In this recent spate of late but glorious summer, I did something I haven’t done in years because it hasn’t been warm enough. I dragged a chair into a shady patch of my yard where the lilac branches meet the tops of the black currant bush and create a cool cavern. I maneuvered the chair in different ways before I found a spot where the ground was level, and where the sun wouldn’t find me through the leaves.
I repaired to the house for a large iced tea, a plate of melon, and a napkin. I tested the glass on the uneven ground before I was satisfied it wouldn’t fall over. Finally I went back for my book.
When I returned with my book, there was a cat on my chair.
Now if you are not a cat lover you are probably wondering what the point of this boring narrative is. If you are a cat lover, you can guess where it’s going.
I looked at my cat. It was Freud, the orange tabby; as sweet and smart a cat as I have ever known. He looked at me. A bit defiantly, I thought. I looked at my carefully arranged chair and repast. It had taken a good five minutes to get everything just right.
But, you know, one just doesn’t upset the cat.
I sighed and went back to the house for another chair for which I never succeeded in finding a level spot. I spilled the tea while I was making my new arrangements and most of the melon slid off the plate onto the grass. When I got myself all arranged a second time, the sun was shining through the lilac branches, making shadows move across the page of my book so I couldn’t read it.
Freud had gone to sleep. As soon as he knew his territory wouldn’t be challenged, he lost interest in anything I might do.
There was a related incident the next day. I got all set up to do paperwork at my desk. I arranged bills in one pile. I made a mound of slips of paper with notes and dates to transfer to the calendar. I collected a pile of those artifacts we use to call letters and which I wanted to answer. I brought out the recycle box.
I reached for my chair with the expensive memory-foam pillow, the one I plant my butt on when I have to sit for a long time. There was Freud again, curled up and fast asleep.
I consider myself a mildly reasonable person. I don’t like to be bullied, patronized or controlled, for example, and I will defend or offend as needed. I have told off priests in my lifetime. I have gone off on mechanics and thrown things at my therapist. Once I so aggravated someone at the IRS, he hung up on me.
But faced with a cat on my $50 chair cushion, I meekly use a less comfortable chair.
Don’t judge me. If you have pets, you may not behave as I do, but you have your own version of life as a peasant under tyrants.
I used to tell my friends that if I ever started dressing my cats up in little nightgowns I had run up on the machine, they should shoot me. Now I think of it, it seems they all smiled rather too patiently.
I have a cutesy green jacket with images of French cartoon cats labeled in curlz font. It catches people’s eyes just like it caught mine in the store window, and I get comments about it all the time. When I first began wearing it, I asked several friends, “Do you think I’ve maybe crossed a line?”
“Oh no, nowhere near.”
“Maybe, but it’s still cute.”
My painting friend, Madelaine, said, “You crossed that line a long time ago.”
I didn’t think I liked cats until I first owned one. That was 30 years and six cats ago. When one of them goes to work on me purring like a sewing machine, kneading up and down with its little needle-claws, well, I think I would sit on broken glass for this.