Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Cleo plugs in

“If they made an all-cat version of Star Wars, Cleo would be Jabba the Hutt,” Morgan said one day as we eyed Cleo’s spreading girth just about spilling over the sides of a kitchen chair.

“She does look extra fat when she lies like that,” I said, trying not to sound too insulted on her behalf. “When she’s walking around though she’s…” What? Stout? Plump? Rotund? “Round,” I finally say. “She’s definitely fat but she’s not THAT fat.”

Morgan just looked at me.

“Poor Cleo,” I said and bent down to plant a kiss on the top of her head, which at that moment did look particularly small. “Cleo’s far too pretty to be Jabba the Hutt.”

If Cleo was to be anything other than what she is, I always imagine her as a great opera singer. She bustles on stage, lost in character; the world melted away and yet every eye and ear keenly tuned just to her. Or, perhaps she would be a ballet dancer, with her dainty little feet tip-toeing gracefully across the stage, kind of like the hippos from Fantasia.

But lately Cleo seems to be having her own identity crisis without me piling on. “What’s up with you?” I ask her as she awkwardly attempts to settle herself onto my lap, tucking in her roundness about her pointy little feet and staring with her bright green eyes directly into mine.

Cleo is not a lap cat, nor is she particularly social, but over the last month she has become curiously engaged in our lives, storming across the kitchen floor every morning with urgent meows, leaping onto my lap, purring her quiet whispering purr, torn between settling down and butting my chin with her head, desperate for affection.

This is not like her. Cleo is the least social of our animals, keeping us all at arms length as if she were a scientist observing the life of a “typical” family of humans and dogs, oh yeah, and that shameless brother of hers who will sit on anything that remotely resembles a lap and purr at the drop of a hat.

Cleo used to spend entire days in the crawl space beneath our house. We could go a week without really seeing her. There would be sightings, mostly by the food dish, but we at least knew she had not escaped into the woods to feast on songbirds or be eaten by an eagle.

Her sudden involvement in anything other than what’s going on inside her own head loosely corresponds with our first real cold snap of the season. As temperatures plummeted to –37 C overnight, encouraging the ice on the inside of our windows to creep higher up the glass in great frosty u’s, Cleo seemed to become a lot more friendly, seeking out blanket-clad laps and actually staying a while.

But I don’t know if the temperature really has anything to do with it. It has since warmed up again and she continues to demand lap-time. Plus, we’ve been through deep cold before and Cleo carried on her merry way, vaguely aware of our lives whirling around her, occasionally tuning in with a startled expression on her face as if to say, “Oh, you’re all still here. Wait. Who are you again?”

Whatever it is, this new social behaviour, it’s suspicious.

She must be up to something.

1 comment:

  1. I've met Cleo and yes, she may be a full-figured feline but you're right, she's quite beautiful. One look into those direct eyes, full of wild summer, and she's got you captured. It's surprising how light in stride she is: that hippo image of her "tip-toeing gracefully across the stage" makes me grin rather widely.

    You've got such a balanced and insightful connection with your animals, Heather. Throughout your entire work your awareness of the natural world and the relationship between animals and humans - both culturally and biologically - has unfolded and grown. The emotionally rewarding "stories" you tell, often written from the point of view of your animals, use animals as the markers around which you shape your perspective of the world. And, you have the language skills to convey that vision to your readers. For you, cats are never cats, dogs are never dogs - you cross borders boldly. Cleo, the cat, is a rotund dancer, an opera singer "bustling on stage, lost in character". Enough said.