For months now, people have been mentioning to me a book called The Secret Life of Bees, so dutifully, I’ve put the book on one of my library websites and am waiting for it to get off a waiting list. In the meantime, however, and due to various promptings from my feline companion, Lucie-Minou, a ravishing calico torbie young lady who will be 4 years old on July 2, I’ve been speculating that perhaps there needs to be a (yet another, yes) book about cats which details and examines issues including their innermost secret thoughts, longings, urges, and etc., as far as these can be determined by a mere human audience. Always taking into account, of course, that cats are natural performers, not like dogs, rollicking clowns, but sleek, Oscar-winning stars of the show.
But let’s get first things first, you say. What’s a calico torbie? A calico torbie is a three-way cross between a calico (black, white, and orange), a tabby (in this case gray and brown) and a tortoiseshell (markings like a tortoiseshell, in various cat colors). And Lucie-Minou says, “Now that you’ve satisfied your profoundly repugnant concern about the colors of my fur, let’s get on with it!”
What do Lucie-Minou and Fluffy and Pom-pom and Sylvester and Hector and Gilgamesh and Chloe and Bella all think about while peering forth out of sometimes narrowed eyes at the world? When hiding under the edge of the bed with two feet peeking out, what personal history of grandeur makes them assume that humans will be able to resist touching the two little feet, or tickling the little back where it lies curled? When Lucie-Minou leaves the bedroom at night after I tell her “Goodnight, sweet kitty,” (hoping of course that she’ll curl up at my shoulder and stay), does she simply go into the other bedroom and sleep on the pile of clean, unsorted laundry, where I’ve found her when I seek late at night, or is she secretly planning a coup, involving her Fancy Feast Broths, or perhaps the space on the couch that is in contest between her and my guests?
I know, of course, that she recalls her own past life (and that of her ancestors) as royalty in ancient Egypt, and any time I forget and tickle her tum, she puts up with it for a bit and then gives me the not entirely civilized reminder of a paw on my hand with a claw just barely extended. But what, what, what, is she thinking while she suns herself by the living room window, or is she merely sunbathing as we all do after a long, hard winter?And what is the mystery about her and the opera?
About her and the opera, you say? What do you mean? Well, it’s like this. Every night of the week, our local classical radio station broadcasts the music of all sorts of classical composers, as it does all day, for that matter. When Lucie-Minou and I are ready for bed, I take a book or my crochet and turn in, and put the radio on. And she jumps up on the bed and both purrs and kneads her claws in the covers as the music plays. She will stay until I turn the music off most times. But woe and betide! On the two weekend nights, the station plays opera, and Lucie-Minou, in her apparent abhorrence or disdain (which is it?) for the human voice as an instrument leaps off the bed and goes to sit alone in the living room for the evening. I’ve learned (or been trained) to cut off the radio or not even turn it on those nights in order to keep her with me. So far so good, she is indifferent to opera. She has a right to her choice.
But then, what’s so special about the opera “Norma”? For, I have a subscription online to opera, and I decided the other day to play “Norma,” which I had never heard before. Now, Lucie-Minou has many times heard me play the operas during the daytime, when I am in my chair in the living room, where she often likes to sit (at opera-less times) on my lap. But her reaction to the opera has basically been the same as usual: she goes into another room, sulking or not, it’s hard to say. When the beginning strains of “Norma” sounded, however, she just twitched her ears slightly and maintained her position on the carpet, a little ways away. It’s a short opera, only two acts, and as the action hetted up and the singing became more impassioned, she glanced at me curiously, which means with wider eyes than usual, because though cats are constitutionally curious, you can rarely get a self-respecting cat to admit that humans are interesting, or at least not often.
Suddenly, to my great surprise, she launched herself up onto my computer table, and then strolled across my midriff and sat herself down, in between me and the laptop, apparently so that she could see and hear better. She sat there, ears still twitching, for a good half hour, so that I felt like saying “Down in front!” since she was very slightly obscuring my view. Then, when her basic questions were satisfied, such as why a Druid priestess would fall in love with a Roman general, and why they spent so much time mewing at each other instead of chasing back and forth across the scenery, one in pursuit, one fleeing, she got off my lap, but continued to sit by my chair, apparently listening, until the opera was over! When the introductions and interviews came on at the end, she took her leave from the room, and when I went to look for her, she was having a post-performance luncheon at the silver bowl. No clapping for her! So, what provoked this change of heart, and was it only the one opera that she liked? Should I try “The Barber of Seville” again? Or perhaps, with a bit more caterwauling, “Carmen”?
Yes, it’s all still a mystery to me. But I live in hope that someone, someday, will write a book entitled The Private Lives of Cats. Or something like that. shadowoperator