Cat For Cat
We have cats.
They are volunteers—my favorite kind. We are like ships passing in the night—they live in the barn and I don’t. There were four, then there were three, then, briefly, there were only two, then there were four again (but a different four).
We have given them names, but not all of them have stuck.
The Four Original Cats:
Mr. Tropogrosso (From an short Paul Bartel film called The Secret Cinema) (Gillian)
Bob (From Bob’s Burgers) (Rich)
Partridge (Rich and Gillian)
Mr. Tropogrosso departed within a month and we have not seen him since. We are hoping he was adopted by a family and not killed in some cat thing.
The Three Left:
Stripëd Kitty (formally Anonymous) (Rich)
Bob took off and we were unsure if he would go the way of Mr. Tropogrosso. We kept thinking we saw him—but we didn’t.
Grey Kitty (formally Partridge) (Rich)
When it started getting cold, cats started reappearing. We thought we kept seeing Mr. Tropogrosso but it was Bob. Both Bob and Mr. TropoGrosso are large black and white kitties. Eventually Bob came back to stay and a new one showed up.
The Current Four:
Boots or Bootsy-Partdige (formally Partridge or Grey Kitty) (Gillian and Rich)
Stripëd Tiger Kitty (formally Stripëd Kitty)
Opal is the first all-black and the first long-haired kitty. She has beautiful teal-colored eyes.
Bootsy-Partridge is the only one that comes running out of the barn when we drive up—she wants food and Rich feeds them. She is becoming the most trusting and courageous of the four and will get as close as 5 feet to us.
Opal has a sunny perch directly under the eave of the barn. She will regally cast her eyes at us and do the “slow blink” that Rich says means she’s content. But if we come right up to her shelf, which is 8 feet off the ground, she’ll beat a hasty retreat. Bob and Stripëd Tiger Kitty are super skittish and constantly on the move. Stripëd Tiger Kitty will run full bore down the road to get away from you and if you’ve never seen a cat run in a straight line for 100 yards at full speed, you haven’t lived. Bob just kind of melts into invisibility when he sees us.
I am allergic to cats-- so perching cats, skittish cats, running cats and melting cats are my favorite kind of cats.
Speaking of cats, I am reading a book called The Ocean at the End of the Lane (Neil Gaiman). Often I will reserve a book on Overdrive (the digital library consortium) and by the time it becomes available, I’ve forgotten why I wanted to read it or what it’s about. This is a good thing--I like going in blind. That I was interested at one time is all I need to know.
This certain thing came up pretty early in the book—no spoiler alert needed—but just in case you’re a purist about these things, and you plan to read The Ocean at the End of the Lane, you may not want to read further. By my judgment, what I am about to comment on does nothing to compromise reading the book. (Caveat accomplished.)
In the book The Boy receives, from his father, a kitten in a cardboard box as a birthday present. The Boy is happy with his kitten—a small black thing. One month later the kitten is run over by a cab bringing a lodger to his house. The lodger, a gruff South African Opal miner, is appropriately contrite that the taxi that brought him to the house has killed The Boy’s kitten. So, when The Boy returns from school, there is the miner in the kitchen with another cardboard box (do cats come in boxes?) on the table, explaining quickly to the boy that he “disposed of the corpse” --not to worry-- and why not open the box? The Boy is just now finding out his kitten is dead but he opens the box anyway, and out pops a half-feral orange adult Tom-cat with a shredded ear, yowling and spitting,—it dashes out the kitchen door to spend the rest of his days prowling the countryside, chewing on living things, and hissing. The boy is horrified but tries not to show it. The miner tells him that the cat’s name is Monster and then he says:
“There you go. Cat for cat.”
Cat for cat.
For some reason, while I pondered “Cat for cat” I immediately thought of another book I read a while ago (I will not bother naming it nor will I be very explicit in my description). In this book an unusually terrible crime was committed by an unusually terrible person. For years many people actively sought the perpetrator of this crime—some dedicated their whole lives to it-- without success. The cast of characters in the book, those both affected by the crime and those who didn’t know they were affected by the crime, possessed a wide range of ethical standards. There was one unsavory young man in particular whom I loathed. In fact, every time he popped up I wasn’t sure if I even wanted to keep reading the book because I disliked his character so much—he really made me uncomfortable. But the book was so good. So I kept reading-- secretly wishing that that particular character didn’t exist.
Then there came a moment in the book, when we, the reader, became privy to information the characters didn’t: namely, who the Unusually-Terrible-Person was and where the Unusually-Terrible-Person hid.
But no one could find him. No one could see him. No one, that is, except us.
Until the Unsavory-Young-Man-In-Particular-Whom-I-Loathed had a run-in with the Unusually-Terrible-Person. After speaking with him, he recognized the language of a deviant scoundrel because he was a deviant scoundrel himself. Actually, more importantly, he recognized the language of a man pretending not to be a deviant scoundrel; a camouflaged villain—a Monster. The Unsavory-Young-Man-Whom-I-Loathed, more out of curiosity than anything else, then made a series of choices that invariably exposed the Unusually-Terrible-Person and, even though his motives were not exactly pure, he Saved The Day.
A Monster was necessary to see the other Monster.
That led me to think about Moses. From the Bible. Only Moses could have lead the Hebrew slaves out of Egypt (with some prodding from God, of course)—because Moses, a Hebrew himself, had been raised as an Egyptian prince. A reluctant anarchist, he rose to destroy the monstrous system of slavery from the best possible vantage point: from within. He knew the people, he knew the language and he knew the rules (and, of course, he knew his God)—everything he needed to take it down. And one of the more interesting points about that story is that Moses himself is not allowed to cross over into the Land of Milk and Honey. He is a deliverer only. And, if I remember correctly, what happened to him after the crossing of the desert is unknown.
I am still reading The Ocean at the End of the Lane. I am really hoping that Monster is going to come back to fulfill some destiny within the story. That his feral self will somehow, in the right moment, be an instrument of justice or, more succinctly, an instrument of balance.
Wouldn’t that be great?
I need all the help I can get when it comes to forgetting what I think I know.
Cat: Earl Swa
Scary People: Francisco de Goya
Moses: Moritz Daniel Oppenheim
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Gillian Gontard wants a lot of things--she's trying to change that.
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