It’s a very good day to be a cat. It’s always a very good day to be a cat, even though most people say it should not be, but I don’t listen to them, because they don’t know anything. Like someone from Shakespeare would say, fie on them! Cats don’t care about what people think shouldn’t be. And even though I have seen my birth certificate and it says I was born hairless and pink and not-cat, I think the doctors were just too amazed to have delivered a kitten in their very own operating room to tell the truth (even though it was twenty-four years ago, I bet it hasn’t happened very much since!). I can understand them, of course, since my mother is not a cat at all. Imagine that!
Rufus bought me a dictionary today, and I have been reading it. I think my favorite word is deoxyribonucleic acid. Except that’s two words, really, so I think I like deoxyribonucleic better.
I like the color green better on Thursday.
When you’re seven years old people don’t think you know anything, even if you do. Well, sometimes they listen to you, but only if you’re stupidly smart like Louis Packmann and don’t talk about anything but physics. I hate Louis Packmann because he smells like tar paper.
But because I am not Louis Packmann and I don’t talk about neutrons and isotopes and Chaucer all day (even though I think I could if I wanted to), I am dumb to everyone. They don’t believe me when I talk about how last night the wind blew through my fur and I wiggled my ears at the moon. Some people, like Miz Yancy, ask me if I was certain I wasn’t dreaming, even just for a little bit? I tell them no, and wiggle my ears at them to prove it, but they don’t see anything. I wonder if they have something wrong with their eyes. Maybe everyone was born wearing cat-proof glasses?
But Miz Yancy tells me that I am a very well-adjusted second grader, even with my “flights of fancy” (but I don’t fly, I’m a cat! but she doesn’t pay attention), and that it’s fine fun to pretend to be something else. So I pretend I am a girl when Miz Yancy asks, and twitch my whiskers when she isn’t looking. I can twitch my whiskers all day when we’re learning about fractions (Louis Packmann is one-half ugly and one-half smelly and one-whole dumb) and nobody will know, but at times I think Miz Yancy can see what I’m talking about and is trying to keep it secret. I am good at secrets. Aren’t all cats?
I am learning how to make origami, which means “little birds and flowers and stuff made from folded paper” in Japanese. Today I made a crane. I like origami very much. Tomorrow I think I will make a frog that jumps.
Today they brought me back from the animal shelter in my very special cat carrier, and I was able to take off my muzzle and leashes and such for good. It was so nice to be out of them! After what happened with the mouse Rufus told me it would be best to go to the shelter for a while, since everyone was angry at me. I think they were all jealous because I am such a good mouser, but Rufus says I shouldn’t talk about that much. He held me very tight and cried when I returned, since in the animal shelter they didn’t let him pass through a glass wall. Maybe they were afraid of rabies? I missed him so while I was there, and it was so very good to see him again. Even though it isn’t fun to think about it, I will never hunt another mouse again, even though I’m good at it. The animal shelter people would return and I would leave Rufus all alone, and that’s hardly something I’d like to do at all.
Mashed potatoes are very easy to make if you jump on them a lot.
Rufus took me to see a ballet yesterday, and we got all dressed up and everything. It was about a dancing nutcracker and it was very good. There was even a mouse with lots of different heads! When we came home I danced for Rufus to show him how happy I was. It made him smile.
My dad shouted at me when he heard I had scratched up the neighbors’ dog today, and then he gave me lots of purple spots on my skin like a funny purple cheetah. I don’t like dogs at all. The neighbor’s dog looked at me wrong and I knew right then I wanted to scratch him all up so he wouldn’t look at me again. Dogs are really nasty because they sniff their bottoms.
I think my spots are pretty, but I wish they didn’t hurt when I touched them. I’m ten years old and I shouldn’t be afraid to groom my lovely spots, because being afraid is for babies. But they really do hurt a lot sometimes. I hide them from my mom so she won’t put makeup on them or anything like she does when she gets spots. She must prefer stripes, I guess. Maybe that’s why she screams a lot when my dad isn’t home, since she always has stripes on her back like a silly pink tiger after that. I wish she didn’t scream at me, though. I like spots much better than screaming.
The neighbors said they’re going to put that nasty dog to sleep tomorrow because they say he can’t breathe right because I scratched him too much and hurt his insides and he bubbles blood from his mouth when he tries to breathe out. Good.
I wonder what the guy next door will think?
I wish I had a pet chameleon. I like their eyes and their funny curly tails.
