Tuesday, March 8, 2016

The untrustworthiness of cats

We see spring approaching in the cats.

It is still dark in the house when I hear the scrabble of feet in the living room. There is the sound of claws being raked across some kind of smooth fabric, I hope it is not the couch but it sounds like the couch, and then the pick-pick of those same claws digging in to the scratching post. I can tell it is Chestnut if the noise is accompanied by the thump, scrape, of the scratching post being spun and moved by inches across the hardwood floor.

There is a quick-march pad, pad, pad followed by an angry hiss and then the sound of bone cushioned by fur clonked against the wooden floor. I close my eyes and pretend I hear nothing. Pretend I do not picture white fur floating through the air, that I do not feel the urge to jump out of bed and chastise them for being so loud. It wouldn’t work anyway. They are cats. 

It is quiet for a moment and then there is the steady echoing grate of claws on wood, Cleo carving out more splinters from the banister at the top of the stairs, I picture the flakes of wood piling up at her feet. I want to yell her name but Morgan is still sleeping, I can tell by his breathing and by the fact that he has not yet yelled himself.

Sound travels too well in our house, there is not much separating us in the bedroom from the living room and even the kitchen another level below, so I can hear the cats thumping up and down the stairs, I can hear Cleo skidding across the floor in the kitchen pirouetting after the plastic seal off the milk bottle or sliding after the fat string braided into a handle from the bag of rice. I can hear when a cat jumps from the counter to the floor, landing with a solid whump, and I run through my mind trying to think if I left something out they could get into. There is a thunk of something being knocked over that I can’t quite place.

These things don’t happen in the dead of winter. When it is truly cold outside and the cold makes its way in through windows, settling heavily over everything, causing the cats to burrow deeper under blankets, coil more tightly into balls. When the days are shorter and the cats do not have a vested interest in being outdoors there are no early morning carnivals, no carefully planned acrobatic activities.

But the days are warming, the snow is softening. If the cats huddle out the door they do not immediately huddle back in but stand and contemplate the slush of pliable snow beneath their feet, the smell of melt-water on the air, the smell of greenness wrapped in cold.

In the darkness of early, early morning there is a final explosion of cat sounds, of clonks and thumps and angry voices. And then it is quiet. Though I wait for more. There may be a cat in the room soon to pace the perimeter, to jump on the bed, walk all over it - pillows and bodies - with entitlement. There may be a loud bath session performed in the corner on a pile of clothes.

Or there may be nothing at all, as they wait quietly and patiently for the sun to rise as though their intentions have been pure from the start.

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