Every author needs a break or two from the great projects they hope to write. This is mine. While I was in Bath, I took the opportunity to pen down three pages. Of course, I used a good dip quill and decent paper, all while sitting in the parlor of the restored Regency house: The Admiral’s House. I offer it to you here, to be read here. I request that you do not copy it. If you know someone who would enjoy it too, share a link to this post.
It is unedited, uncorrected, un-fixed … it stands as is. Written on an afternoon when I was feeling the loss of time, knowing that I was going home all too soon. Please enjoy it. And if you are so inclined, please feel free to comment.
The Resident of Lower Catswold
– A simple feline story – by T.E. MacArthur
It is a solidly accepted fact that cats adore affectation. Whether it is the appearance of indifference to touch or dissatisfaction with a hearty meal, a cat is judged to be a Wise Feline based on how many affectations he has mastered.
He is also considered a Wise Feline if he has discovered his true potential in life. For you see, cats are most pleased with themselves when they are fully engaged in the practices of their hearts. And, of course, when pretending to have the opposite opinion.
He had decided very early on that being born an American cat – a domestic shorthair Tabby to be specific – did not please him at all. He was a special cat and he knew it. Every cat in the house was an American cat and he wanted something quite different for himself. After all, the most vital aspect of the feline’s early life was pleasing himself, which universally lead to knowing himself. How he would accomplish being anything other than what he’d been born as, he wasn’t certain, but he was determined. He was fully one year old and it was high time he set about becoming a Wise Feline, in terms he would dictate.
He had just given himself a proper cleaning, required before attempting anything serious, such as napping, eating, or becoming “not just another American cat.”
It was then that life rather rudely interrupted him. He would learn that this was generally the natural state of things, but to a one year old cat, interruption was just plain inconsiderate.
His human discovered she could not properly care for the extremely large family of cats she maintained in her home. As quick as one could say, “catch the sparrow,” he found himself in a cage – a cage no less! Surrounded by squawking birds, who mocked his predicament rather cruelly. For three days he stayed in that dreadful enclosure. The humans who ran what he decided was a shop were in great anticipation of an event in another day. He did not care. Human events that did not include generous plates of fish were of no interest to him. Irritated beyond measure, he folded himself into a furry cube and sulked.
Faces pressing against the window, trying to see the “kitty” were purposefully ignored with absolute distain. They left nose prints on the glass – quite undignified.
What was particularly galling was that he could not complain about it. You see, every feline, canine, and possible some of those twittering birds, clearly spoke, understood, and even read the local speech of humans. They were not, however, obligated to inform the humans of this fact. Few would reduce themselves so far as to point out this fact unless the humans, or one in particular, could achieve a very special level of trust. Dogs were more likely to withhold speech as they found it often prevented playtime. Humans who had learned their dog could speak spent far too much precious time asking the dog to talk and not enough simply throwing the ball. Amongst canines, it was generally understood that the best thing for humans was not to talk to them in words. Cats, however, had more complex needs, and thus tended to look for opportunities to trust and then speak with their humans.
Humans, on the other hand, simply didn’t tend to hear. Adult humans especially. They preferred speaking with each other, which was fine except that it lacked a feline perspective. To a cat, not having a cat’s perspective on the world meant that the conversation was going to be rather useless if not unnecessary.
Since no one in the shop had earned his trust, he was unable to explain to them that he was an out-of-doors cat, not an indoor one, American or otherwise. His needs were best met by sunlight, trees, and wind. He needed natural places to properly bury his “business.” To ask him to use the strange smelling sand and pebbles for such an important task was outrageous. Did they not understand that as a burgeoning Wise Feline and Predator, he had to change where he eliminated his “wastes” constantly so as to throw off the other, would-be predators – such as the heavy orange cat in the enclosure below him? Yet, he could not tell them. The humans were much too excited by their own plans and he did not trust them.
This was not to say that he did not like them, but “like” and “trust” were two different things.
Thus he sulked. Even when the big day arrived, and a dozen other cats were brought in cages to be displayed, he sulked. The tiny kittens were too young to understand that their prancing and playing was merely showing off and quite undignified. The orange cat below rubbed ridiculously on his bars, trying to get attention. It was almost too much to bear.
The morning passed, and humans continued to parade past his window. None of them paid him attention. By afternoon, he was beginning to regret his petulant behavior. Even the orange cat had been given the all-important sign that read: Hold for Pickup.
