Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Long Haired Cat

THE CAT WAS sitting on the cold platform licking its long black and white hair. The man sat down on the bench. It was a strange bench designed in a way that things imposed now rarely are; to last the length of the age. It was divided into three wide seats by decorative iron arm rests which were colder than the ground – the black and white long hair cat began its ritual for sitting on his lap. First it travelled in front of him whilst looking into the middle distance, its head raised proud -- he was sitting, as usual, in the middle of the three seats, this was right and proper. After passing in front of him it took great care in jumping onto the seat furthest from where it started. He opened a button on his jacket with great ceremony and the cat stepped into his lap. It extended its claws and mussed and fluffed his shirt where the material rested upon his stomach, preparing. The man widely drew his jacket around the cat gently, and it burrowed its head in under his armpit. The wind blew across his chest and he shivered, the cat’s hair was cold, and under his chilled hands it felt brittle, dry and coarse. The pads of its paws felt like soft blebs of ice and the ground glittered like sandpaper.

He remembered patterns from his childhood, a brown flower-patterned towel, thin rainbow striped wallpaper – remembered the brightness and specialness of individual objects in the accumulated and important poverty of everything else around, like polished stones sitting in dust. The cat made him think of people who throw things away; old things because they are messy; or have a room within which messiness is allowed to take place. These people terrify him – there is something in themselves that asks “W h y do we have t h e s e things?” Now he answers, "we have them because they anchor us to the ground, to places. They mark our territory, they prohibit us from leaving at short notice, they mean that someone cannot easily take our place; they mean that small provocations must be worked through, they are a commitment to specific time and specific space – they are at the very least a promise to return and organise, perhaps."

The man had lived his life carelessly, and was grateful for all the things he had lost. He gave away or missed, he never disposed of. The cat was asleep, but a train was approaching. He shifted his weight with his hips and crossed his legs, the cat stirred. He raised himself in the seat and the cat slid to his knees and stepped onto the ground.

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