A cat has come into my life – Zoe, an 8 year-old female, black with white markings, who arrived courtesy of a family needing to downsize cat-wise. Zoe is a nice cat, and is now pretty used to having this man around, who feeds her and cleans up after her, strokes her, opens and closes the door so she may stalk the surrounding country or retreat at leisure and is, as men tend to be, madly in love with her.
Yet owning a writer is a dangerous profession for a cat. Generally speaking, cats agree to live with humans, and if the circumstances are not to their liking, they bugger off and either find another slave or house full of slaves more agreeable, or try to make it out in the wide world on their own. In the country I live in, that’s possible and the greatest danger for a wild cat is the human being who regards the cat as an enemy to the bird population, with many species rare or endangered. Humans trap, poison, and shoot wild cats. There are plenty of rats, stoats, ferrets, and mice to keep the cats – and birds – occupied, but humans are not always rational in these matters. Behind the wheel of a motor vehicle they can be even less rational.
Zoe knows how to handle a man, and I am now putty in her paws. She is definitely wise.. But she may also be foolish, for having a writer as a slave exposes a cat to dangers not found with other humans: publicity being the most significant. Who knows what a writer will write, and broadcast to the world, about the cats in her or his midst? Don Marquis, for example, cast a great deal of doubt on the moral qualities of his cat Mehitabel, who claimed to have once been Cleopatra and who said she had since been many distinguished personalities, whose lives she enjoyed, shall we say, to the full.. T S Eliot excepted, it is not at all clear that cats have been well-served by writers who have claimed to know them and their ways.
Just now Zoe is lying on a chair that was once mine, just behind me. She is a gentle and quiet cat, and her loudest sound to date has been a kind of half-volley squeak, as if a mouse is stuck in her throat and would be pleased to make an exit, but can’t. In the night, when she is most active, Zoe rumbles up and down the carpeted hallway in pursuit, I suspect, of pure, unadulterated joy. This is a queen who knows how to rule.
Come morning she has to deal with me. It’s a tough job at the easiest of times. Just now her approach is to sneak up close to my ears and purr loudly. When I do not respond, she comes closer and purrs extra loudly. When I finally rise she races me to the food delivery area – so far she has always won – and supervises delivery of the nuts, the treat-nuts, the pet milk, the “wet meat” and the fresh water that aims to justify my presence in her life.
While she munches, or sleeps as now, or prowls the district seeking…seeking whatever she fancies, I am writing…so far, there is nothing for her to complain about, or so say I.. My mistress evokes at worst the querulous whimper of a man bewitched, this being not nearly as unpleasant as the mournful howl, or even bellow, of a man scorned.
On the other hand, a central character in my new novel has had a name change. Zoe!