger.
For he has the subtlety and hissing of a serpent, which in goodness he suppresses.
For he will not do destruction, if he is well-fed, neither will he spit without provocation.
For he purrs in thankfulness, when God tells him he’s a good Cat.
For he is an instrument for the children to learn benevolence upon.
For every house is incompleat without him and a blessing is lacking in the spirit.
For the Lord commanded Moses concerning the cats at the departure of the Children of Israel from Egypt.
For every family had one cat at least in the bag.
For the English Cats are the best in Europe.
For he is the cleanest in the use of his fore-paws of any quadrupede.
For the dexterity of his defence is an instance of the love of God to him exceedingly.
For he is the quickest to his mark of any creature.
For he is tenacious of his point.
For he is a mixture of gravity and waggery.
For he knows that God is his Saviour.
For there is nothing sweeter than his peace when at rest.
For there is nothing brisker than his life when in motion.
For he is of the Lord’s poor and so indeed is he called by benevolence perpetually – Poor Jeoffry! poor Jeoffry! the rat has bit thy throat.
For I bless the name of the Lord Jesus that Jeoffry is better.
For the divine spirit comes about his body to sustain it in compleat cat.
For his tongue is exceeding pure so that it has in purity what it wants in musick.
For he is docile and can learn certain things.
For he can set up with gravity which is patience upon approbation.
For he can fetch and carry, which is patience in employment.
For he can jump over a stick which is patience upon proof positive.
For he can spraggle upon waggle at the word of command.
For he can jump from an eminence into his master’s bosom.
For he can catch the cork and toss it again.
For he is hated by the hypocrite and miser.
For the former is affraid of detection.
For the latter refuses the charge.
For he camels his back to bear the first notion of business.
For he is good to think on, if a man would express himself neatly,
For he made a great figure in Egypt for his signal services.
For he killed the Ichneumon-rat very pernicious by land.
For his ears are so acute that they sting again.
For from this proceeds the passing quickness of his attention.
For by stroaking of him I have found out electricity.
For I perceived God’s light about him both wax and fire.
For the Electrical fire is the spiritual substance, which God sends from heaven to sustain the bodies both of man and beast.
For God has blessed him in the variety of his movements.
For, though he cannot fly, he is an excellent clamberer.
For his motions upon the face of the earth are more than any other quadrupede.
For he can tread to all the measures upon the musick.
For he can swim for life.
For he can creep.

Christopher Smart (1722-1771)

The Cat and Night

April 4, 2009 § 2 Comments

I have a new cat. He’s a year old, sweet, curious and disoriented. I’ll will tell you his name when I decide on it. So far he’s been Stoner and Robert Moses, but although Robert is a little sticky, I’m not sure. I was thinking of something extravagant but he’s not an extravagant cat. His face isn’t beautiful, nor his bearing lordly.  He’s an ordinary cat, with very pretty fur. Mind and soul unknown, but tantalizing.

 stringkitty

My friends Maddy and Molly had to give Robert up, after 6 days, because Molly found out she was allergic. His previous owner, Julia, had hidden him in her dorm room at N.Y. U. and was caught. So now he’s here, his first night, and he doesn’t know why.

The cat I had in childhood wasn’t beautiful either, or lordly (I say now, looking at photographs; I saw things differently then). I knew how to worship him. I knew how to praise his dominion over the darkness—our house was in a suburb with big back yards, and he had a whole night world and private life, unlike Robert. And unlike me, who had to go to bed at 8 o’clock, though sometimes I snuck out very late and called him, called and called until he dragged himself unwillingly from his amours, showed his imperial self, bit me on the leg, and departed.

That was Ricky; this is Robert, or maybe Marcel. No, not Marcel. I do think he would like Proust though, Volume 1, if I could get him to listen. But all those descriptions of the two walks—Swann’s Way, the Guermantes Way, the hawthorn blossoms—might get to him, confined as he is. I’m thinking of the middle-aged Marcel who never left his apartment, hardly ever left his bed. I’m thinking of myself, if I happened to be a brilliant wealthy male homosexual French writer dead nearly 100 years.

After Maddy and Molly left, R investigated every corner of the apartment (a long time in the bathroom, less in the closet), squirmed his skinny body up under the 8-inch-open window sash, face pressed to the screen like a convict getting his first breath of fresh air in years, investigated some more, calmly walking over picture frames, smooth stones and bowls of loose change, touching noses with a stuffed kitten, chewing on a book, smelling the apples and the honey, then stood on the floor meowing plaintively for awhile before settling down on the little rug by the front door. He looked kind of like a collie lying there. Lad, a Dog, cherished book of my childhood. Probably before your time.

When I got up in my insomniac, oh fuck it’s nearly 2 a.m. mood, after lying awake worrying about…everything…not even worrying, fretting…and rummaged among the top drawer for pills, he came in for a visit. “It’s lonely, isn’t it, kitty? Come up here with me.” He allowed himself to be lifted to the bed, purred and knocked his face against mine, displaying the habits of the deeply affectionate, then was off again to his solitude, leaving a whiff of kitty litter behind him.

I’ve only ever had kittens. I’m not used to a cat in mourning for other women. I’m way too used to that with humans…but this cat is sad, and that makes me sad. He’ll get over it, I say to myself.  I wonder. This is his 4th or 5th domicile in a short life (Julia got him from a shelter) and though his friendliness suggests kind treatment, I can’t help thinking he deserves better.

I want to get him a female kitty for company, a sleek silver tabby or Russian Blue to complement his coloring. They could chase each other around my apartment and break everything. It’s good I can’t download a kitten from the Internet or I just might. My new Leopard operating system hasn’t offered any other benefits I’ve noticed.

He likes me well enough. He just misses the others, and their real estate.couch cat

bedkitty

 

 

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