Rufus is very good to me and always brings me presents, even when he isn’t travelling. He strokes my fur and scratches right behind my ears and makes sure I am healthy. I love him very much. We are married, and sometimes I like to pull out our marriage license and look at it because I can’t believe I am so lucky. Our fifth anniversary is coming up, and I will draw a picture for him because Rufus is wonderful.
I find out in kindergarten how to pretend like I’ve taken the pills that make my fur hide from me (though it seems nobody else can see it very well, so why do they want it to go away?). They make me sleepy when I take them, so I pretend to be very sleepy after I pretend to take them and I wait a few minutes before acting like how I really am around my parents. Really, I just hide the pills in my pockets and flush them in the potty, where they swirl like a tornado before disappearing forever. I’m glad to be a cat! Cats are clever like that!
After what happened with the mouse I am watched carefully sometimes by Rufus. I know he has to pretend that I am crazy so the police will leave me alone and so they won’t have to put me in the cat carrier again. That’s okay, I think, because I love Rufus very much. He’s very smart and knows what is best, and doesn’t want to see me taken to the pound ever again. Rufus is a doctor or something.
One time I found a can of soda pop and I shook it up and opened it and it exploded everywhere.
Wendy was playing in the sandbox because she’s a meanie and knows I like to build sand castles after Letter Time. I asked nice if she would let me play, too, and she hit me with a shovel, hit me right between the eyes. I cried because it hurt and said she wasn’t supposed to hurt kittens (because even though I am all grown up in cat years I am not aging like a cat). She called me a booger even though the teacher-ladies say we aren’t supposed to use that word at Building Blocks Preschool even if nobody minds if we do, so I cry harder. Wendy says if I really was a kitten she would pull my tail.
Wendy is mean.
I think I like chocolate better than vanilla.
I love to sleep in the sun! Especially now that I’m done with high school and am living with my parents again instead of that nasty boarding place. We have a great big rock with a flat top in the side yard, and I can hop right up on it and soak up all the sunshine. I call it my basking rock. Sometimes when the sun is just right it makes my fur glow. Once the guy from next door saw me and asked if he could scratch my tummy. I said yes. He was a very good scratcher, indeed! But when he was done I asked him to do that at times when I wasn’t on my rock, as cats need their sleep.
I bit my tongue then, because the doctor my parents send me to says I should keep my cat-self secret from other people, and the medicine she gives me (she says it will keep bad people from seeing that I am really a cat and will make sure they don’t try to put me in a cage and sell me at the Pass Pets in the mall, and I don’t want to be sold and taken away from here in a teeny-tiny stinky cage with Mexican newspapers in it) makes me not want to talk about being a cat so much (which is a pity, though at least my fur doesn’t go away).
I was so surprised when he said it would be a shame not to see my pretty fur so much, and he even knew what color it is! Most people can’t even see the white stomach I have. I like him a lot.
I don’t know his first name yet. His last name is Gulag, like those prisons in Russia. Which is odd, since he lives in a wide open place, and doesn’t keep his dog fenced in at all. I hope they get rid of the dog, though. I don’t like them.
Rufus is kind and gentle. He doesn’t hit me ever ever ever, even when I sometimes make him angry. I love him so much, which is why I do not mind living in this great big dark house where I am alone a lot. Darkness is good for hiding! Rufus travels all the time, but he brings me wonderful presents when he comes back, and doesn’t shout at me or scream like my mom did.
This house is wonderful! There are long hallways where I can prowl, and there are shadows everywhere to help me hide and stalk. The lights are usually out in most of the rooms, which is fine because I can see in the dark like all cats can. The basement is made from lots of concrete and is nice and cool to rest on. I have not found any mice yet, but that means the house is clean, so I don’t worry too much. It’s like living in a haunted house, except the ghost here is me!
I wrote a poem about frogs today, and here is how it goes:
Shiny green frogs
Once were pollywogs
They jump all over the place
And you can even make them race
Everywhere there are statues, statues, statues, made from wood and granite and marble and who knows what else. In the billiard room there is even a great stone elephant with real ivory tusks (Rufus keeps his hats on them)! Sometimes when I prowl through the halls I count all the statues I see, and when I get up to a hundred I stop. They’re simply everywhere. Griffins and wolves and weeping angels and skeletons are all over the place, and of course lots and lots of lovely designs and leaves and such are carved along the walls and down the stairs and over the fireplace and on the ceiling and everywhere else they felt like carving another statue. There are even two resting lions to keep me company in the bedroom! Rufus thinks of everything. I think I will write a song for him about how he was so smart to room us with the lions. After lunch, perhaps.