One human waited by the window. A female. Not young or old. Her head fur was dark as were her eyes. She looked sad. Slowly, hesitating often, she finally came into the store – past all the kittens, and birds, and staring humans with their squealing offspring.
The shop human spoke to her about how he had been brought to the shop, how he had been one of too many cats in one house. His name, the human female was informed, was Mac. That was not his name, but he never resented it when the old lady called him that.
“My uncle was named Mac,” the female said, a sad tone in her voice.
“He’s very sweet. Would you like to hold him?”
Wait? What? She was going to touch him? That was not fair, no one had asked him if he minded being taken from his comfortable situation. Of course, he was not comfortable in that cage. And when the shop human lifted him by his belly, his legs stretched a little. He’d been sulking for hours in the same position, and frankly, it felt good to move. This he could not tell anyone, thus he grumbled a bit as the shop human put him in the arms of the female.
Accidentally, he purred. Not a pleasant purr, but a combination of satisfaction being out of that cage, warm in someone’s arms, and yet afraid sort of purr.
“Do you have other pets at home?” the shop human asked.
Pets? Really, how rude. I am not a pet, Mac thought. I am a Wise Feline in development.
“No. My cat … passed away three months ago.”
Mac relaxed a little. She was a trained cat human, and she was sad to be without cat. This could be promising. Perhaps.
“I really shouldn’t …” she said.
“Oh, we are cutting the price for adoption today in half.”
Price? I have no price –
The female handed him kindly back to the shop human.
Wait! Are you rejecting me? Mac was horrified. Every feline that had been picked up was chosen to go to a home, some had already gone. But not him? What was wrong with him? Of course, he was just another American cat, he decided. Perhaps he was not so special after all.
So there he sat for another hour. This time he wasn’t sulking but feeling truly forgotten. Was it because he was so common? No, he was special and unique and rather handsome if he might say so – as he was a cat, he did say so. Yet, no one seemed to see this in him. Was it because he was no longer a bouncing kitten but not yet a Wise Feline? He simply didn’t understand. Why had she walked away?
He closed his eyes and thought as hard as he could about anything but the rejection.
The empty cages were being collected and the humans were congratulating themselves at how many cats had gone to new homes. But not him. Well, if they didn’t want him, he’d hiss at them and not let them touch him and …
The shop door opened. The female looked in … at him. “Are you still open?”
The female stepped into the shop, with a tired but fancy cat carrier. “I think I’d like to take him home with me.”
Mac’s heart raced but he didn’t dare move. He really hated carriers, but this was different. He could withhold his distain just this once. Was this really happening? The humans were too far away to be heard, but the female kept handing them pieces of colored paper and they handed her large white sheets with typing on them.
The shop human went to take him out of his cage, yet hesitated long enough to whisper to him, “We’ll miss you big boy.”
Unceremoniously, Mac was wiggled and wrangled into the carrier. He made no sound. The female spoke very kindly to him, as if she understood how he might feel. The open shop door allowed fresh air into his carrier and then it was done. He would never go back to that shop, and he suspected, never to any shop again. How he knew this, he didn’t really care. Such things were known by Wise Felines.
The female walked home, some few blocks from the shop. It was a nice neighborhood, or so he decided from his position only about two feet off the ground. Mac sniffed the air from his dark hiding place in the carrier. He could smell other cats and a few dogs. There were trees that needed to be climbed. Mice to be chased. And of course, a territory to be established. He would be patient though. They were not yet home.
Home? Yes. If he liked the place, he would call it home. If he didn’t, well then…
They stopped in front of a three story building with two large trees outside. There wasn’t much in the way of grass, but plenty of plants he could “water” when marking his territory.
“Ready for an escapade or two?”
Well, of course he was. A cat’s life was one exploit after another … in between naps.
“We’re on the ground floor, so I’ve decided this is Lower Catswold.”
Catswold? No, he knew better. The term as Cotswold. Still. As he could sense a lingering residue of the prior cat, which she clearly had tried to clean in her human way, he decided this was indeed Catswold.
“Welcome home, Mac.”
Welcome home indeed. In his quest to become a Wise Feline, and to decide what sort of cat he would become, this human female was in for quite an adventure. He might, someday, dain to speak to her.