Thursday, February 13, 2014

Facts About Cats

If you move, cats will steal your spot. They will feel no remorse. They will look at you with their cute little eyes and meow and show you their bellies, and then you will just surrender the seat, and perch next to them. You will try to convince yourself that you wanted to sit in your new spot. You will fail spectacularly.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Noises Cats Make: Floomp

"Floomp" is the sound a cat makes when it flops over. This is especially true when the cat is fat. The boss heard this sound a lot, usually when she was getting ready for work. She would be picking out clothes for the day, and she would hear that distinctive sound from the bed behind her. She'd look over, and see James making cool, quizzical eye contact, as if to say "What are you doing with those clothes, when there is such a soft, fuzzy belly to pet?" It was an excellent question, and one that had nearly made her late to work on many occasions. Donald deployed this tactic when he felt that James was getting more attention than necessary. He would meow plaintively, pace for a moment, then topple like a felled tree. Floomp. Usually, the boss would quickly ignore James to play with Donald, even though she knew exactly what was going on. It wasn't a complicated dynamic, and James never seemed to mind.

Chapter 10: The Unwanted Duck

The boss' parents didn't spend much time with Donald and James, because the boss' mother was very allergic to cats. This was unfortunate, but she kept up on their adventures thanks to photos and stories the boss would send. The boss' dad got to see the cats every once in a while, but they didn't know him very well, and had a tendency to hide when he came over. Donald and James were particular about visitors. Donald was skittish, but given time, his love of petting and attention would win out over his nervousness around new people. James took a very different approach. He refused to show fear, and would stoically stare from the corner of the couch if people came over. Then he would walk over, meow, allow them to pet him, and decide whether he would be headed to the basement - not because he was afraid, of course. No, merely because perhaps there was something he wanted to see down there. He was a very busy cat. No time for all of this socializing.

While on vacation, the boss' parents found a little toy duck. It was orange and gray, and the gray was exactly the shade of Donald's fur. They had heard about James and his penguin, and they told the boss that perhaps Donald felt left out, and perhaps this little duck could be his new friend. She was skeptical, but she said "thank you," and brought the duck home. It was a beautiful little toy. It had a clever little noisemaker in it that made a duck sound, which, luckily, was very difficult to activate. It was very soft and nicely made, and she set it under the coffee table for Donald and James to investigate. James sniffed at it, but it was no penguin, and he left it alone. Donald sat next to it for a while, but made no effort to play with it. After all the drama with the penguin, this was a little anticlimactic.

The duck sat under the coffee table for days. The cats played around it, but neither one seemed interested in carrying it around or cuddling with it. The boss didn't feel sorry for it, because it was a toy, but she was a little disappointed that there would be no adorable symmetry of James/penguin and Donald/duck.

One night, while watching the boss watch television, Donald hopped up onto the couch with the duck in tow. He curled up next to her with the duck wrapped in a little hug. The boss carefully reached for her camera, got one good photo, and decided that the duck had been an excellent present.

His good deed done, Donald never played with the duck again.

Chapter 9: An Unexpected Penguin

One night, the boss came home with a little stuffed penguin, about half the size of a cat. Donald and James didn't know where it had come from, or why it was here, but it had been placed on the couch, and the couch was their territory. This was obviously a present for them! Donald sniffed it a couple of times, but he preferred shoelaces, lengths of clotheslines and pieces of noisy paper to stuffed animals. James, however, was fascinated. This was a little black and white toy! James himself was black and white! It was meant to be.

He picked up his new buddy and carried him over to the kitchen, so he could keep an eye on this new friend while eating dinner. As he ate, he heard the boss in the other room. "Where'd the penguin go? I thought I set him on the couch! Donald, do you know anything about this?" She walked into the kitchen, took in the tableau, and started laughing. She picked up the penguin and took it back to the living room. "I know you think this is for you, but I haven't decided what to do with it yet, so let's try not to get it dirty. OK?" She placed it on the coffee table. This was firmly established boss territory, and James wasn't pleased. He looked at the boss, and he looked at his new buddy. The boss didn't seem to be paying much attention to how much anguish this separation had caused, so James stood up quickly, pawed the penguin off the table, and ran to the basement, clumsily, since the penguin was fairly large. He curled up around the penguin at the foot of the stairs and waited. If the boss was going to take his friend away again, at least they had this last moment together to say goodbye.