I do not have to pay rent at all because Rufus owns this house. Instead, I can prowl all day. It’s so much fun prowling around all the Gothic architecture. When I am feeling especially prowl-y, I go outdoors and prowl around the mausoleums. The stone angels smile at me when I go there, so I know they do not mind. Sometimes they sing to me when I ask them to, and they sing so very sweetly that I dance happily for them in return. I always make sure to clean their graves before I go back to the house. After all, it’s only polite.
I! Am learning! Spanish! And I already know how to ask for a pencil and an umbrella already. Spanish is lots of fun, and I think I will learn Russian next.
I remember in my drafting classes in high school we learned about houses like ours. Ours being mine and Rufus’s, not the high school’s, of course! I remem-ber looking at the wonderful mansions in the books with their tiled floors and swan fountains and wishing I lived there. It seems a lucky fairy heard my wish all those years ago, for here I am today. I sometimes feel like we’re living with the Addams family, or maybe with Victor von Frankenstein. There are parapets and walkways and turrets all over the house. On days when the weather is nice, I sometimes stalk up to the roof and watch the weather vane spin. The iron cockatrice always dances such lovely dances for me in the wind.
Rufus says I shouldn’t leave our house and property because of what has happened before with the mouse. I know this is true, and that since I know the truth I don’t really need to leave the house anymore, so I stay here. There’s so much to do I don’t even think about going anywhere else.
Tomorrow I will get to ride on a carousel, so I am going to sleep early.
It’s fun to wake up whenever I feel like waking up. I always stretch really well, then take off my nightgown and go to look at myself in the mirror. Some people would say that I am just a normal woman with black hair and freckles, but they’re missing out on so much. My fur is a creamy brown with a white stomach, and is very soft. My tail has a kink in it, maybe from when it was stepped on when I was little, I don’t know. Rufus can see my fur because he can use his eyes properly, since he doesn’t wear cat-proof glasses. Sometimes I wake him up when I wake up, so he watches me groom my fur and brush my hair. He usually tells me I am very beautiful, then goes back to bed. Rufus is so wonderful, really!
One time I woke up because the telephone rang. Rufus heard it, too, and got out of bed. He told me I could go back to sleep. I pretended to, since I was very curious who would be calling so late at night. He took the phone into the next room, where he keeps a lot of his papers, and started arguing with the person on the other end of it.
He first was talking very slowly about how someone “needed constant observation” and had “already been institutionalized to no effect,” then started getting very angry and said that there was “no use for medication due to the nature of the patient’s illness” and that he’d “be damned if some inbred relation of hers is going to advise a respected expert in the field” and a lot of other things. Then he said my name, and stated that I was safest in his personal care, and that if someone whose name I didn’t catch tried to have me taken away again after I showed no further signs of my “past destructive behavior” he (Rufus) would get a restraining order against him (some other person) and he (Rufus) would make sure he (some other person) never bothered him (Rufus) and me ever again and he (some other person) could go to Hell. I smiled when I heard that. Rufus loves me so much, and I love him!
Rufus slammed down the telephone then, and I crept into the room to ask who it was. He sighed and ran his fingers through his hair and told me it was my father. I wrinkled my nose—-my father was never a nice man, and Rufus loves me so much more than he ever did-—and asked what he wanted. It turns out my father was trying to get me placed back in the animal shelter! Can you imagine that? And me not having gone mousing in such a very long time. How very, very rude my father is.
Barbecue is better when you eat it with your fingers.
It’s my nineteenth birthday and the guy from next door comes to visit. I still don’t know his first name, but we have been friends for a long while, over a year, and the week before this he kissed me while we were walking. It was very nice. When I told my parents about it they looked at each other funny but didn’t say anything else to me. I heard them talking later, but their voices were so low I didn’t understand what they were saying. But I don’t think about that today, since today I have a birthday cake and balloons and everything. We even have pin the tail on the donkey, which is one of my favorite games in the world. I like birthdays.
He greets my parents and talks to them in a quiet voice. I play with a party squeaker and eat my cake until he is finished. Then he comes to see me. He hands me a box wrapped in seashell-printed blue paper and says it’s a present for me. I open it, and what do you know? Inside he has put a collar with a copper bell on it, and it’s just my size. He’s so thoughtful, knowing that cats ought to wear bells. Then he hands me a smaller box. There’s a ring inside, a gold one with a diamond. It sparkles in the light. He asks me if I will marry him. I ask him what his name is. “Rufus,” he says. I like his eyes, which are bottle-green and shiny, so I agree, and we kiss again, right there in front of my parents, and I laugh inside at what they must be thinking right then. We are married in three months.
