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"Rose probably knows more about me
than any other living being
and she still consents to sit on my lap
for almost ten minutes at a time …"

I most days spend more time talking to Rose The Skittish Spinster Cat than to any other living being, other than myself. Many have written on the so-called art of human-to-human conversation, but I've found little advice on chatting with my most common companions. I've never really subscribed to the notion that one should converse in strategic ways, preparing as if for a debate competition and progressing as if engaged in chess. I'm more of the dialogue sort, engaging more to see what might emerge than to demonstrate how clever or well-prepared I could be. To my mind, no one ever wins a conversation, so I never worry about whether I've succeeded in scoring my points. I believe that real conversation has no point, so I might usefully engage with Rose The Skittish or even with myself without feeling as if I'm necessarily lonely or degrading my sociability by doing so.

"Hey, Weasel Head," I often begin when conversing with Rose, for she seems to undoubtedly embody the moniker. She sort of barks in response.
Her complete vocabulary consists of about three sounds, a bark, a chirp, and a purr, though each of these come in a fairly wide variety of tones, each heavily depending upon context to clearly connote deeper meaning. I need not ever concern myself about offending the critter, for, in true cat form, she seems either utterly unoffendable or eternally offended anyway. Neither state effects the quality of our conversation.

I read somewhere that cats receive their sense of self esteem from interaction with their humans. Of course I doubted this information because I could not imagine how one measures a cat's self esteem. Is there a Minnesota MultiPhasic Self Esteem Assessment Instrument For Cats stalking around out there? Are there cat psychologists? To my mind, it doesn't matter because Rose brings sublime self esteem to every conversation. I mean, if the entire universe circled around you, how would your self esteem suffer? Right! Not at all! Rose is a weasel, though, because she turns prissy when confronting difference. The transition from inside to outside seems almost traumatic to her, and I often find myself exhorting her to "Come on," encouraging her to go ahead and take that next step. Being naturally skittish, she'll respond with hesitance, turning around and heading the other way before, sometimes, finally zooming through the screen door I've been generously holding open for her for half a millennia or so.

I often ask Rose questions. "What's new?" I'll say. Sometimes she'll chirp in response. Like in human-to-human conversation, her response sometimes leaves me responsible for interpreting just what in the heck she meant, but with her I can usually quite comfortably fill in the blank. Also like with human-to-human conversation, I most often fill in the blank with how I would have responded had she asked me "What's new?" I am usually fine and I didn't ask to encourage existential clarity. I might have just been filling up what sometimes seems a gaping void of a space when I return to an otherwise empty house or endlessly empty room. Rose is there, doing her best to fill up those otherwise empty spaces, if not with her actual presence (she hides out in secret places through much of many days) then with her shed fur, which seems to cover everything. I have yet to try to engage in a conversation, meaningful or otherwise, with her shed fur.

Rose, like most of the rest of us, favors the non-verbal kind of communication. Her lack of broad vocabulary elevates her tail twitches and strict routines into a part of the ongoing conversation. She's my alarm clock, barking just before my alarm goes off every morning. She's bee-lining straight to her food bowl to remind me to refill it, even if it's already full from the night before. She's scratching at the sliding door begging to stick her nose outside even if it's snowy out there and we both know she won't do more than sniff before returning to nosing around her food bowl. She seems to be constantly complaining, keeping up a yappy commentary about everything she encounters. Some might interpret these vocalizations as crying or complaining and I admit that I quite often council her to "Shut up," in response. Her extroverted self talk can seem like so much grousing, just like in human-to-human conversation. I sometimes don't want to hear that first thing in the morning.

I appreciate Rose for being here to chat with. The alternative would be for me to engage in these extended conversations with myself which would doubtless prove no more enlightening or entertaining. When I pat my lap, Rose will very often move to inhabit it, though usually staying for no more than ten minutes before hopping down to curl around her catnip mouse in front the gas fireplace to snooze, her coat just beneath the kindling temperature of fur. I could take offense at her short stay and set off to wondering how I might make my lap more long-term acceptable, but I only rarely bother. She will be back when it suits her, probably after my laptop rewarms my lap again.

My ConverSayShuns with my cat refresh me. They remind me that whomever I'm conversing with, I'm mostly talking with myself since I'm the one interpreting the incoming and transmitting the outgoing. My partners in conversation seem almost placeholders in a larger, subtler medium, as I am to them, too. I think it perfectly acceptable and not even a little bit any evidence of insanity that I spend so much time by myself. As a dedicated introvert, I sense that I'm always by myself anyway, no matter how many others (each also by themselves) surround me. I sometimes talk to my garden, too, and it "speaks" back to me, and we both seem to be having such a fine time sharing our separate perspectives. Rose probably knows more about me than any other living being and she still consents to sit on my lap for almost ten minutes at a time, the Weasel Head, anyway.

©2018 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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