He watches us from inside the clothes basket for so long, we forget he’s there. He is not invisible exactly, but he sits very still and the basket is very tall. When he finally jumps out, Audrey and I are always a little startled. This happens at least once a week.
(Photo: That one time he let our other cat in the basket but supervised carefully.)
Years ago, a friend had a tan striped tomcat her children could carry around like a rag doll. The cat had a funny human name, like Julius, and diabetes. I wondered if it was this combination that caused the resigned, content expression he wore when one of the boys, a lean brown 5-year old, tucked him under both arms and lugged him around the room. Oh, I thought nervously the first time I saw him do this. But there was no drama, no biting or blood.
I decided I wanted a cat like that for my own children, though it felt pointless and silly, like wishing to win the lottery without buying tickets. Our otherwise awesome cat at the time gave my daughter a scar running perpendicular to the part in her hair just for getting too close. When I was 5 or 6, my great-granddad’s cat gave me a scratch all the way around my wrist so that it looked like I was wearing a glistening red bracelet. Those were the kind of cats I was used to.
Clothes basket cat is different. He seeks children out, not to torment or maim but to play with or hang out beneath a blanket. He does bite sometimes, but it’s almost always deserved. His name is Sylvester and he has asthma so maybe there is something to the combination of funny name and chronic disease. Every night once we are all in bed, Sylvester patrols the empty parts of the house while crying mournfully around a ratty stuffed mouse he carries in his mouth. If you call out to him, he immediately stops and starts up again several minutes later. I googled what this means and out of all the plausible and bullshit answers, no one bothered to ask a cat.
If you really consider the cat or dog sitting quietly beside you, it may start to feel like an alien that popped in many millennia ago on holiday and decided to stay because it liked the climate or food and no one was checking visas in those days. They are nothing like us, and we are blessed to have each other. I can think of no one, aside from children when they are in a pleased mood, that brings such reliable joy to an aching human heart.
Every night before bed, Audrey gathers up her stuffed animals in one arm and tucks Sylvester under the other. He looks simultaneously contented and full of wonder on the bumpy journey upstairs.
(Photo: an old one…he looks 25% more contented these days.)