A shadow fell from the top of the stairs. It was the boss. She slowly walked down the stairs, and James could see Donald following carefully behind her. She looked at the two little black and white figures, then knelt down and patted James on the head. "If you want your little buddy so much, then you can keep him." She made no move to take the penguin. James knew he had won.

From that point forward, the penguin was escorted all around the house. If James was sitting under the coffee table, the penguin wasn't far off, perhaps half covered by a sheet of crinkly paper. If James was sitting on the bathmat, the penguin was doing double duty as a pillow. The boss would come home from work to find the penguin waiting next to her shoes, or lying on the futon in the office. It was a well-traveled bird.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Chapter 8: Motivated Hooligans

One day, the boss had someone drop groceries off at the house while she was at work. Along with some vegetables and a box of plastic bags, an enormous bag of cat food was placed on a chair and left unattended. Donald and James were generally very good about respecting boundaries. Things on the floor were in their territory, and thus could be played with. Things on the couch, similarly, were fair game. When the boss would set down a sweater, they would sit on it immediately, as was their right. They were allowed on chairs. This bag of cat food was clearly theirs. It was going to be an exciting afternoon.

Though their concept of time was limited, they knew that the boss came home when the sunbeams were gone. There were plenty of sunbeams streaming in, so plenty of time to investigate this bag. Right after a quick nap.

Donald woke up on the floor of the kitchen, his fur still warm from the sun. James had jumped up on the chair and was wrestling with the bag. Though a large cat, able to stand up and see out most windows without a perch, he was small in comparison to the bulk of the cat food. Additionally, the designers of the bag had done their work well, minds bent toward durability. Despite his best efforts, he was only able to tear small pieces of paper off, and he could not breach the final layer of plastic to get to the food. Frustrated, he left to sulk under the coffee table. Donald stretched, considered the bag, and went back to sleep.

The boss came home to find pieces of paper on the floor and the two cats standing expectantly in the kitchen, no attempts made to hide their shenanigans.

Chapter 7: The Forbidden Bedroom

Once upon a time, the cats had been allowed to play all over the house. Every room had its highlights. The office had the futon with the sunny spot. The guest bedroom had the brightest sunbeams and the warmest floor. The master bedroom had wonderful wool blankets, perfect for rolling and jumping around, kicking at suspicious lumps under the covers. So many places to play, so many spots to nap. But then, tragedy struck. The boss started closing the door of the master bedroom. The cats could not understand why she would keep them from a room that was clearly theirs, but though they spent many days sitting outside the room and complaining, the boss wouldn't budge. They had been exiled.

This made the master bedroom a source of fascination for the newly displaced. Donald, in particular, was determined to get in. He would trail silently behind the boss as she did things around the house. Filing papers. Doing laundry. Anything that occupied her hands was a promising activity. At first, he would sneak into the room and stroll silently around while she put away clothes. Once she'd notice him, the jig would be up, and he would be picked up, struggling and squeaking, and deposited in the hallway. Eventually, he stopped being stealthy. If the door was ajar, he would push it open, stare directly at the boss, then launch himself onto the bed, meowing and rolling around in open defiance of this unjust banishment. In these moments, when she would pick him up (laughing, for some reason, always laughing), he would go completely limp, exhausted from his righteous struggle.

James took a different approach. If, for some reason, the boss was in the bedroom, he would sit at the door and howl like a little wolf. "Awwooooo!" He would often bring his penguin to bear witness to the injustice, and they would sit together in the hall. There would be no peace in the house until their room rights were returned.

After a very long time, when they were almost beginning to despair of ever being allowed to sit on that wonderful, forbidden bed, and bunny kick those fascinating blankets, the boss relented. Perhaps it was the courageous displays of defiance by Donald. Perhaps the persistent lobbying of James. Perhaps she simply got tired of stepping over the penguin every morning. No matter what the cause, she started allowing the cats into the room for a few hours a day.


Chapter 6: The Allure of Flowers

Donald and James were very good cats. They (mostly) didn't get on tables. They (mostly) didn't jump on counters. They (mostly) did not try to kick the boss' computer off her lap to make room for naps. However, all cats have their weaknesses. Donald and James loved flowers. They loved to look at them. They loved to smell them. They would probably have loved to eat them, but the boss had stopped all attempts at this, so while they suspected that flowers were delicious, they didn't yet know for certain.

