Pippen and the Ice Storm (A Cat’s Tale): Excerpt

As I look back at Pippen’s going missing for 12 days, I think of it as a bizarre experience for various reasons. It has prompted me to begin writing a tale, which at this point reads either like a dark children’s tale or that of a hyper-sensitive adult human being. Here is the introduction I have so far:

Pippen and the Ice Storm (A Cat’s Tale)

Pippen rests her head on her human mother’s face, right there on the cheek. She sleeps this way and mother does not object, no. Mother feels relief.

Before this, or maybe some time after, Pippen played with mother’s hair – pawing and licking at the long strands like they were some cat treat. Mother giggled but pushed Pippen’s paws away. This is odd, she thought, and it isn’t. How she clings to me now that she is back in her home territory.

This is Pippen’s third night home, in mother’s bed. Pippen rests on mother’s cheek and mother wakes at an odd time from sleep, when the room is no longer pitch black but all eyes in the room have adjusted to the contours of light and dark. Pippen had been lost in the outside for 12 days straight, a lifetime.

Expect cats to live 9 lives. Pippen’s 12 days missing equal one lifetime lived. Contrary to the myth that cats experience a shorter life span than humans (on average 15 years), cats live up to 9 lifetimes to the 1 of human beings. Mother hopes to experience the rest of her 1 lifetime with Pippen as Pippen lives more, barring common cat disease or human cruelty. Mother still hopes even though most other times she hoped for something, that hope never came to fruition.

*Note on Cat Time:
Cats experience time in a way only the most alert human beings do, that is, nonlinearly. Therefore, in the interest of keeping this a true cat’s tale, events will appear to move in and out of linear chronology or out of it entirely. Some parts of the tale will begin at the end of an event or matter, for the fact that what appears to be the end is the beginning of something else, so that beginnings and endings do not really exist. Take for example the opening of this tale above, how we begin at the end of Pippen’s 12-day journey, which is only the beginning of yet another cat lifetime. An event may take the space of night to morning or morning to night without a clear indication of whether the night narrated comes after the morning or before, or exactly which of the 12 days is being spoken of. Essentially, this tale seeks to render events more so in space rather than time. Why then bother specifying 12 days lost or any spans of time at all? Because the readers of this tale necessarily experience life as human beings, which for the time being involves calculable spans of time. A cat’s tale in the interest of cats but set to the tune of humans, which we cannot escape even if we wanted to.

*Note on Who this Tale is Written for:
The young the old and the in-between. You don’t have to be a cat or pet lover to be interested in this story. You just need to open yourself up to a non-happy-ending, even though you know from the start that Pippen does indeed come back home. Keep reading. This is not a children’s tale of happy endings. It is not about endings at all, or about happiness because as we all know, happiness and sadness are transitory. So is this story.

Can cats speak? In essence, Pippen did. This event unfolds somewhere near where this tale chooses to end, at the end of this particular lifetime for Pippen. This event marks the space of her next lifetime and the end of mother’s worries (at least this particular set). This is the gist of the cat-speaking event:

Mother scoops a can of Pippen’s wet food into her dish. She found Pippen in the backyard, where Pippen appeared out of the bushes. Pippen devours the food and speaks at the same time, words that mother immediately understands. Pippin gobbles and speaks, speaks and gobbles, no, her speaking is more like wailing. But the wailing takes the form of words that tell mother something. Pippen is happy to be back home but sad too. Mother wishes at this moment that she had a camera to record cat language. No one will believe her. She can scarce believe it herself. Her dreams of Pippen speaking to her and her brother are coming to life, except for the part of the brother, for here in the kitchen mother is alone as Pippen speaks.

With her mouth full of food Pippen’s words demand no explanation. They demand no explanation of any kind. They project feeling, like the expressions of a human child, only human children cannot sense mood and tone the way human adults or cats do. They hear, “You’ve got to be the dumbest kid in the world” and that’s what they feel, regardless if the words were said in a joking or sarcastic tone or not. No, Pippen expresses happiness and sadness and mother gets it even though she does not understand every word and mother says all sorts of things, like how she’s sorry Pippen was lost for so long and how she’s terribly ecstatic that Pippen is back home. Pippen picks up the tone if not the complete meaning of mother’s words, that and the feeling put into the strokes mother gives her back and tail.

If Pippen did demand explanation, for what would she demand an explanation? Why mother, did you leave the front door open and then get angry when I stepped outside? Why then did you close the door behind you instead of coaxing me back inside? Then Pippen would say she had no explanation for why she darted away rather than jumping into mother’s open arms, no, she simply cannot explain.

Can cats speak? Pippen did, even though her speaking lasted no longer than the time it took to finish her bowl of food.

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