I grew up with cats. Don’t get me wrong, I like dogs too. But my family was a cat family and I guess that makes me a catman. Our first cat was Oscar. My Dad called him Oscar because … look at my last name!
Then there was Lucy and Chloe, two very sociable cats. Lucy was talkative and she acquired basic language skills. Hello was meow. A meow with a rising inflection was “How are you?” Two meows: “I’m good.” Biting me on the hand: “I wish I could eat you, but I don’t know where to start, so I’ll lick you instead.” Such are cats, who really want to eat their masters but lack the will to go through with it.
As a bachelor in my mid-forties, my mum and sister suggested I get a cat. They even threatened to buy me one for my birthday. Several of my friends have cats in their apartments. They seem happy. They spend their time watching TV, sleeping on various chairs, hiding in cupboards or hiding out in rooms, either on the bed, or under it.
Lucy and Chloe were outdoor cats. They were indoor/outdoor cats for about seven years before they were banished to the garden for ripping the lounge and the back of the piano. And weeing on my CD collection. And on my mum’s books.
We had a decent-sized backyard and the cats could easily get to the front by walking across a couple of fences. This was a more natural way for the cats to get from the back to the front. The old way: running through the house like a Formula 1 car navigating the Eau-Rouge at Spa-Francorchamps. I never worked out what so urgently had to be seen that it required skidding through the house at breakneck speed.
Lucy was an adventure cat. She once followed me down to the park a kilometre away. Then she wandered off and didn’t come back for three days! I kept telling her to go home, but she insisted on coming.
Chloe was less talkative but no less lovable. If Lucy slept on my bed she invariably started on my chest and ended up splaying herself out and taking up all the space. Chloe was less demanding. She always went under the covers to snuggle up, her eyes peering out. I don’t know how she breathed down there.
But I’m not going to get a flat cat. I’m sure I’d love it. But I’d feel guilty if I didn’t leave the TV on all day. This is what Korben Dallas (Bruce Willis) does for his cat in The Fifth Element. He even tells it: “Don’t watch too much TV.”
I’m sure flat cats are happy. Maybe I’ll come back as one in my next life.
But for now, I have a pet spider and some flies.
They entered voluntarily.
I almost killed the spider. I was playing piano and raised my head towards the ceiling, as I do when playing a particularly poignant passage. My eyes alighted on the spider. I’m not sure if it was looking back at me as it didn’t have the beady eyes of a huntsman. It was about half the size of my palm.
I was about to get the spray. But I let it be. For the next couple of weeks it wandered between the lounge and the bathroom. I kept informing it that its passage to the bathroom was precarious. It walked directly along the floor, casually ambling, not realising that bad timing would see it stuck to the bottom of my slipper.
It obviously went to the bathroom to drink as it hung out near the ground next to the shower. The ground route took half the time to get from bedroom to piano. I’ve seen it take this route three times. But I haven’t seen it in a week.
There’s nothing on the bottom of my slippers. But any spider-corpse would long ago have become part of the slipper’s sole. I hope my nomadic spider is ok. I even called him Damon the Nomad. But he may have been a woman.
I think Damon’s gone. That’s why the flies have arrived.
It started with two flies. One hanging out near the sink, the other on the wall next to the intercom. I wasn’t a fan at first. I sprayed them in a fit of misdirected anger, blaming them for climate change, world hunger and white supremacy. They forgave me and resumed their positions at sink and intercom.
I told them: “Alright. If you’re going to breed, do it outside. I will call you Fly A and Fly B. But if I see a Fly C…” I retrieved the fly spray and pointed at the label.
At that very moment a third fly flew directly past me, at eye level. I was so impressed with this fly’s sense of humour that Fly C was admitted to the party. But I warned them once more, “Should there be a Fly D…!”
At that point I spotted Fly D next to the fridge. Fly D spends its time near the fridge and on my bedside table. This morning when I woke it immediately launched itself in the air and headed to the kitchen.
Fly E has not yet arrived. But I have prepared it a queen-sized fly-bed and some crumbs from a scotch-finger biscuit.
“Fly E – Flies A, B, C, D and myself eagerly await your arrival.”