One memorable day, the boss put a beautiful bouquet on the kitchen counter. Donald, very round and uncharacteristically clumsy for a cat, stretched his paws up toward them. He pawed at the cabinet. He sniffed the air. Then, gathering all his strength, he jumped onto the counter. The boss, fussing over something on the stove, rushed over to pick him up, and he let out a squeak of resignation. He had been so close. As she set him on the floor, she patted his head and told him, "I'm disappointed in you for jumping on the counter, but I'm impressed you made it on the first try!" He made a sad little face, and went to check to see if any new food had appeared in his bowl. It had not. Disappointment all around.

James had watched the whole thing, and waited for the boss to go into the living room. Unfortunately for him, his size made jumping onto the counter a noisy endeavor, and he was similarly picked up, removed from the flowers and scolded.

When the boss left the house later that day, she put the flowers in the forbidden master bedroom. Both cats sat outside the door for several minutes after she left, checking to see if the door could be opened. It could not. Yawning, they padded to the guest room to find some good sunbeams.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Chapter 5: Heroic Origins

Donald and James were littermates, and they had been together their whole lives, from a shelter, to their first owner, to another shelter, and this place. They had been with the boss for years. When they first arrived, they were put in the basement, because it was the only area with carpet. They sat underneath the bed in the basement bedroom for an hour, and then they had gingerly made their way up to the living room. They explored every inch of the house. James learned that the closed keyboard cover of the piano in the living room was perfectly shaped for napping, or lying on his back and meowing for attention! He also learned that he was not allowed on the piano.

Their first owner had loved them very much, and they had come with a little brown mouse toy and a plastic heart on a shoelace. These were their favorite toys for a long time, and they still loved and played with them, but as the years passed, new favorites had arrived. Larger toy mice. Foil balls that made a wonderful sound when batted across the floor. Pieces of ribbon. A fish on a toy fishing rod, then, eventually, the individual components of the fishing rod toy, cunningly separated and played with all around the house. All toys were wonderful toys.

The boss had made them some little fleece balls, which bounced in a charmingly unpredictable manner. They stored them under the couch for safekeeping, but the boss would always find them and put them under the coffee table. They couldn't understand why she insisted on doing this, but they would dutifully put them away, under the couch again, until the next time. The boss had also made them some little fleece pillows. They were good for sitting on, bunny kicking, and putting toys near, on and under. The toy piles were always very deliberate, and they probably meant something, but the cats never bothered to explain. Sometimes the boss would do a similar thing next to the front door, putting snowy socks and mittens in a row. The cats approved, and would often add little toys to the lineup. The boss would laugh when she saw this, but they never understood why.

Chapter 4: No Surprises at Dinnertime

Now that the boss was home, it was time to get ready for dinner! The cats got two kinds of food, and each cat had a different favorite. They had made their preferences known over the years, and they were familiar with the boss' serving technique. First the wet food, then the dry food.

James, a handsome tuxedo cat with a substantial pink belly, loved wet food. He didn't care what kind. He would meow loudly and happily and stand where the bowls with the wet food would go. He would wait, sometimes patiently, sometimes not, as the boss got dinner ready. Sometimes, he would put little toys in with his wet food. One time, the boss had walked into the kitchen to find him lying on his back, his head resting in his food bowl, lazily scooping food into his mouth with his paw, a toy fish sitting next to the bowl, silent witness to the whole, disgusting display.

Donald was a fluffy, very round, gray cat with white socks and a white chin. He loved dry food, and would stand where the bowls with the dry food would go, meowing and chirping expectantly. He was more interested in eating, and had no time for toy-in-food-dish shenanigans. A sensitive little soul, his eyes would light up when he heard the rattle of dry food in its bin.

This was a time of great excitement, and the boss would talk quietly, perhaps to herself, perhaps to the cats, as she measured out their dinner and made sure that each bowl had an equal amount of food in it. It never mattered. Sometimes they would go to separate dishes, sometimes they would share a dish. There were never any little disagreements during dinnertime.