I think my favorite music in the world is by Buddy Holly.
I am put on the green pills after I crept up behind Wendy and scratched her hard for being so mean. They say she had to go to the emergency room, and they say they don’t know how a four-year-old could do that much damage with only her fingernails. They must not have ever made a kitty mad!
We have been married for two years, and I am getting used to the way things are. Sometimes Rufus will come home so tired he can barely stay awake long enough to eat. Other times he is full of energy, and after dinner we watch television or play chess or make love, sometimes all three! He is always very busy, so I under-stand when he’s feeling worn out. Sometimes I’m all worn out, too, and he doesn’t bother me a bit. So shouldn’t I return the favor? Of course I should. That’s what married people do, after all, and we are married. And very much in love. It’s a good life here. Even when we end up watching HBO instead of that one show on beetles they have on the animal channel (I like beetles, alright?).
I am getting very good at chess, too.
I saw a cartoon about a giant slug today. I wish I had one. I would make him a little saddle and ride him everywhere. His name would be Fantastic Super Magic Turquoise Silverwind. We will call him "Silverwind" for short. I once read a book with a horse named Golden Silverwind in it so I know it's a good name. He would shoot rainbows out of his eyes at bad guys.
There are sirens in my ears as I run through the alleys. If I can get home, everything will be all right. Rufus will be there. He will say what the problem is and make them all go away. I have to be faster. I have to be faster. I do not feel the daggers in every muscle. I do not feel my veins pumping acid. I do not feel my breath gasping away. I run. Cheetahs do this every day, when the antelope try to escape from them, only now the antelope are chasing after the cheetah, and I must think like a bigger cat even though I am not one, so I run faster.
I am very close to home. I can see the edge of our property from here, and the stone angels who smile so sweetly when I go to see them. I can also hear other people from here. Their voices drown out the songs the angels sing to me, which makes me sad. I really wish I could hear them now. I jump over cans and boxes and bottles and one hobo and I am getting closer to Rufus and the angels and home. Nothing gets in my way, because now I’m an alley cat (because isn’t that what you call a cat in an alley?) and you can’t stop an alley cat unless it wants to be stopped and I want to keep on going.
I did some jumping jacks today but stopped after fifty.
This must be how Frankenstein felt when the people with the torches were following him and shouting. Except these people don’t have torches. Well, some of them have halogen lights, so I guess those count. And Frankenstein never had to worry about getting shot. I always cried when the mill burned down in that movie. I cried every time he died in every movie he was in.
Sandpaper doesn’t taste very good.
I don’t know why they don’t understand, even if they can’t see my long tail. The woman had left her stroller by the bench, and her child had climbed out. I was hiding behind the park’s animals-on-springs, just watching, and I saw him go. His mother didn’t see a thing, then she turned and looked at him, then looked away, and I swear I heard her say that he was out of her control, and that anyone might as well have him. So I looked back at him. Lo and behold, I saw what he really was! He was a mouse! A long-tailed gray one, with beady eyes and overalls. And since his mother had obviously just given permission to me, I ran forward and picked him up and took him with me. His mother screamed, but I know she was just playing the part. She was a good actress. I took him under the bridge, and made a mousey meal of him, just like cats are supposed to do. It tasted so good to eat food I caught myself! I couldn’t finish all of it, so I picked it up and started walking home to Rufus. He’d love to have me bring him a gift! Someone else saw me, but instead of saying, “Why, there goes a good mouser,” she screamed bloody murder (it wasn’t that messy, honestly, I mean I cleaned my mouse up a little bit before I left) and ran to call the police. I decided that I would have to bring Rufus a present some other day, so I took my mouse and wrapped him in some old newspapers and left him on one of the benches in the park. I hope someone was interested in the rest of a mouse that day! Otherwise I would be a waster-oo, and that’s not a very good thing to be at all. I started walking home but had forgotten to wash up properly, so I began cleaning my fingers as I went. More people saw me, but instead of saying, “Say, that cat must have just done her job,” they began to get all excited. Another person said they had called the police. I honestly don’t understand the fuss, myself. But then things began to turn sour and the sirens came, and that’s when I figured I should run home.
And that’s where I started remembering what happened. My body burns, but I know I have to keep going, to find Rufus, who will make everything better and explain it all and let everyone know the truth. Cats are supposed to eat mice! Cats are supposed to eat mice! Cats are supposed to eat mice!
Have you ever noticed that orange tastes better than yellow?
