Sunday, 11 November 2007

The Cat Post (Because I am both a blogger and an academic, it is incumbent upon me to write a cat post. This will be that post.) In the Spring of 1996, I moved out of my parents' house and into an apartment closer to campus. My apartment, unlike my bedroom, had many rooms: a living room, a bathroom, a kitchen and a bedroom. They were all mine and empty and quiet. The emptiness I could fight: I quickly populated every available surface with books. The quiet was another story. I could make noise, but the noise would be either too meaningful (music) or not meaningful enough (automated pot-banging). What I needed was the pleasant hum of another consciousness, the uncertainty provided by something acting on its own accord. I had never owned a cat before and decided I needed one. I drove to the East Baton Rouge Parish Animal Control Center and looked at the kittens. Most played in cages under their mother's watchful eye. One litter, exceptionally small and shockingly pink, slept unsupervised. They had been orphaned, the caretaker told me, and were only two weeks old. They would require more care than a normal kitten. I had told myself on the drive over, "I will not choose the kitten: I will let the kitten choose me." I didn't know quite what that meant until one of the orphaned kittens stumbled toward me, eyes half-open, and mewed. I had been chosen. The caretaker asked whether I had ever cared for a kitten before. I told her I had not. She struggled to convince me to adopt a more conventional kitten. I wouldn't budge. I had been chosen, I told her. I had no choice. She went to fetch the paperwork while I played with my new kitten. When she returned she asked me for the kitten's name. I told her I didn't know it. "What I meant was, what are you going to name her?" I told her I didn't know. "Well, I have to write something down." I thought about it. I was filling out a form, not performing a christening, so the name would only be a placeholder. I had been reading Thomas Pynchon's V. and so I said, "Her name is Rachel." "You're naming your cat 'Rachel'?" "For now," I said and thought I meant. The name stuck. The kitten was Rachel. But the caretaker had been right about how difficult it would be to raise a two-week old kitten: nipples were sterilized with great patience; backsides were massaged with warm rags; tongues were impersonated with aplomb. Rachel formed an unnatural (but expected) attachment to me and only me. Kittens separated from their mothers this early form unusually strong attachments to their surrogate mothers. They are needy and possessive. Rachel is needy and possessive. My lap is a Rachel-perch. My feet are Rachel-warmers. My wife is an interloper. She must be eliminated. She must be pounced upon from shelves unseen and cornered in the bedroom. She must be...

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