5: Feline Persuasion

5: Feline Persuasion

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Cat Did What?

Feline Persuasion

Some people say that cats are sneaky, evil, and cruel.

True, and they have many other fine qualities as well.

~Missy Dizick

Who else but you,

the originator of the runway stride,

could saunter down the slope

of a porch railing

with such nonchalance?

As I stumble through my morning,

tripping in flip-flops, rounding corners

with my sorely purpled hips,

grabbing at an avalanche

of ice-encrusted vegetables

when I open the freezer,

I envy your unpracticed grace,

the way you leap from ledges,

flaunting your sure-footed landings

like a born gymnast.

The moment my back is turned,

you prove yourself

the quintessential opportunist.

Every narrow gap is to you

an invitation. You Harry Houdini,

steal between bars, stalking shadows,

gliding through fences

seemingly without ever lifting a paw.

You discover opportunity ajar

and barge on in.

All barriers to worlds beyond

lift and roll back easily, exclusively for you,

as if they were remote-controlled

garage doors that you wander through

like royalty, mildly pleased

but unimpressed.

All through the slumbering winter hours

you hog the central heating grates

as if you pay a personal utilities bill

while the rest of us

flick ice chips off our shoulders.

When your mistress is away,

I am the one who feeds you,

wields the litter-sifting scoop,

opens the front door for you

three hundred times a day

with a towel on my arm,

chases the tornado of your antics,

and Swiffers the floors behind you.

I do this — I hope you are aware —

not out of a plebian desire

to appease you,

but because the rent is cheap.

Someone who has not lived with you

might mistake you for

a pleasant, ordinary house cat,

like your sweet-tempered affiliate,

who purrs like an idling engine,

content to gaze out the window

without any further ambition.

Her notable source of excitement in life

is a length of yarn

wiggled at her nose. As for you,

your handsome, dark gray stripes

and clean white socks belie

the mischief-plotting rogue you are,

who, in former lives, I’ve been told,

ran straight up the walls,

tearing at artwork, and tested the claws

of ragged-eared street cats

in the alleys of Prague.

Even now, you climb curtains

and summit the fridge,

your appetite for the forbidden

still insatiable.

The jut of your pointy white chin

pleads guilty defiance,

whatever your latest crime.

Yet there is no training, taming,

or punishing you.

My best weapon of defense

is the fine-mist sprayer I use

to water houseplants; the spritz

only fleetingly annoys you.

Food in any form left unattended

is endangered: a cup of juice,

a jar of peanut butter

carelessly left open

in the post-lunch hustle, even

a painstakingly wrapped care package

filled with homemade cookies, ready

to be mailed. I return to find

a colorful spill, a trail

of kitty-litter footprints

on the countertop,

layers of plastic chewed through,

crumbs of chocolate chips.

My rage explodes like a firework finale.

Cat! You slinking conniver.

Your favorite game is sniffing out

the very times and places

in which you are most unwelcome.

My bedroom has been fortressed against you

as the last bastion

of fur-free solitude, uninterrupted

by drama and destruction —

where I don’t have to listen to you

laboriously coughing up hairballs

by way of “Good Morning”

or witness the hiss and scrabble

of the fights you pick

with your naïve intellectual inferior

out of sheer boredom, and where

there are no little mounds of rejection

for me to scrape off the floor.

When you stand outside my door

and start up your mewling, unlovely lament,

I have no sympathy for you.

By now I have learned

it is merely feline whining,

not to be confused with

the sob-song of loneliness.

You could have commandeered

any other room you desire.

Your intention is not to kindle a bond

but to coolly appraise my surroundings

once you have gained access

to this final frontier.

Never have I seen a flicker of fear

in your keen, green eyes.

I’ve seen you dodge and dart,

but only in pursuit of some creature

less fortunate than you,

or to evade discipline.

I might otherwise have been inspired

by your boldness, but as it is,

it merely infuriates me.

And yet, in moments of weakness,

I feel a strange, clawing fondness for you —

for the effortless charm

with which you sometimes

hop onto the couch with me

and deign to let me pet you.

How quickly I forget,

when the snuggle comes easy,

that you are still the poster boy

for narcissism, aloof and oblivious

to any emptiness except

the growl of your own stomach.

Your selective hearing

betrays your limited agenda:

you come bounding

down three flights of stairs

at the sound of a can lid

being opened in the kitchen,

whether or not the spoon is for you.

You flirt with anything that moves.

How convenient,

the way you lose interest,

thoughtlessly shedding

my hands, my fur-nested lap

quickly growing cold

as you step off the curb

of my thigh, distracted

by a millipede on holiday

from dinge of musty basement.

I suppose by now

it should not come as a surprise

when you leave me

like rumpled sheets on a hotel bed —

even for a dust mote

floating in a shaft of sun.

~Emily Ruth Hazel

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