Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Fury of a Cat

No cat has ever been accused of berating a man. But there Phil stood, unsure whether to be embarrassed or humiliated that his 12-year-old mancoon, Gertrude, on the occasion of finding nothing to drink in its water bowl had risen in response, meowing down an upper Egypt’s worth of curses, insults and complaints upon its utterly shocked human guardian. It’s not that Phil had never heard Gertrude speak; the cat had spoken on many occasions on many varying topics. The animal was a natural-born conversationalist, after all. The two would sit together for hours on Sunday afternoons watching football and sundry sporting events, alternately ridiculing and mocking the many varied elements and hubris of the athletic world. No, the issue was that Gertie had never lashed out at poor Phil for anything, much less an empty bowl. Even on the rare occasion when Phil was delayed in getting home from work, Gertrude was patient and empathetic in her hungry waiting. Phil wondered dishearteningly at the foul environment he had created. “I had no idea cats felt so strongly.”

It was a mild, winter Sunday afternoon when the two exchanged a witty back-and-forth over the results of the weekend’s U.S. 4 x 400 team relay trials. The truth came out much the way it always does: with illumined authority. Feline spittle flying and collecting on her whiskers, Gertie looked Phil straight in the eye – I refer to it in the singular because, as a young boy, Phil had lost his right eye during a visit to his grandfather’s nutria farm in the upper reaches of Louisiana’s lower delta; a tragedy not to be recalled here – and dared him say that again. Phil, thinking the cat only half-joking about his flippant remark regarding spandex and feline baldness, went ahead and repeated the condescension. He said the one thing that no cat has, or will ever tolerate. Initially visibly hesitant, Gertie eventually stormed away, tail aloft, mentally snapping once it reached the empty water bowl. That was the final straw, so to speak, procuring from her a long and violent litany of anti-human rhetoric at the expense of poor, single-eyed Phil. No eye hath seen, no ear containeth the fury of an irate, obese cat. After finally regaining composure, Phil did the only thing he thought appropriate given the tense circumstances; he quietly brushed his teeth, swallowed his daily supplemental vitamin, and slipped beneath the flannel bed sheets, foregoing his nightly routine of leisurely bedtime reading. Complete and utter silence seemed the wisest course of action. Perhaps the morning light would bring renewed peace, forgiveness, the settling of dust and dander. At the very least, daybreak would bring rest and perspective, qualities far more advantageous than fear, qualities necessary for extracting light from shadow.

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