Pussy

          1.

Pussy was a soft, furry, indolent thing, the center of Daniel’s universe.  There had been the closest possible companionship between these two for half a dozen years, which, however, was not exactly based on balanced reciprocity; Daniel mostly gave and Pussy passively took, purring and drooling.

It is only fair to add that motherhood had been denied her, which had certainly strengthened her inherent tendency towards egotism.  Whether she suspected that Daniel had had anything to do with her barrenness is more than I can say.  At all events, she was a moody, self-absorbed creature, caring first and foremost for her own comfort.  Because Daniel had always done everything to make her life as comfy as possible, she was tolerably satisfied with the status quo.  Indeed, Daniel’s caresses added rather than took away from her feeling of well-being, which is more than many female companions could boast of.

Yet Pussy had never known how good she’d had it until Kitty appeared on the scene.  With her feline movements and her long thick locks as red as Pussy’s fur, Kitty at first sight had seemed to be a perfect addition to the domestic bliss of Pussy and Daniel.  She was a soft sweet sensual girl, very fond of children and cuddly toys and little puppy dogs—so who could blame Daniel if he had expected her to love cats as well?  What with her name and her catlike demeanor into the bargain, it had seemed impossible that she would not hit it off with Pussy.

2.

Not “hitting it off” is a gross understatement when trying to describe the first encounter between the two.  Pussy had been lying full length on the sofa in the living room lit up only by the glow of the fireplace, when Kitty, unaware of the surprise in store for her, sauntered in with an expectant Daniel in tow.  At first she had taken the large reddish blotch on the divan to be a cushion or a rolled-up blanket and before Daniel could warn her she threw herself on it with an attempt at showing how easy it was for her to make herself at home in her sweetheart’s flat.  She had even been on the verge of exclaiming “Oh, how snug your pad is, darling!” when a most bizarre sound between a squeal and a yowl hit her ears.  Kitty jumped up instantly and her own vocal reaction to the unexpected encounter was as close to “caterwauling” as that of Pussy’s had been.

“Jesus Christ, get that thing away from me!  Ughh, I can’t bear to be in the same room with that beast!”  So saying, Kitty ran out of the living room, frantically brushing the imaginary hairs from her dress—the embodiment of horror and disgust.

“Kitty, dear, what on earth is wrong?”  Daniel was shocked and did not as yet suspect the gradual rupture that was to be the consequence of that fateful meeting between his old and his knew companion.

“I can’t tolerate any cat anywhere near me.  I simply cannot.”  She wailed and shivered and made the most grotesque faces Daniel had ever beheld.

“But why?  Are you allergic to them?”

“Oh, it’s so much more complicated than that.  I have a mortal fear of them.  If a cat comes near me I want to die.  The look of them, the feel of their fur, the glint in their false eyes, the shifty sounds they make, the claws they keep hidden.  Everything.  Everything.”  As she said this, she became more and more hysteric and the way she pronounced the last two words reminded Daniel of Kurtz’s “The Horror! The Horror!” in his favorite Conrad novel.[1]  She was certainly in earnest.

3.

And what was Daniel to do?  Would he break up with the first girl he’d really ever liked because she couldn’t go near a cat?  Or would he do away with the closest companion of his last six years, treacherously transferring his love from Pussy to Kitty?

As to the latter dilemma, that was a no-brainer; it was absolutely out of the question for him to ditch his beloved cat.  It was an equally plain fact, on the other hand, that Kitty could and would satisfy certain needs that Pussy never had and never could and never would.  Indeed, what Kitty had to offer would be the human equivalent of the “purring and drooling” and so much more.  No, he simply couldn’t sacrifice Kitty to Pussy, either.  But, then again, how could he keep the girl if he was to keep the cat?

Daniel had soon convinced himself that it was not his selfishness and his voraciousness that had made him decide to keep both sources of delight despite their apparent mutual exclusivity—he was being faithful to Pussy and magnanimous to Kitty.  To have a large flat with many rooms is a great help to an individual who is trying to have parallel existences, and a spacious upstairs storage room with lots of light comes in very handy when the owner of a cat is planning to create a closed little kingdom for a pet that is unpopular with other dwellers of the same establishment.  So it came to pass that Pussy was forcibly enthroned as the queen of the upstairs kingdom and Kitty—kept in blessed ignorance as to the true function of the allegedly dirty attic full of old stuff—started her reign downstairs.

4.

They often say that the shorter the bliss the sweeter it is and there is nothing in the story of Daniel’s double life that could prove this piece of wisdom wrong.  Admittedly, a lot depends on whose bliss we consider because regarding Pussy, for instance, the whole saying is out of place; the upstairs kingdom was not in the least conducive to her comforts.  It was a glorified prison and even her jailor neglected her.

Contrary to the upper regions, the lower region of Daniel’s flat was the site of endless delights for both him and Kitty.  Having had the whole place disinfected and reupholstered, the young lady soon forgot all about the odious feline and took control of everything appertaining to her boyfriend’s life—except for the upstairs room.  The amount of her success was in inverse ratio with the frequency of Daniel’s clandestine visits to her four-legged darling, which was an achievement she would have been proud of had she known the secret concerning Pussy’s whereabouts.  She was perfectly convinced that Pussy had got the boot.

