When I told my husband that our cat was missing, perhaps for weeks, it now seemed to me, he said blankly, “What cat?”
We were in the living room, doing very little living other than working out a crossword puzzle and reading a poorly researched novel about the civil war.
“What do you mean, ‘What cat?’” I said. “The cat we’ve had for the last ten years, the one who leaves dead mice on the kitchen floor in the morning.”
“And what is the name of this cat?” my husband said, taking on his judicial manor, as though I were a witness in a trail.
I had to admit, I could not exactly recall the name of the cat, uncertain we had ever named him, but then I remember seeing an internet article that said the most common name for a cat in America was Kitty, and I seemed to recall calling the cat that many times over the years, “Here kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty,” and so I replied, “Kitty.”
“That’s our daughter’s name,” he said, turning the page of his book.
“Objection,” I said, putting down my crossword, preparing for a longer battle, “simply because our daughter may or may not be named Kitty (I was not entirely certain this was the case, though I remember writing Katherine on a birth certificate many, many years ago), does not reasonably prove that our cat is not named such as well, nor does it prove we do not have a cat, or that it is not lost.”
“But we don’t have a cat,” he said, “and it’s not named Kitty, nor is it lost. It’s you who are lost.”
I saw then that we had devolved to a domestic fight, of petulant insults and jibes, and, not wanting to stay for what would follow, I stood up and left.
I would advise: Never marry a lawyer.
I went into the kitchen to make a cup of tea, deciding I would hunt down evidence of Kitty (not our daughter but our cat) while waiting for the kettle to boil.
I would also advise: Do not waste time searching for your cat until you have established that you own a cat.
I went into my closet first and examined the hems of my dresses for cat hairs, of which I found a few, collecting them and putting them into an envelope that I marked exhibit A.
I then searched for a litter box, and not finding one, recalled that Kitty (the cat, not the daughter) was an outdoor cat, which I had to confess, might explain why it was missing for so long.
I went outside and walked the perimeter of the house, looking for cat poop, and though I didn’t find any, I saw a bowl of half eaten cat food on the sidewalk in front of my neighbor’s house.
I picked up the bowl, and found that it would fit into the second envelope, poured its contents in instead and marked it exhibit B.
In the back of my mind, I kept hearing my husband shout one word to me over and over, in the imaginary trail I was about to return to—“Circumstantial!”
I sat there on the sidewalk a good while, trying to decide what evidence would be sufficient to silence him, and decided only one thing would do.
I stood up and called, “Kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty,” softly and loudly, in each of the four directions, while shaking the evidence in envelope B vigorously.
I’d advise not to look for circumstantial evidence, when you can find absolute proof.
It took a while, but eventually a cat approached me cautiously yet with a hungry look in its eyes.
“Kitty!” I said. On the one hand, I was elated to find the cat, as evidence, and simply as a cat, though on the other hand, I had to admit, it looked only vaguely familiar.
But, it’s thinner than it was before, I reasoned, and I hadn’t seen it in weeks.
The cat ate voraciously out of the envelope, pushing it forward across the grass.
It had just consumed the last bit of evidence when my husband burst out the front door, shouting at me, “Are you trying to burn down the house?”
“What are you talking about?” I said, as I watched the cat scurry under the hedgerow and into the neighbor’s yard.
“You left the stove so long, the water all boiled away, and the paint burned off the side of the kettle.”
“Did you see the cat?” I said excitedly.
“Didn’t you smell it?” he asked.
“The cat?” I said.
“No, the kettle,” he said.
I looked down at the Exhibit B envelope, which was now scuttling across the lawn on its own, blown like a sailboat by the wind.
All I held in my hand was Exhibit A, an envelope with a few short white hairs, which, when I considered them objectively, might be husbands, or my own.
“I was making tea…” I said.
“Well you can’t make it anymore,” he replied. “The kettle is ruined.”
“…but then I went looking for the cat,” I added, “which I found.”
“What cat?” he asked, shaking his head and going back inside.
“The cat that was just here,” I said to no one, to the empty backyard, to myself.
Story by Nathan Alling Long
Photo by Flickr/Rhys A.