I don’t normally come home with such an attitude, but you know, sometimes you just have one of those days. The kind where you lose your job of five years and you’re not sure you know how to get another. The kind where you start worrying about how to pay the bills, fix the house, feed the cat..
I remember Indy met me at the door that day, which in itself wasn’t usual. His typical day would have him napping through the afternoon until my wife got home from work. Well, at least she still had a job. Still, Indy’s greeting was certainly no reason for concern. In the grand scheme of things, a cat breaking habit just wasn’t serious enough to shake the world. At least, not my world.
“Well, Indy, looks like you’ll have to get used to me being underfoot again,” I told him as I hung my black fedora on the hat tree. He looked up at me. I could swear he was frowning, his eyebrows turned down in contemplation of his new loss of privacy. No, maybe we forgot to give him a treat before going to work. At least one of us should get a treat. I shifted around him, walking to the kitchen, vaguely aware he was watching me as I did. The pouch of treats sat, zip sealed, on the counter next to the microwave. I might have had to worry about that at one time, but Indy had put on a few years and knew how to stay out of trouble. I opened the pouch and like magic the cat was again at my feet, but this time he wasn’t walking circles around my legs or waving his paws as if to say, “I’m down here!” He just sat there, looking up at me, and I really began to wonder about him.
I put a small handful of treats on the floor. He looked down at them. He looked back up at me. Then he looked back down, bent down, and pulled one into his mouth. He looked at the rest, then looked back up at me. Now I worried; those were his favorite snacks. There was a time when he’d eat the whole bag, if I left them in his reach. The frown remained on his face and I grew one to match.
“Are you feeling okay? All I need is a vet bill to tack on to the day.” I knelt to pet him. He looked back down at the treats, ate another, then looked back at me. I sighed and returned to the living room, finding my recliner. Working the lever, I raised my legs, and shortly afterwards Indy jumped to the leg rest between my legs. He never did care for my lap, but the leg rest on the recliner wasn’t so bad. But where he would have curled to look out past my feet, this time he curled to face me, and still with the frown.
“Indy, I don’t get it,” I said to him. “What’s wrong?”
“Frankly, that’s what I’d like to know!” The reply, delivered with a bit of a scratchy tenor voice, seemed to come from the cat. I looked around, suspecting a ventriloquist, though I didn’t know any and certainly shouldn’t have expected any in my house. I checked his collar, looking for perhaps a radio receiver or something. I scratched my head, trying to figure out the voice. Maybe I imagined it, what with the stress and all!
I decided to play along. “I’ve lost my job, and now maybe I’m losing my mind!”
“Is one related to the other?”
“I suppose I could have lost my mind because I’ve lost my job, but I’m pretty sure my mental state had nothing to do with my being laid off.”
“I question my mind because it sure seems like my cat is talking to me.”
“Yeah, well,” he hemmed, his tenor becoming more steady the longer he talked, “it isn’t like this is all that new a talent. Thing is, I never wanted to talk with you before, at least not in any way you’d understand.”
“I think I feel insulted,” I admitted.
“No need,” he replied. “I think probably most of us don’t feel like holding actual conversations with humans. But I got the impression that my future treat supply is in jeopardy, and would like to clarify that. Are you about to ration my treats?”
A scowl crossed my face, “No, no, we haven’t even come close to that point yet. Trust me, we can go along way before we have to cut back on you!”
“Great!” He quickly uncurled and jumped off my chair, headed for the kitchen. As I heard him chopping on the remaining treats on the floor, I asked myself how it came to be that I was having a conversation with my cat. No one would believe this. I don’t believe it! I called out to the kitchen.
“Now that you’re talking to me, are you going to keep talking to me?” He walked back in the living room and jumped back on the recliner.
“I don’t see why not. But I’m not going to become your cash cow or circus freak. You and I can talk, but I’m not going to stand for any effort to convince other people of that. If you want to keep talking with me, you’ll just need to keep it low-key.”
Feeling something like a cast member on a modern remake of television’s “Mr. Ed” from the 60’s, I mused, “Hmm, I wonder, can you read?”
He tilted his head a little to the right and winked at me, “How could you not expect me to figure out how to use something you call a mouse?”