The Life of the Artiste or, Being a Cat Owner is H—

We’re on our way to the Fort Worth Indie Film Festival.

All we have to do is get William and Ernest into the carriers and haul them to the vet’s. They watched us pack, said, “We may be crazy, but we ain’t stupid,” and crawled under the bed. This is why one shouldn’t go to film festivals two weekends in a row–cats remember.

An open can of salmon rests on the post at the foot of the stairs. Unfortunately, salmon isn’t as stinky as used to be, and some cats cannot be bribed.

Tired

David is about to try to pull William out from under the bed. Since William needs insulin, his cooperation is critical. Ernest has never been left alone–he’s always had either parents or brother–so his cooperation is critical, too. Scared, lonely cats are scared and lonely, and that worries me, and they sometimes do things to furniture that I don’t want them to do, and that worries me as well. Ernest produces a lot of adrenaline on short notice. After hearing William in crisis, he may stay under the bed for a week, absorbing nutrients from the air.

I hear David upstairs, speaking softly, cajoling, babytalking, being generally sneaky.

We may be on our way to the Fort Worth Film Festival. At present, I am not optimistic, but we persevere….

When I suggested setting the salmon on the post, David said wouldn’t it fall off. I said no. He just came bopping downstairs and knocked it off the post. He’s now cleaning up the mess. It didn’t fall on the carpet. As I said, salmon is not as stinky as it used to be. Water-packed salmon doesn’t taste as good as salmon packed in oil, but next time I shop, I’ll buy the water.

Just wo-ahn out

David has progressed from cloth towel to paper towels and Simple Green. He said Ernest is watching him from the landing. He said Ernest is coming down. It’s not the salmon, it’s curiosity. Here he is! It is the salmon. He’s snuffing and thinking about licking the floor. I hope Simple Green is good for cats. If it isn’t, the vet can take care of it, if we get to the vet.

I turned on “Remington Steele” in hopes the felines will think we’re watching. I’m using the Chromebook so Ernest will be jealous and jump into my lap, as he spends seven days a week doing, except today. Maybe I need to get the laptop out of the suitcase.

He’s on his way back up the stairs. David has gone back upstairs. Ernest came back downstairs. He’s behind my chair. He’s looking at me. He jumped onto the arm of the chair! I rubbed his tummy. He jumped down and is now examining the site of the salmon spill. Now he’s going back upstairs.

David has been upstairs for a long time. He and William are usually kindred spirits, but not right now.

I have not yet begun to weep. But I’m close.

This blog is titled, “Telling the Truth–Mainly.” That comes from Huckleberry Finn. Mr. Mark Twain told the truth, mainly. I am telling the truth, period. Everything I’ve written happened or is happening. Really.

I am becoming disheartened, so I shall stop and concentrate on sending harmonious vibrations to the floor above.

I really, really want to go to this festival.

The life of the artiste is not an easy one.

***

Some people live calm, uneventful lives. Things work. They make plans and carry them out. They write about grammar and cooking and astrophysics. What am I doing wrong?

David is talking babytalk again.

If we had a dog, we’d be in Waco by now.

Les Liaisons Dangereuses, or The writerly thing to do

Cats are dangerous companions for writers because cat watching is a near-perfect method of writing avoidance.  ~Dan Greenburg

I returned home from Just for the Hell of It Writers filled with enthusiasm for the next assignment. Sat down in the recliner, put my feet up, booted up the laptop, read e-mail, checked a couple of blogs, and opened to write is to write is to write. I planned to compose a brief post about characterization–specifically, my reluctance to allow Molly, my protagonist, to exhibit less-than-stellar qualities, such as being human.

Before I could start, however, Ernest climbed into my lap. With the laptop already there, he didn’t have an easy time. He never does. But he made it.

So here I sit with a fuzzy gray tiger draped across my left forearm and wrist, cutting off blood flow to my hand. I don’t know how much longer my fingers will function. I don’t know how much longer this post will function either, because Ernest just touched something–a hot key or some other doohickey outside my sphere of knowledge–and it vanished. I’m lucky he didn’t delete it. Sometimes he does. When it comes to writing, cat watching is the least of my worries.

If he were on my left, I’d be fine with the arrangement. He used to perch there. But a couple of weeks ago he changed sides. As a result, I can’t use the mouse, and I have to bend my index finger at an unnatural angle to reach the touchpad. Periodically he throws his head back to let me gaze into his green, green eyes. That means he wants his ears scratched. 

 

I’ve tried moving him to the left, but he’s heavy and muscular, a feline Jesse Ventura. He’s also the master of his fate and the captain of his soul. After losing three consecutive matches, I gave up.

If you’ve read this far, you’re probably wondering why I don’t evict him from my person altogether.

It’s complicated.

There’s guilt. Yesterday I found him on the dining room table trying to eat a length of purple ribbon. I clapped my hands. That scared him. I spent the next five minutes trying to apologize. He spent the next five minutes evading capture. Then I realized that I’d forgotten to put out catfood on schedule, and that his acting out might have been caused by low blood sugar. I also considered that William, who has a wry sense of humor, might have dared him to jump onto the table. Ernest is impulsive, and I hadn’t taken into account the possibility of diminished capacity. I’m still making amends. 

 

Then there’s the purr. I’ve read that the vibration guards against bone loss and muscle atrophy. Some authorities believe that holding a purring cat benefits human tissue as well. Holding Ernest could protect my writing arm against osteoporosis. 

 

Furthermore, allowing cats a bit of leeway is a writerly thing do. Charles Dickens’ cat, Wilamena, had kittens in his study; the kitten Dickens kept later became his companion while he wrote. Raymond Chandler’s Taki, whom he called his “secretary,” sat on manuscripts he was trying to revise. T.S. Eliot sent his cats to Broadway. Mark Twain couldn’t resist cats, “especially a purring one.” I don’t know whether Garrison Keillor has cats, but he joined with the Metropolitan Opera’s Frederica von Stade to make an entire CD of cat songs (“Songs of the Cat”), and Bertha’s Kitty Boutique is one of The Prairie Home Companion’s most prominent sponsors. I can’t think of better role models than Keillor, Twain, and Von Stade. 

 

Finally, I allow Ernest to walk all over me because I’m concerned about mental and emotional balance. My own. Sigmund Freud emphasized the cat’s importance in coping with the stresses and strains of modern life: “Time spent with cats,” he wrote, ” is never wasted.”

Freud might not have known much about women, but he had a thorough grasp of cats.

Since I began this piece, Ernest has jumped down, back up, down, back up, and down again. William, who, bless his heart, parks on the left, has visited twice.

It’s not always easy to remember my reasons for being a doormat, especially the one about balance. But when the conscious mind fails, the subconscious defaults to guilt.

Well. Once again I’ve written about not writing. Once again the obstacle has been cats.

Greenburg is right. They’re dangerous companions.

*************

Sources:

Famous Cat Loving Authors and Pet Names

www.twainquotes.com

Wikipedia: Songs of the Cat

Thinkexist.com (Freud)

Thinkexist.com (Greenburg)

Frederica von Stade, Mezzo-Soprano

[Full disclosure: If I had my druthers, I’d emulate Miss Von Stade instead of the writers. She gets paid to sing, she doesn’t have to make up the words as she goes along, her picture appears on the front cover, the Amazon reviewers simply gush at her “magnificent” voice, and she doesn’t have to read Bird by Bird twice a month to keep her spirits up. What’s not to emulate?]

Many thanks to the author of “Invictus.” If we ever get a brother for William and Ernest, we’re going to name him Henley.