©Robert M. (Bob) Leahy

2110 E. Crosby Road

Carrollton, TX 75006

(972) 416 - 6098

Approximate Word Count: 1,360

 

 

Mrs. Wassermannís Cat

 

I was absent-mindedly shelling peanuts at the corner tavern when Charlie, the bartender, came over to me. "You know about cats, donít you, Mr. James?"

"I have two," I admitted.

"Gentleman down at the endís been looking for someone to talk to about cats. Heís talked my ear off. And I donít care nothiní for cats. Would you mind?"

"No, I guess not, Charlie," I replied. "But itíll cost you a free one," I said, handing him my glass. I eased off the stool and edged down to the other end of the bar where an older, balding man sat. He looked out of it to me, but Charlie brought my glass down and set it right beside him.

"I found you somebody that knows about cats," Charlie said.

"Oh, fine, fine," the old man replied.

Charlie motioned me over. "This is Mr. Jones."

"How do you do," he said, extending his hand to me. "Iím Roger Coyle."

"Nice to meet you," I said, taking up my stool and caressing my glass of beer. "What can I do for you?"

"I donít know," this Roger said. "Itís getting serious now. Really serious. I do things I canít explain. And I havenít had much chance to tell anybody. Seems every time I try, the ideas just get pulled right out of my mind."

I could see why Charlie wanted to get away from this old bird. I was about to do the same when Roger grabbed my arm and asked, "Do you think Iím crazy?"

I was already trying to think of an evasive way to say yes when he asked another question. "Do you think a cat could be controlling me somehow?"

I heard myself ask, "Why would you think that," not believing the words were coming out of my mouth. It didnít matter much, however. Roger did not let go of my arm, so I was not getting away.

"I inherited Mrs. Wassermannís gray, long-haired something-or-other cat when she died. Really, just before she died," Roger began. " And since I already had two cats, my taking in another should not have been a major source of stress in my life. The catís name is Tess, short for Contessa; her bearing is imperious, her stare authoritarian."

"I think my cats, commoners by comparison, are afraid of Tess. The three are seldom in the same room together. Tess, as befits her station, reigns over the living room and dining room during the day; by night, her domain moves to my the bedroom where she allows me the edge of a queen-sized bed. Scratch and Dumpster, though more tenured, seem content with the kitchen, unless Tess comes to use the cat box or to eat; then, they scurry through the cat door into the backyard. Periodically, one or the other nudges the swinging door open just enough to see if the coast is clear."

"I donít know when nor how the three cats came to this accommodation. I noticed it long after it became their routine. And, for the life of me, I canít believe that Tess was able to exert such dominance in my home. Although she is older than the other two by several years, her gray hair--never a single strand out of place--gives the impression that she hardly moves, much less that she throws her weight around. Yet, there is no doubt that everything in the house is now completely and utterly controlled by Tess.

The other day, for example, I stumbled into the kitchen for my morning routine of making coffee and toast and filling the kittiesí dishes. I remember reaching for a can of tuna for Tess--I know thatís what I reached for--and brought down a can of Fancy Cat Flounder which I donít even remember buying. After filling the dish, I moved it over near the coffeepot where she sat warming herself. She nibbled at her food while I prepared the other catsí meals. Scratch and Dumpster ate a dry cat mix. Since I almost exclusively bought the Purrfect brand, imagine my astonishment when I found a big bag of some generic cat food brand."

"And, how about the time I was sitting in the living room watching the news? Tess came forward in her stately, measured march and planted herself directly in front of the television set. The next thing I knew, we are watching some documentary on saber-toothed tigers. Why would I want to watch that? I hadnít even caught the weather yet."

Roger only let go of my arm with one hand as he stopped to drink some beer. I have to admit he looked pitiful as he told his tale. But how could he expect me to believe this Tess was in control? And even if it were true, what did he think I could do about it?

"I miss Scratch and Dumpsterís playing in the kitchen. In the mornings, as I woke up over my first couple of cups of coffee, the two of them would entertain me. Scratchís favorite toy was a little, red, three-wheeled egg-ship piloted by a brown mouse. He would bat at it with one paw, then the other. Right, then left. Then he would pounce on it, only to bat it away and start the chase again.

Dumpster...well, she didnít have a favorite toy. She liked to wander along the countertop and reach up and try to pull the cupboards open. She learned to dig her claws in along the bottom edges by the door handles. Sometimes, if she threw her weight just right, she could force the door open as she fell off the counter. No matter. Sheíd jump right back up and then into the shelf. Fortunately, there were only two cupboards that she seemed to open consistently. I put a few heavy items toward the backs on their shelves. But I could never leave a cupboard open. If I did, Dumpster would climb in. I closed her up inside once. She sprayed everything inside, and me, when I let her out. Iíve made sure that hasnít happened again."

I was thinking of my two cats, Monster and Raymond--names my grandkids chose. I could see Raymond trying to get into the kitchen cupboards. He climbed into drawers and boxes and the dryer. But, at least, he never seemed to get shut up in any of them, probably because he kept up a constant commentary of what he saw and what he thought. We had long conversations as we unpacked or packed up boxes and things.

My Monster was nothing like any of Rogerís cats. He liked to sit in the window and watch the world go by. He didnít want to go outside. He just wanted to know what was out there. And he didnít have much to do with either Raymond or me.

"But Scratch and Dumpster seldom play for me in the mornings. Tess is never more than a step behind me when I come into the kitchen. And when I come in, the two cats stare at the door until they see Tess, and then they dart into the backyard."

I was about to suggest that Roger give Tess to the animal shelter and tell the people there that she needs to be in a one-cat family, when he said, "You know, Iíve asked her how she does it. But she doesnít answer me. She just stares. Itís like she doesnít even think I have the right to ask her such a question."

"You know what Iím saying, donít you?" Roger asked. "I should be in control. I should be, shouldnít I?"

To be honest, I didnít think so. I made some sort of face.

"Then you take her," Roger said, letting go of my arm. "You take her and see what itís like."

I stood up quickly and moved out of reach. "I canít have any more pets," I said. "Itís in my lease."

As I turned to leave, Roger had latched on to another manís arm. "You wouldnít want to take this cat, would you?"

I couldnít bear to watch.

 

the end



Revised text placed on
The Leprechaun News WebPages
4 March 1999

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