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Paul Gachet: Six Etchings: Head of a Kitten, Part of a set. (1895)

" … contribute his own gibberish into our conversation."

House cats do not speak English because their owners tend to slip into an irreproducible dialect of the language whenever their "kitten" appears. A stalwart cat becomes a kitten, regardless of its age, and jazz-like variations of its given name start spewing from said owner's yap. I have inexplicably begun calling my own "kitten" Max, Boyk. Perhaps just to get along or maybe because he knows from whence his cat food floweth, he responds as if he recognizes himself in that alien sound. I caught myself holding forth to him on the etymology of his latest Pet Name, as if he would quite naturally understand or be interested when I suspect he's just used to my babbling. He might even find my plumy-toned mumbling reassuring, a familiar sound in the otherwise quiet as a mouse early morning house.

Boyk, for those discerning readers, is a derivative of 'Boy Kitty,' a classification I often catch myself proclaiming when encountering Max in the wild.
I might be sweating over some chore out in the driveway when suddenly Max comes sashaying by. He almost exclusively moves by means of the old reliable sashay. I acknowledge his presence by rhetorically requesting a quick status report. "How's my Boy Kitten?", I typically begin. Or "How's my Boy Cat?" I then, for unknown reasons, tend to vocalize Boyk, a sound bite excised from that space within the phrase where 'boy' and the hard 'C' or 'K' of Cat or Kitten come into play. "Boyk. Boyk," I might catch myself saying, and rather liking the sensation. I mean, Max is so already done. A fresh name just seems to refresh our relationship. He'll usually whine then head in my direction to rub up against me and collect his obligatory head scratch, especially if my hands are in that moment both occupied trying to do something. He'll get his head scratch even if I have to repaint that last patch his appearance disrupted.

I catch myself splitting similar infinitives when Max's sister Molly visits, though she's just learning to collect physical appreciations. She apparently does not like being touched, a condition which I consider a serious breach of covenant since she's a "pet." As I catch myself explaining at great length to her, that perhaps the sole requirement of any cat or kitten employed as a pet has always been that they readily submit to the odd stroke or scratch, usually without any attempted or successful retaliation. That tap on the head is not the first move in a fairly vicious round of 'tag you're it.' I'm not trying to start a tussle but rather to appreciate and acknowledge. I, for one, consider it tragic when what I intend as an expression of respectful affection gets received as if I've just slugged her in the shoulder and proclaimed, "Slugbug!" I haven't, regardless of how that gurl cat might interpret that tap! I just wouldn't!

I think it endearing how, even the most dour human, starts speaking in squeaky tongues whenever a cat or kitten comes near. We each become about four years old again and take great comfort in having someone so soft and accommodating nearby. The usual exchange might amount to little more than a quick touch with a responding purr or it might involve jumping up on the desk and tromping across the keyboard in joyous acknowledgement. Max just now slipped in through the open second story hall window, a trick he discovered within hours of his first arriving here. His sister copied his lead, so now during
OpenWindow season, they can both exit and enter without apparent reason and on their own schedules, with Max often coming in and seeking me out at my early morning writing desk, announcing his arrival with a small chirp which I'll answer with a loving Boyk. He'll mount the desktop and strut around my laptop, rubbing his jowl along the edge of my green banker's lamp and perhaps stepping on the keyboard to contribute his own gibberish into our conversation. <p>

©2022 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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