7: At the Mall

7: At the Mall

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

At the Mall

Like a graceful vase, a cat even when motionless seems to flow.

~George F. Will

With great ceremony my husband reached into his coat and pulled out my perfect birthday gift, a tiny grey Persian kitten. We had been married a few short months but already I was experiencing the “nesting” urge. Children were still a few years off and I needed something to cuddle and spoil. Dogs were not allowed in our apartment so a kitten seemed the answer to my maternal impulse.

Gilligan (named after my husband’s favorite TV show) was a delightful addition to our life. We were careful to raise him with just the right mix of affection and discipline, insisting on the best food available and a regular play schedule. The lucky kitty was even allowed to sleep with us every night, usually winning the battle for my pillow. He was promoted from pet to family member when he began joining us on all our excursions, even though he continued to treat us with disdain. We loved him anyway.

My great pride in Gilligan was that he had learned to walk on a leash. Yes, it was certainly quite an accomplishment and had taken a great deal of diligence and persistence, requiring just the right amount of creativity and bribery — but it had paid off.

My favorite outing was taking him for walks in the mall. For some reason my husband never seemed to be available for this venture. It was before animals were banned in many public places, and pet owners were known to frequent the shopping center with their precious darlings on a regular basis.

As we sauntered casually through the mall, people would stare at Gilligan, making ooh and ahh sounds as we went by. I got quite used to the attention and was proud of my obedient and talented kitty.

One particular day I decided to dress him up for our usual stroll through the mall. The latest purchase was brought out and a comical struggle ensued as we proceeded to put on his new green, knitted, turtleneck sweater.

Now I know that a Persian cat has no need of a knitted turtleneck sweater but I had no one else to dress up. We arrived at the mall and began our stroll through the maze of people and stores. Again, everyone looked at Gilligan in amazement, whispering to each other behind their hands. I simply walked on, staring straight ahead but thoroughly enjoying the looks on their faces.

As long as I didn’t feel any drag on the leash, or a sudden jerk, I just kept going. When he went around a pole on the opposite side, it took a few moments of unwinding and we would be on our way again.

This day seemed like any other day. Children smiled, adults commented to each other and groups of people stopped to stare, but it suddenly dawned on me that shoppers seemed to be getting more than the usual enjoyment out of our performance. Smiles were more like snickers and chuckles had elements of hysterics. There had been no drag on the leash, but I turned my head to do a quick check anyway.

To my horror, there at the end of the leash was the cat, laying flat on his back with all fours reaching to the sky. He looked relaxed and quite comfortable with the new traveling arrangements. I realized this entire time I had been slowly dragging my twenty-pound cat around on the mall’s slippery floor, on his back, in a green sweater! Drat that cat.

With lightning speed, I picked up Gilligan and tucked him under my arm — making a beeline for the exit. That was also the end of the leash walking. I figured next time we might find my picture in the evening paper under the heading — “Believe It or Not.”

I’m sure there is some kind of moral to this story but I can’t think of a single one. All I know is that at many dinner tables that night the conversation probably started with, “You won’t believe the woman I saw today at the mall.”

~Heather Rae Rodin

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