I should explain about this cat while he’s on my shoulder.
The last time I wrote about Merlin he was a wild animal masquerading — not convincingly — as a Christmas present. He hid downstairs between storage bins, glowering at passersby and plumbers with his molten, golden eyes.
He couldn’t even muster enough goodwill to get to his litter box.
So I went hunting.
“Heeere, kitty kitty,” I wheedled.
A throaty growl crescendoed in the dark.
I hesitated. “Uhhh … K.”
But the thought of cleaning cat poo off concrete impelled me. I thrust my hand into the gap, squeezed his back, dragged him out and clutched his weaponized limbs to my chest.
“Rrrrrrowwwhmm,” said he.
We marched upstairs together and I stuffed him into his litter box – like a Twinkie through a keyhole.
Little did I know, if you hunt someone down and make him go potty, he’ll fall madly in love with you.
And that’s where we are today.
Merlin cleans himself on my lap each morning. He trains his intelligent, mouse-like face on me while I cook dinner. When I shower, he nestles on the bath rim between the inner and outer shower curtains, cooing.
Everyone else in the house still thinks Merlin is a weirdo.
“He’s like a socially challenged foster kid,” mused The Husband while Merlin leapt back from his reflection in the darkened window. “Only … like a 45-year-old foster kid. Yeah.”
I picked my cat up and nestled his head under my chin.
“He is NOT,” said I. “He’s a perfect healthy fat baby, aren’t you kitty?”
Merlin tucked his ear into my hand as I scratched its silver-pink edges, purring smugly. But he didn’t take his eyes off The Husband.
“He’s a freak,” said my firstborn son.
“YUP,” nodded my middleborn son, coasting into the room on someone else’s skateboard. “He never snuggles me or follows me or brings me things.”
“But,” I began, as Merlin scrabbled to get down and away from the rumble of skateboard wheels on hardwood, “he’s not a DOG. He’s not here to serve you.”
Middleborn skated away, shaking his head.
“Then what’s he here for?” asked the little, feisty twin.
Just then, Merlin’s gut drummed the “Ice, Ice Baby” rhythm on his esophagus until he hurled fish-scented vomit to the floor.
“Why, to inspire us, of course,” I said, darting for the disinfectant wipes. The wipes’ lemon scent mingled with the vomit’s spiced-fish essence.
The little, feisty twin grimaced. “Well I don’t see what’s so aspiring about HIM.”
“No, no,” I said, scooping up warm clumps. “IN-spiring. Cats are elegant, dignified creatures.”
Merlin lapped at his own vomit.
“No, Merlin. We don’t eat puke,” I snapped.
Middleborn skated back into the room.
“Swerve!” yelled everyone except Merlin, because he was clawing his way up the couch to flee the rolling monstrosity.
Middleborn swerved to dodge the puke, toppled and fell. He rocked forward on his bent legs, stood, dusted his pants off and glared at Merlin.
“The point,” I continued, “is that cats are independent. Sovereign. They’re not our slaves, and we must earn their love if we want it.”
Middleborn scratched his head.
“It’s really something,” I said, “to know that someone loves you even though he doesn’t have to. Even though he could run out that front door, feed himself on mice and birds, and forget us forever – he doesn’t.”
Merlin tried to lick his silver-white belly but missed, scudded off the couch and ran downstairs.
“So … majestic,” I murmured. “So royal.”
“Hmpf,” said Middleborn. “I’m gonna go snuggle the salamander.”