[As pictured in the previous entry]
In September 2005 we brought Oscar home from the Humane Society, a sleepy black runt of a cat who moved us with his quiet behaviour. The little room where we met him smelled of piss, fear and death, but he was the only one not pacing, scratching or leaping at the cage doors. Instead, he sniffed our fingers through the grille and extended a paw.
It turned out that his docility stemmed from malnutrition and illness. Throughout the first weeks in our apartment, Schmutzie heated his food in the microwave and took him to the water dish to drink. He would have died otherwise.
Once he healed, the passive stage ended, going straight to manic aggression. He would leap out at us from behind doors, jump into the bathtub and throw his tiny body around, and bite Schmutzie's feet when he wanted attention of any kind (my feet were spared). Plus he was loud. He had a whole repertoire of calls and plaints, each one sufficient to shake us out of sleep. Despite these bad habits, he was also one of the friendliest and smartest cats we'd ever known, so we were determined to figure out a solution for his and our problems.
Eventually we figured out that he needed a pet of his own to abuse.
Back we went to the Humane Society. None of the cats really caught our eye, but there was a woman there, clearly crazy, who'd come to adopt a beautiful Dalmation. The staff were doing everything possible to keep the woman from taking the dog home. We made a tentative choice: an older cat that rolled on its belly when we approached the cage, with a body and a demeanour like a fur stole.
On the way home we stopped at a pet store that had Humane Society animals for adoption. In one of the cages a scrawny, long-limbed kitten with manic eyes and oversized paws stepped back and forth. We took him out and he draped himself over our shoulders right away. As I was signing the papers, he was attacking the pen. The forms bear several ink slashes from his swiping paw.
Now he's huge. Where Oscar is graceful, Onion is an oaf who runs into the furniture. When Oscar need to beat someone up, he attacks Onion, who is twice his size and still expanding. He brings balance to
The Force our household and allows Schmutzie to walk around barefoot.
I repeat: an evening in bed with Palinode and Schmutzie. Entertainment, drinks, hummus, blood and ouns. Actually, no blood and ouns. Oscar the Cat leaps up on the bed, eyes wide and moony-round.
Schmutzie: Oscar's worried about something. He's making that whuffing sound with his nostrils.
Schmutzie: I think it's the open window. He's not used to the night sounds.
Palinode: It's Robert Palmer. He's back from the grave and he's standing outside our window, playing some choice hits.
Schmutzie: Robert Palmer is at The Grave?
Palinode: He was, but now he's back and he's got some choice hits for us.
Schmutzie: So he's come back to The Grave?.
Palinode: No, he's come back from the grave. He died. But he's outside our window now.
Schmutzie: Robert Palmer's dead?
Palinode: But his corpse has risen with a will to serve choice hits at the window.
Schmutzie: So he's at The Window?
Palinode: Night sounds.
Schmutzie: I have no idea what you're talking about.
Palinode: It's simple. The dead body of Robert Palmer has risen from his grave, and now he is outside at our window playing his choice hits, which are the night sounds that are making Oscar nervous.
Schmutzie: Oh. I thought The Grave and The Window were clubs in town and Robert Palmer was playing.
Oscar: Whuf, predictably.
An evening in bed with Palinode and Schmutzie (Yesssss! say the fans). Palinode pats Onion the Cat. A frown furrows his smooth rich face.
Palinode: Cat. Your back is wet without reason.
Onion: Meow or something.
Palinode: The cat's back is wet and there's no explanation.
Schmutzie: I spilled water on him when I came in.
Onion: Meow or something.
Palinode: Yeah. I remember now. You walked in and screamed "DRIED-OUT LITTLE BITCH!" and threw your glass of water all over him.
Schmutzie: I DID NOT!
Palinode: You had to go and pour yourself a new glass of water and everything.
Schmutzie: You're the worst liar in all time.
If you're our cat, the home of anxiety and self-pity is the bathtub in our apartment. For the rest of us, it's the home of relaxation and scrubbing. But the bathtub is where our cat goes when it's time to yowl and cry over everything that it never got in its young life, every missed opportunity and lost toy mouse. Like Neely O' Hara smashing her dressing room mirror and crying out her own name in a fit of booze-addled despair, so Oskar launches his body into the tub and rakes his claws against the cold ceramic surfaces. Why does our bathtub outrage the cat? We keep it clean.