Today I went up to the roof and flew a kite. It dipped and swirled like a bird in the air. I had a lot of fun. I think I will fly it again tomorrow if it doesn’t rain on me. The iron cockatrice thought it was very pretty.
I wonder if they’ll corner me, and shout at me, and if they’ll have to call in the Crocodile Hunter to wrestle me to the ground. “She’s a beaut!” he’d say after I scratched him good. And then he’d tell everyone about my claws and my fur so nobody would doubt me again. Then he would capture me and give me to the authorities, and I wouldn’t mind at all because his television show is so wonderful. He’s so funny!
I’m on our property now and run through the trees. I have stalked and crept and played here so many times I could sprint through blindfolded. I hide for a bit in a tree and watch the flashing blue lights and the halogen beams get closer. They could see me too easily here, so I hop to the ground and run for the house. The lights are on, so I know Rufus will be home. Have I really been running since four in the afternoon? It’s all so very strange. Someone sees me as I am almost to the door and shouts. I reach the door and bang the knockers furiously. They are great iron things, rings held in the mouths of griffins. I wish there really were griffins here to keep me safe, to spread their wings over me and roar at the mean people until Rufus answers the door. Answer the door! Rufus appears and sees me, then looks past me at the approaching people. He takes me in his arms and asks one of the officers what has happened.
The officer doesn’t seem to know all of the story. He says I kidnapped and murdered a child and then ran from the police. He doesn’t seem to know about the mouse at all, really. Maybe he hasn’t had his coffee today? Rufus tells them about how I am usually kept here. He calls it a one-man asylum, which I suppose is true, since there’s only Rufus here besides me, and I’m certainly not a man! He says that I am his wife and patient. He talks about dealings with the Department of Mental Health and how I am being treated for acute dementia, psychosis, and a rare form of skitsa-something (it’s a long word that means crazy in science-talk, and I am so happy he’s a doctor because he knows all the right words to say when he needs to have people leave me alone), and how I am in his personal supervision. I am so proud of Rufus. He is such a wonderful actor. He should get an Academy Award for the wonderful speech he makes up!
I made a castle out of Lego bricks today. Rufus helped. It’s a magic castle where the sugar fairies live. They like chocolate better than vanilla, which means they’re my friends. Tomorrow I think I’ll make a spaceship.
I see Mr. Tathen looking at me. I meow to him. He flips out his badge and demands to know why I did what I did. At last, I can tell someone the truth! I say what happened, about the mouse and its mother and how she told me I could have a mousy meal all for me and how I wanted to bring Rufus a present but people made too much noise. I continue cleaning myself after telling him. Rufus strokes my hair. Mr. Tathen looks at me with a strange expression and says, “You really do think you’re a cat, don’t you.” I smile and nod. He realizes what I’ve been saying all this time, at last! I was worried that only Rufus really understands me.
Rufus invites some of the officers in to see some paperwork that states me as being legally insane and assigned to be under his supervision in this house at all times (he’s so clever to forge documents for me! I love him so much!), and makes sure he has his hand on my shoulder at all times. I nuzzle his arm and he sends a smile my way and strokes my cheek. He says that he needs to put me to bed and excuses himself for a moment. Rufus takes me to the bedroom and says he’ll need to lock me inside, to make sure I’ll be safe. This is just fine with me. He kisses me and says he loves me, and that he needs to talk to the police officers more, and that I may have to be taken to the animal shelter for a while because of my mouse. I don’t understand, but I nod. He leaves.
I look outside my window at all the people, and suddenly I can really see what they all are. It’s like someone has parted a curtain for me. Outside there is a sea of dogs, foaming and barking, and I know if I go out among those dogs I will be torn to pieces. But they cannot enter this house. It is dog-proofed. I look at Rufus as he goes and I finally see the swirling tail behind him, the whiskers, the ears, and I wonder how I never felt that coat of creamy fur before when we slept together. He knows I’m a cat because he’s really one, too. All this time he has been waiting for me to realize the truth. I know about his patient vigil now, and my heart almost bursts with love for him. He will talk to the police and show them the papers and make everything okay again, and then he will walk back up the hall on his soft black feet (and now I remember how quietly he walks, like feathers falling on sand) and hold me close and tell me it’s alright, even if I do have to be muzzled and taken away to the animal shelter for a while. And because he is very clever everything will be alright. And then if I am good I will come back and play in the sun forever and ever.
Outside there are barking dogs, but inside there are none. This is where the cats live.
(c) Ashley Megan "AriaMech" James