We Call Him the Lord of Chaos

Taku has put himself behind the lamp, on the top shelf. This is why: At dawn, he sat between my shoulder blades, and bit my head. While I was cleaning his box, he got himself alone in the room with the rosemary plant, and had his way with it. While I was in my bedroom, he knocked a glass of water into my half-unpacked suitcase. And later, he ate part of the hamper. (It’s made of straw. He loves to eat plants–much to the detriment of the rosemary.) So I hollered a little. And there he is now, on the shelf, looking utterly serene until you notice that his eyes are still spinning counterclockwise.

(Originally posted November 30, 2017)

Get Off My Case

Taku is an alpha cat. He has first dibs when it comes to drinking from the faucet. If we aren’t looking, he helps himself to his brother’s food. He’s big and white, and has thin, pink skin. I love him, but I’m glad he can’t vote. 

Sitka mostly gives in. He grumbles a little, as he’s displaced from the sink. But he’s so content to wait, that if I find a way to put him first, he doesn’t know what to do. He just sits, and watches his brother.

But then I left the guitar case open. The guitar case is nearly 50 years old. It smells of silver, and wood, and probably sweat. It has an orange, velour lining and an hourglass-shaped bottom. And it’s got a divot for the guitar neck, that is just the right width for cat jowls. Sitka loves the guitar case. He lies there, filling the top loop in the eight. He cradles his face in the divot, and sleeps.

So while Sitka was elsewhere, Taku got into the guitar case. Taku did a little tap-dance on the bottom’s loose sheet music. And Sitka came from nowhere. He landed on his brother. He flattened him into the bottom of the case, where the edges were so high that Taku could not escape. There was kicking. There was scrambling. Finally, Taku broke free, and dashed to the center of the roll-top desk. But Sitka was on him again, straddling his neck, until Taku cried. I pounded a book. Sitka jumped down. Taku trotted upstairs. Sitka jumped to the guitar case. He sat in the middle and yowled. He yowled for two minutes. And Taku? Taku was the alpha of the underbed.

Taku still gets dibs on the water from the sink. But he hasn’t sat in that guitar case since.

(Originally posted August 20, 2018)


The cats don’t know about tornadoes. On Tuesday night, we had a tornado two miles from where our house is. We grabbed the boys and Auntie Emmed it down to the basement—and the cats tried to scramble back to the kitchen. The cats don’t go in the basement. It’s an unfinished space with things too fierce to mention, including a bricked-over alcove we call the murder room. (It houses James’s calligraphy, our camping potty, and a ceramic head). Despite all this, the basement was everything we immediately wanted—bicycle helmets and all. So down we went. But the cats: There was pleading to go upstairs. There was crying. Through it all, James and I checked the weather, updated Facebook, and kept an ear out for the telltale sound of the tornado train. But in the end, all we heard was Sitka panting.

The storm passed. Up we went. But the cats: Now there was sniffing. Now there was lurking. We called them from the top of the stairs, and they didn’t even look. Who—said a half-wakened instinct— could pass up what I’m sure was dead mice and even deader socks? James opened a can of cat food. He dished the stuff into the bowls, with all the usual, enticing scrapes. But nothing doing. For all we knew, the cats were noshing on something even more disgusting than what they usually get. 

We gave up. We plugged back in the electronics. We checked the roof and the garden. It wasn’t for another 45 minutes that the boys emerged, with 30-year schmutz in their whiskers. They ate their (second) can of cat food. They went about their evening. But this morning, there they were—Lump and Lumper—waiting by the basement door.

(Originally posted July 12, 2017)


My parents have a cat whose picture I’m forbidden to post. She is (we think) a Norwegian forest cat, except that she weighs only six pounds. She’s all black, with gold eyes and long hair—and she’s half bald. There is nothing wrong with her. She’s young; she’s happy; she eats, and plays, and sleeps. She doesn’t get cold. All the vets say is that she’s just, “unfortunate.” That is their diagnosis. Her fur has departed her front legs, except for her feet, so that she looks like she’s wearing bunny slippers. She has no fur on her back legs, or her flanks, or her belly. She has a cape of it that goes from her head, across her shoulders, and in a stripe that moves down her back until it fills out her tail. She has a dust ruffle around her butt. Her name is Weegie—or La Weegie, or The Weeginatrix. But mostly we call her The Skeksi (as in those evil, bird creatures from The Dark Crystal).

These days, I sleep alone in my parents’ house, with our other cat (Tucker) and The Skeksi. She’s so light that I don’t feel her jump onto the bed. She settles on the pillow, right by my face. She lays a claw on my cheek. That’s what I feel first—a claw, and then a naked arm. And then she purrs, as if she once exchanged her hair for power over all that my room has ever held.

(Originally posted June 1, 2017)


I don’t know if it’s a good thing or a bad thing that, when I played the guitar last night, the house mouse came out of his hole. But he did, and the cats scrambled–and with a shoe box, I caught him. Yes I did. The cats sat with their ears all directions. I took the mouse (far) outside. Sitka went to the bookshelf, rolled over, and kicked the crap out of it.

(Originally posted October 13, 2015)