From Jester To King LXXXIII
By Simon Barget
I used to have all these cats, probably about six of them, but they came and they went. And one day it got to the point where I couldn’t feed them anymore. I don’t know exactly how it came to it, but I must have looked into one of their bowls and saw there wasn’t enough, or one of the cats came to me personally and told me the situation was getting out of hand and sooner or later I would have to get rid of them. I do remember looking at the food bowls to corroborate this exhortation, this call to wake up, noticing that there were only a few pellets left in one and that the other three or four bowls were totally empty. And it was only when I’d personally examined the bowls that the gravity of the situation was brought to bear, and I looked around at the cats as if to show sympathy but also to look at them to see if they were hungry or even starving, how long they might be able to live for and what we could do. You see the thing was that the cats could communicate some things and not others, could communicate at certain times but not others and the fact that one of them had managed to say something now didn’t mean that the lines of communication had been opened and that they’d be able to keep me posted, in fact the more recent the last communication, the less likely that the next one was going to follow within even weeks. And this was the awful thing with the cats, because though I now suspected that they were all starving, there was nothing I could do about it, and they wouldn’t be able to tell me any more about their hunger, they wouldn’t be able to keep me informed. And I was desperate to know. Were they a little bit hungry, ravenous, or on the brink of dying from malnutrition? The cats had these two facets to them, one was their normal cat form, their body, their movement, their differentness as cats as opposed to any other animal or human, and the other was that they were human; behind every action was their human female form and voice. The human form was just beyond in the background, it was what came out when they were left to their own devices and would chat busily amongst themselves. And so when this all happened, I was trying to communicate with the human form behind the cat, I was trying to get back in contact with that voice that had warned me about the food, and all the while I could feel the presence of this human form, of this voice -- it was a fairly judgmental voice telling me that I hadn’t done well enough, hadn’t kept tabs -- but the voice was also so piteous and plaintive, melodramatic, there was a lachrymose Latin quality to it, like a belligerent Peruvian wash maid, and it was somehow understood that it was a just a matter of time till they would all die from terrible starvation, and not only they that, the cats were so poor and badly kept, they were so thin, and didn’t have money or jobs, and some had had to migrate across borders to get here and for what purpose they were starving, and some had left already, had taken their chances with what food they had hoarded, and what would remain of us six starving cats, and how were we meant to survive on a few lousy pellets, where were we supposed to get substantial portions of food, food to keep us going, and all in all it seemed they wanted to blame their whole situation on me, pin the whole thing on me, they’d preferred to have died with me riven with guilt than try to find a solution. And yet somehow I couldn’t help but go along with this, share this sickly self-pity, partake in this narrative of slow creeping doom, and though I didn’t know where their next food was coming from, and was genuinely worried, that wasn’t to say that the situation couldn’t improve, that we couldn’t find food from somewhere, it wasn’t to say that just because one cat was hungry now that they were all going to die. I mean we still had time didn’t we? And then I do remember this quite horrible thing where I saw that one or two of the cats were reduced to eating these crude white pellets. They were chunky and cube-shaped and had indentations and this rough texture and reminded me a little of those Pez pellets I used to eat as a boy. And I looked at these pellets and remember thinking: well surely this cannot be food, it looked too synthetic, and I picked up one of them and I could even see writing on it which suggested it was something chemical, industrial, and when I did, one of the cats looked at me as if to say that oh she knew, oh she knew it wasn’t food, but what the hell she might as well eat it, and I was disgusted because I really cared about these cats and despite their constant overdramatisations, they had their good side and I didn’t want them eating something that was outright going to kill them.