Last evening, surveying the carnage the children had created in the living room, I was moved to mutter that age-old maternal lament: “Where have I failed?” In a fit of pique, I even threatened to put the miscreants under the deck to fend for themselves. Don’t call social services; my kids are cats, not homo sapiens, and the threat was an idle one. I’d never expose my darlings to the Cold, Cruel World – and they know it.
I currently share my life with two cats. People often seem surprised to hear this. Perhaps my catlady zeal makes them assume I co-mingle with at least 40 felines – or perhaps it’s just the way I smell. In any case, though I tend to think three is the optimal number of cats for a single household, for the time being I am making do with my pair.
My younger furkid is Remington, named for the 1980s TV character played by Pierce Brosnan. I like to tell him he’s a swank tuxedo cat (he has shaky self esteem), but the patchy quality of his black and white markings suggests an unseemly liaison with a Holstein in his family history. I guess I will discourage him from participating in that PBS “find your ancestors” show. Despite his questionable lineage, Remington does have an almost regal air. Long and sleek, at repose on his belly with his long front legs extended and his sharply pointed ears erect, Rem resembles one of those statues of the Egyptian cat goddess, Bastet. His jaguar-like appearance belies his personality, however. Far from a powerful predator, Remington is, to put it bluntly, a wuss.
On the other hand, Peep, my little, orange girl, is a smug bully. You wouldn’t guess it to look at her. Like her human mother, Peep is soft, round and a bit slovenly; she sprawls rather than lays, and on a subway she’d be the guy manspreading over three seats. While noises as subtle as a heavy sigh send Remington scrambling for the basement, Peep confronts a howling vaccum, grinding garbage disposal or shrieking smoke detector with indifference bordering on contempt.
Lately Peep has made it a point to assert her dominance over Lucifer, the robot vacuum, whom she seems to believe is another cat, hairless and even rounder than herself. When Luci begins its rounds in the living room, Peep deliberately plants her considerable bulk directly in the machine’s path and stares it down. If a cat could talk, Peep surely would speak with a tough Brooklyn accent: “You want a piece of this? I got your rotating brushes right here.”
A few mornings ago I was getting ready for work. My bedroom door was closed, but not shut (after 50 years of settling, no vertical line of our house remains in plumb, and there isn’t a door in the structure that actually latches without the Herculean effort of simultaneously lifting and pushing it into position). I was standing on one foot, wrestling the other into the leghole of my granny panties, when the door was pushed open and Peep muscled his way in, followed by Remington. It reminded me of Lenny & Squiggy’s characteristic entrance into Laverne & Shirley’s apartment – Peep played the role of swaggering Lenny, while twerpy Rem was the Squiggish sidekick.
The duo disregarded my immodest appearance – indeed, ignored me entirely – and marched across the room like they own the place (which, for all intents and purposes, they do). Up onto the bookcase under the window, blithely knocking off a stack of CD cases in the process, and into the windowsill. Hearing the ruckus, my mom (who seems to believe me to be in feeble health) called urgently, “Did you fall?”
“Nah. Just the cats tearing the place apart,” I responded.
Mom and I have grown resigned to the fact that we are the least important inhabitants of Mohror Manor, functioning largely as domestic staff. I’m not bothered; it’s actually nice to know one’s place in the grand scheme of things. I’m content to accept how Peep has arranged the Great Chain of Being in our household – with cats perched at the very top.
Bastet would approve.