Daniel worked for a highly successful real estate agency and his hours were irregular, which usually meant working overtime rather than going home earlier.  Kitty had, on the other hand, one of those nine-to-five jobs that do not necessitate any after hours or any extra work to be done at home and so it frequently happened that she had a lot of time on her hands before her “Danny boy” came home.

Kitty was an out-and-out clean freak who not only demanded spotlessness, but also relished cleaning.  One summer evening, when the sun was still shining in through the open windows and tricked one into thinking that it was early afternoon, Kitty was standing in the middle of the living room, deep in thought.  The downstairs area was so clean that—however hard she’d tried—even she couldn’t find fault with the least little detail.  The dinner arrangements had already been taken care of as well, and she felt too restless to read or even to watch TV.

That was when, as if by divine inspiration, she thought of the dirty attic with all the old stuff Daniel had dismissively mentioned earlier on.  Why not surprise him?  Why not clean the upstairs area and even turn it into some charming spot—a little library or a studio or something?  Kitty felt tremendously proud of her brainchild and a moment later she was already intent on climbing the spiral staircase with mop and bucket in hand.

5.

The mad wife in Mr. Rochester’s attic had not had such effect on Jane Eyre as Pussy had on Kitty.  Nay, the contents of Bluebeard’s secret room had not seemed as horrible to his curious wife as that which Daniel’s upstairs room revealed to Kitty.  This second encounter between the girl and the cat was far worse than the first because it had in it an element of betrayal.  For one thing, this time Daniel did not have the excuse of not knowing of his girlfriend’s aversion to cats.  Equally awful was the knowledge of having for so long—well, for a couple of months—lived under the same roof with that tawny abomination.

As to Pussy, she had been as unsuspecting at the time of this second meeting as at the first and her reaction to Kitty—and especially that lady’s blood-curdling scream—was as violent in its way as Kitty’s to the sight of her.  Kitty ran down the stairs too fast to witness the bold jumps of the agile animal through the open door of her prison and down the same steps and out of the open living-room window.

In short, the girl was so intent upon her own departure that the cat’s dramatic exit went unnoticed.  Twenty minutes later Kitty’s bags were packed and a cab was called and the entrance door was banged shut behind her retreating form.  No message was left; Daniel was supposed to be intelligent enough to draw inference from circumstantial evidence—the open door of the upstairs room and her clothes gone should tell the tale.

6.

A few weeks have elapsed and the evenings are even longer.  Daniel has been trying to work even longer hours, but he still cannot escape his forlorn heart and his forlorn flat.  He has been unable to find out anything concerning Pussy’s whereabouts and Kitty’s verbal violence and stubborn refusal to talk things over whenever he calls is beginning to make him fall completely out of love with her.

A few more weeks pass and Daniel decides to walk home one sunny evening.  His way leads him through a park and he is charmed to see couples and groups of friends walking dogs and children.  The sight of one dog in particular holds his attention for longer than common politeness would allow; he literally stares at the poor fat beast as it wobbles its balloon of a body on four stick-like legs, with his long ears sweeping the grass.

“May I ask you what you’re staring at?”  Daniel has to deal not with a talking canine, but with a feisty owner resenting his impolite gaze.  The owner, to Daniel’s pleasant surprise and to the contrary of the common belief that pets and their owners end up looking alike in time, is a very pretty girl, as slim and tall as her dog is short and obese.

“I’m very sorry, I certainly didn’t mean to be rude.  I… I…”

“You are amazed at the fatness of Pussy.  Everybody is.  But still that’s no reason to be rude.”  The girl bends down and affectionately pats fat Pussy’s head.

“What did you call your dog?  Did you say Pussy?”  Daniel is, if possible, even more surprised.

“Yeah, well, Pussy is actually a boy and I know very well that people usually give such a name to a cat.  But, you see, I had always wanted a cat and my parents surprised me with a puppy instead and I kind of thought I’d keep the name at least.”  The girl is decidedly very pretty as she says all this.

“So you prefer cats?”  To hide his embarrassment, Daniel is inquiring about the obvious.

“Well, yes, although I could never love a creature more than I love my Pussy.  Would it be possible not to love a little butterball like that?”  She bends down once more and this time she smacks a kiss on the top of Pussy’s head.  “In fact, I know for a fact that it is possible.  Haven’t I just broken up with my boyfriend because he can’t stand dogs and especially hates Pussy?  The bastard actually tried to poison my darling.”  The girl’s pretty little fists become hard pebbles as she clenches them.

“That’s really terrible.”  Daniel commiserates.

“Isn’t it?  Have you heard of anything so cruel and so strange?  I mean how can someone not love Pussy?”

“I actually know of something quite as strange.  You know I actually had a cat and her name was—I can’t help saying ‘actually’ again—Pussy.  And there was this girl…”

And so Daniel, flanked by the pretty girl on one side and her Pussy on the other, told his story and won her heart—and resumed having a Pussy for a pet.


[1] Joseph Conrad’s The Heart of Darkness.

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