Tuesday, April 21, 2009

C'est la Feline

Perhaps it was just some odd psychological fluke; perhaps he had some ancient Egyptian heritage of which he was unaware; all Richard knew was that he loved cats. Their appearances, their textures, their lack of odors, their mostly calm yet skeptical attitudes, and their relative independence — everything about them struck a euphonious chord in his mind. But although he occasionally had the opportunity to visit other people and their cats, he never had a cat that he could call his own...or maybe he could never be called any particular cat’s own. That, after all, is how cats seem to work, as it were.

At least, that’s the impression he had gotten. Of his two parents, one was allergic, and the other was simply stubborn, closed-minded, and not at all fond, or indeed tolerant, of anything feline. They had no problem with certain types of dogs, though. They had two pets of the canine persuasion, but, as amicable as they were, they were clearly not at all the same to Richard. Noisy, stinky creatures that sometimes have to go out in the mud and cold, pouring rain just to relieve themselves. Who needs this? Richard thought. Eventually, though, after spending enough time with the dogs...hey, they may have some cons, but they’re not totally despicable...Richard became mostly numb to his previous desires and carried on with his life as nearly any human would do.

Richard found himself pursuing reading and writing in college. He worked a few ordinary, menial jobs throughout his studies, and he seldom thought of the future. Of course, few could have foreseen the economic depression that lay not far from his graduation.

Despite being armed with a college degree, nobody seemed interested in his potential services. No employers in any fields that held his interest were hiring, and he wasn’t about to pursue a job he knew he wouldn’t enjoy. He held on to his old job at the dry-cleaners on Western for a while, but the income from that would not grant him independence. He was able to stay with an old classmate from one of his earlier poetry classes. Jimmy was a nice guy, but sometimes his wildly eclectic musical tastes would drive even the most radical hippie totally batty. The headphones may have been the one thing that preserved their relative friendliness.

Richard started to approach “totally batty” himself when he was informed that the dry-cleaners would be closing. Where would he go now? No one was hiring, and he clearly could not stay anywhere. Damn this world, he thought. The worlds my head creates in my dreams are so much better. I should just sleep all the time, so I can spend my time there instead of in this hell.

After much pleading and reasoning with his family, his aunt finally agreed to take him in. She was not so keen on the arrangement given the circumstances, but she was essentially kind-hearted, and she decided that a little bit of company would do her good; her husband had been killed in a freak accident on the Kennedy a number of years ago, and her only son had moved to Denver. So, Richard would remain on the dole and with his aunt. He would wander the city on weekday mornings and afternoons in search of work, and he would spend most of the rest of his time either asleep or vacantly nibbling on cheap food. In fact, as the days wore on, he would put less and less effort into his search, and sometimes he would simply stay home and let it all blow away in the wind. He had largely ceased to care about much of anything, even letting his hair and beard grow long and scraggly.

One day, Richard got up at around noon. He headed down to the kitchen and served himself a can of tuna and a glass of cool tap water. He ate quite intently, seldom noticing any of his surroundings. Not that there was much worth paying attention to, of course; the house was otherwise quiet and unoccupied for the time being, and nothing beyond the windows could bring him peace of mind. He ate and drank his fill, then walked back upstairs.

As he passed the mirror, he caught sight of his reflection. Just for a brief moment, an odd thought struck him as he gazed at his hairy body with its long whiskers and fairly simple mind. This quickly subsided, though. He didn’t care. As long as he was fed and could retreat into his own dreamworld, everything was fine.

He hopped onto the bed, curled up, and went back to sleep.

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