For those of you who like to drop by and read the conversations I record between me and Schmutzie (or steal them, as the case may be), you should know that this conversation never happened. It is not possible for this conversation to happen, because these words should never issue from anyone's mouth in the sequence set down here, nor should they be recorded and played over a small portable speaker system, nor pressed to vinyl and played to crowds, nor committed to cassette tape and snuck into even light to medium rotation on the local Lite FM. If and when mp3 files become invented (please forgive me - I am pretending for the purposes of this entry that mp3s and other popular digital audio compression formats do not yet exist) it will not be permissible to convert a recording to said format and download it to your iPod - whatever that is. Those with minds so depraved as to even imagine this conversation deserve to be thrown into a deep pit and screamed at by men with sharp sticks and fearsome moustaches. This last is particularly important to impress on you, because once you read this conversation it will be lodged in your mind, and you will deserve the pit and the screams and the moustaches and the whole package of bad incarceration experiences, which I will not go into here. If, like me, you do not believe in heaven or hell but in a system of karma in which everything that you deserve will eventually be granted, there will be a day for us all involving a deep pit and the enraged screams of the men with moustaches. And lastly, those who steal this conversation WILL HAVE THEIR SHITTY OPEN DIARY WEBLOGS TAKEN DOWN, LIZZY.
Anyway. This conversation, which never happened, took place between an old man and a cat in a dark hallway. Schmutzie was out with a friend or getting coffee cream or something, whatever it is that Schmutzies do when I'm not around. The Old Man is actually thirty-four, but this exchange makes more sense if you picture a very senile old guy trying to talk to a cat.
Old Man: Did you know, cat, the truth is that there are moments that I mistake you for a boot in the hallway.
Old Man: No, not any boot. You are not of a size that I should take you for a parade boot. You are too large. Nor would I say that you are of sufficient size that I would spy a garrison boot leaning against the wall and offer it a cat treat.
Old Man: In fact it is likely that I would mistake you for a boot of intermediate size, such as a twelve-eyelet Doc Marten.
Old Man: Oh, definitely a matte leather, since the glint of patent leather caps on the toe would reveal instantly which was the boot, which cat.
Old Man: You have nailed the very problem. We have no twelve-eyelet Doc Marten boot of any colour, nor any boot to match the size of your body. So what is that I am seeing that I mistake for you?
Old Man: Possible, but not likely. It's most likely that I am hallucinating a boot in the darkened hallway, and that it is actually you that I am seeing. Therefore I ask that you take care in an emergency to avoid the hallway, lest I try to put you on my foot in my panic, using your limbs and tail as laces and your belly as my sole. Your head would be fine fancy toecaps.
Old Man: I would hobble outside and all the neighbours would want to know why my boot was so ungainly, why my fine fancy toecaps were biting my toes and my laces were clawing at my ankles.
Old Man: Don't you walk away from me! They would have a right to know!
Schmutzie: It's cold out there. What have you been doing?
Old Man: Talking with the cat.
Schmutzie: Uh-huh. I bet.
I used to think that the cat stepped on my throat every morning to get another helping of food and water. Now I see that food and water are incidental. The main purpose of having my throat stepped on in the morning by precise little paws is to bear witness as the cat rips books off shelves, knocks over plants and yowls like it's caught in a fan belt. Look at me! The tumor's really pressing on my adrenal gland this morning! You took my testicles but you can't take away my tumor!
In the rumble-and-thump tattoo of cats, I think he's singing to us: The way I chew the plants/ The way I yowl at three/ The way I sniff your pants/ Oh no you can't take that away from me (THUMP! CRASH! YOWL!) Oh yeah, the way my poop just stinks/ The way I dig with glee/ And when I spill your drinks/ You can't take that away from me/ Yes, you took my balls but not these things from me etc.
Thanks folks, you been great. Great crowd this morning, hey? My name's Oskar, I'll be up on the windowsill for the rest of the day. Try the spider plant.