Sitting the Cat

Larry Lefkowitz
I don't know how she landed on me not the cat, the woman down the street. To be her catsitter while she took a week's vacation and left the tabby at home. I reluctantly agreed because the money was good and I had nothing else to do at the moment. The woman had a nice pad: residence on the premises was required of the sitter so that her cat would have all the comforts of home which were hers (the cat's) by right. Putting her up in my place would be apparently too emotionally-wrenching for the creature. And maybe it would have been since I was a bachelor, and my pad reflected it. On the other hand, it might have nostalgically reminded the cat of the jungle from whence its kind once stemmed.

The woman of course checked out my pedigree, so to speak, before I could be given the responsibility for her "Molly" (the cat's name). It was a pre-condition that I meet her cat, to get her (the cat's) approval before I could be employed. One look at the creature told me she had been spoiled rotten.

The woman loved cats. Ok, I loved a good cigar. (Which object I had to give my word I would not smoke in the cat's presence.) A dog would have been no problem. Dogs were loyal and affectionate, no matter what you did to them. Cats were independent and moody. A dog was unswervingly loyal because when they were wolves they had had a wolf leader and the domesticated dog, lacking such, adopted man as his leader. The cat had evolved with disdain for man.

My experience with cats was zilch. "Puss 'N Boots" was a story I disliked even as a child. My only close contact with cats was dissecting a cat in college anatomy class the cat was already dead, of course. Its veins and arteries were filled with blue and red latex. We students were required to draw what we saw inside the cats, and spent our time in looking for the hepatic portal vein and such. Not being able to find it, I would fake it in a drawing which looked like Rube Goldberg had designed the cat's innards, but the teacher knew instantly when someone faked it. It goes without saying that I did not mention this "experience with cats" to my cat-loving employee.

My plan was to kick the cat out of the house the moment her mistress was on the plane. The cat could fend for itself, live off the land, hunt mice, go see a performance of "Cats". Whatever. And then I would return home shortly before her owner returned. In the end, I rejected this plan, since the condition of the cat's fur or some other negative aspect would surely give me away. Who knew the cat maybe would tell her what had happened. And if the cat got lost and I picked up a stray off the street, substituting it for the cat (to me a cat was a cat was a cat in a formula I borrowed from Gertrude Stein), the cat's owner would know it at once.

She had explained that sometimes the cat liked to sleep in her bed. I nodded, figuring that the first time she tried it I would give her the boot. Nor did I plan to give the cat a bath, knowing that cats clean themselves, and if not, the rain would.

I had received detailed, even loving, instructions on the cat's every need (these were many and diverse) which I had to "Write down" and whose food specifications alone put mine in the shade. Without thinking twice, I compromised on these: when I opened a can of tuna, we shared it. The quite seemed quite satisfied with this arrangement. I refrained from killing two birds with one stone by throwing her the goldfish, which I also had to feed.

Being holed up with a cat for a week turns you philosophical about the breed. One example: The cat had the moves of a small lion or tiger (To whom the cat is related) and if it were bigger could make trouble for me and only the fact that I was bigger than it gave me supposed power over it. So that I behaved with more decency to it than it would have to me. But then I'm not the kind of a guy to hold grudges.

The cat and I took the measure of each other; from that first mutual glance each knew the turf of the other. The cat's mistress knew from nothing. Imbued by hope and desperation (since she wanted to go on her vacation), aware that it wasn't easy to find somebody for such a task, she was predisposed to find the best in me, notwithstanding that the cat had no illusions on this score. "She likes you," she cooed. "You have good vibes." I smiled Cheshire-cat-like, fearing anything I said would sound false.

The cat was named "Molly" -- after Bloom's wife in Ulysses. Bloom also had had a cat. Maybe it would help me, if not the cat, if I read to her a passage from Ulysses where Bloom attends to the needs of his cat. I cleared my throat and even affected a kind of Irish brogue.

She blinked up and out of her shameclosing eyes, meaowing plaintively and long, showing him her milk white teeth. He watched the dark eyeslits narrowing with greed till her eyes were green stones. Then he went to the dresser, took the jug Hanlon's milkman had just filled for him, poured warmbubbled milk in a saucer and set it slowly on the floor.

I waited for a response. A literary cat would half win me over. The cat actually meowed. I took it as an appreciation of my efforts and, after a "meow" to hers , further emulated Bloom in pouring milk in a saucer for "Molly."

With the passage of time (slow), I got used to the cat, and even started to enjoy her presence. She, too, seemed to warm to me. Maybe because she left me alone when I was down in the dumps, and I left her alone when she wanted to be alone. I was still a dog man. I would always be a dog man. But the cat was no longer anathema. And when her owner returned and exclaimed that she could see that Molly had been satisfied with me and cooed that she would take me again to sit her in the future, I was rather pleased. The cat, too, seemed to nod her head at the prospect, but maybe I imagined this.





Larry Lefkowitz's stories, poetry, and humor have been widely published in journals, anthologies, and online, including previous issues of riverbabble. His literary novel, The Novel, Kunzman, the Novel! is available as an ebook and in print from Lulu.com and other distributors. It is a humorous novel about a literary critic and his assistant, and it deals with literature and writing with ample literary references. Lefkowitz's humorous fantasy and science fiction collection, Laughing into the Fourth Dimension is available from Amazon books.

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