They Love Me This Much
Michael Ubaldi, January 18, 2007.
How, I catch myself wondering, did I endear myself to these cats of mine? The daily fresh servings of water, canned meat and kibble? The cuddles? The cooed gibberish which I relate only to those whose pets are addressed in similarly soft and inscrutable tongues?
Mac and Mitsubishi, for most of their eight months of age, have been found waiting at the front of my apartment just about every time I open the door. Some of the duo's learned behavior is as darling as it is incredible — Mac occasionally curls up in my bathroom sink and Mitsubishi plays "fetch" with those plastic, ring-like articles of feline desiderata, the "Cat Crazy." The cats' response to my departure, however, resembles that of certain children unwilling to let Mother leave them alone at preschool.
At my slightest movement towards the apartment's entrance, Mac will stop whatever it is he is doing, trot past me and lay himself across the threshold of the door, as if to stage a protest. He has been doing this for a few months at least.
When the antic first began I could inveigle Mac by calling his name from the other side of the room, and confusing him long enough to exit by walking swiftly from the calling spot to the door. Then, after the cat gained some resolve, I called him with the added enticement of wiggling a Cat Crazy between my thumb and index finger; and, eventually, threw a Cat Crazy in such a way that its elastic properties were worth some investigation, my calls to Mac, in this instance, finally ignored. Now I gently pick the cat up and drop him at a place where his feline mind no longer perceives "My source of food and attention is going away" but instead "I think I will play, perhaps with a toy" — the new cognition encouraged by a flung Cat Crazy. Even once the cat has been distracted, I still need to hurry.
While this goes on, Mitsubishi will have tiptoed forward, flush to the apartment's interior wall. Mac need only glance at her to realize that he's been tricked, whereupon he turns around and prepares to again play Doorstop. If lucky, I have the door open wide enough to escape, turn and delicately nudge probing muzzles away from the outer hallway. Door closed; locked.
Until last week the ritual would end there. Mac, however, has become interested in the operation of the door — but with only the incomplete comprehension of a lesser animal. The chain lock, he seems to have deduced, has something to do with the wooden monolith. His evident understanding is that it is material, rather than secondary, to the opening and closing of the door; and that it is a pull-string. As I walk down the hall, there is a recurring sound from the inside of my apartment: the clap of brass on oak, the metrical scrape of a chain swinging as a pendulum.
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