Chapter 3: The Boss Comes Home

Donald and James awoke to the loud, strange sound that came from the room next to the basement. They weren't allowed in there, but on one occasion, James had managed to sneak in. It was a cold room, with a large piece of furniture in the middle of it. He hadn't understood it, but he had walked around and then eventually made himself comfortable underneath it. The boss tried to get him to come out, but gave up quickly and closed the door. While James loved doing what he wanted and not listening to anyone else, it was boring being all alone in the dark, so he went to the door and meowed. The boss let him in, and he checked to see if any new food had appeared in his bowl. No luck. Still, it never hurt to check. Since that day, he had peered into that strange room, but he hadn't bothered to go back. It wasn't soft or warm or interesting, and he had better places to nap.

Sometimes, when the cats heard the sound that meant the boss was home, they would run over to that door and meow until the boss opened it. Then she would laugh and step inside carefully, since they had a talent for getting little paws and little tails underfoot. She had actually stepped on Donald's tail once, and he made a terrible sound, but he forgave her. It wasn't her fault her feet were so big and clumsy. She tried to be more careful after that. Sometimes, when they heard the sound that meant the boss was home, they would stay put and keep dozing. There was always plenty of time to greet the boss.

This particular time, Donald and James stretched, yawned, and made their way to the door. The boss came in, distracted as usual, and they took turns meowing at her and pawing at her knees. She laughed and petted their fuzzy little heads, saying "Hello! Hello! How was your day?" They were always happy to see her, though they never understood where she went. Why would anyone leave such a cozy place?  Surely she wondered the same thing.

Chapter 2: Naps Naps Naps

Sitting on postcards was serious business. After making sure that all the pieces of floor paper had been appropriately investigated, Donald curled up in his favorite sunbeam in the guest bedroom. His favorite nap spot was the master bed, but that bedroom was closed up when the boss was away. Something about James' inability to leave plastic alone, and the boss' refusal to James-proof that room. Donald put a paw on the piece of clothesline with a knot in it. It was much better than the piece without a knot, but he couldn't have articulated why. He could articulate many things, but they mostly covered general happiness, general displeasure, and "where is my breakfast?" He was a very talkative little cat.

While Donald dozed, James hopped up on the couch in the living room to look out the picture window and see if there were any squirrels or neighborhood cats out and about. There weren't, but the mailman was walking toward the door. James had seen this often enough to know what came next, but he couldn't stop himself from jumping when the mail fell through the slot. He shook himself and stretched. All this excitement was too much to take in. Time for a nap. He curled up under the coffee table and put a paw around his stuffed penguin. It didn't have a name, but aside from Donald, it was his best friend.

After about an hour of this, both cats made their way to the office. The sun was bright and strong, and it fell perfectly on the middle of the futon in that room. Donald and James curled up in a mass of black, gray and white fur and fell asleep. If there had been anyone in the house, they would have heard the soft, strange sound of cats snoring.

Chapter 1: A Doomed Business Venture

Donald and James were cats. Large, fuzzy cats, that some might call portly. They were fat little dudes, and they loved almost everything about their house. They loved looking out the windows and chirping at birds and squirrels. They loved all the furniture they got to sit on. They loved all the furniture they got to sit underneath! They loved the toys their boss got for them, and the pieces of colorful tissue wrapping paper that she put on the floor for them to sit on. They particularly liked putting their toys on and under this paper, because it made a wonderful noise. Christmas was a very exciting time of year, because there was even more loud paper than usual! They did not love when their boss would listen to Britney Spears or Kylie Minogue. They'd look at each other, stare icily at their boss, then walk over to the basement stairs to play until the music stopped. Interestingly, they didn't seem to mind Cher. They had eclectic tastes.

For a brief, shining moment, they had had their very own business cards. They said "Donald and James: Handsome, Sassy Housecats. For All Your Door Opening Needs." If they had been consulted, they probably would have not included "sassy" as a descriptor. Their door-opening business didn't really go anywhere, mostly because they're weren't honestly all that good at opening doors after all. If a door had been improperly closed, perhaps they could eventually open it, if they really wanted to. Additionally, the business cards did not include contact information, because neither Donald nor James had an email account or a cellphone. They did have a mailing address, but were illiterate. Despite this, they enjoyed postcards.

They enjoyed sitting on postcards.

Note to self: write a cat novel

"The boss had left for the day. now it was time to see what she'd done to the house during the night. All the blankets were carefully made. 'This won't do,' thought James. He pounced and bunnykicked! He brought his stuffed penguin over to keep an eye on Donald. Donald was a terrible whiner."
--excerpt from "Death Waddled Like a Penguin" by T.L. Ragnarok