Rendered Fat Content


Albrecht Dürer: Sleeping Lioness. (circa 1520s)
Notes: Owned by the Print room of the Warsaw University Library.
Burned deliberately by the Germans in October 1944 during the Planned destruction of Warsaw.

"The smallest things seem to matter most."

The Muse and I identify as confirmed cat people and have been since before we were married, when we were still living in that apartment complex overlooking the Willamette River south of Portland, where a ginger cat with a crumpled ear adopted us. I christened him Crash and he moved right in, in clear consensual violation of our renter's agreement's prohibition against pets. Crash didn't need us to domesticate him. He domesticated us, but I suspect his primary purpose was to encourage us to provide a safe place for him to become a kitten again. As a feral or abandoned or whatever he had been before he found us, he'd had to maintain a certain street toughness. He'd had to nurture his inner lion to live. With a home, he could let down his guard, sit in a lap, and become a kitten. I think of home in the same way now. If families exist to make people, homes exist to make kittens.

I keep telling Molly, our formerly feral female, that I'm turning her into a kitten.
She's coming along, but she's a reluctant learner. She sometimes seeks me out, and might quickly step across my lap, but she's not yet found justification to linger long enough to lay down there, let alone get petted or purr. She's more at the drive-by stage of KittenMaking, where she'll walk close enough to brush up against, but usually not stop to collect actual pets or scratches. She might consent to stroll beneath an outstretched hand but, again, not usually submit to standing still and getting petted. I keep reminding her that her official job title is Pet, after all, and that she might feel a tiny bit obligated to make good on the title by submitting to or even occasionally seeking some petting, but she's reluctant to abandon her earlier life patterns. Her brother Max could some days play a believable part as The Whore of Babylon, for he throws himself on my lap and languorously stretches there, purring so enthusiastically, he drools.

Between the two, the reluctant and the willing, we have the makings of a reasonably reliable KittenMaking operation. We have the budding master kitten in Max and the perennial apprentice in Molly, and two humans in continual need of further domestication, not to mention the home, nee house, needing supervision only felines can provide. Molly seems determined to ensure that nothing ever turns different. She notices even minor violations of the old status quo. She chases hoses and swears, I swear, when she catches me painting anything, as if she knows and understands the underlying vanities of man. Max maintains one of several different outposts. He might look as though he's dozing, but he's watching, ever watchful for birds and squirrels. He rarely catches anything, but he's locked, loaded, and always prepared to bark his displeasure at their presence. Or is that delight speaking? Max has days when he plays full-on kitten in ways that Molly never does. Still, Molly has her moments, too, delightful for their rarity, when she'll spontaneously jump up on the bed for a moment as if she'd just then forgotten her feral sense of decorum. She'll pass, usually just out of reach, while I remind her that I'm even then still making her my kitten.

Families and homes both seem to offer more than what's obvious. Families, because they're more than simply domesticating units, they're primarily about people-making. Homes, too, provide a subtle but primary purpose beyond four walls and a roof. They provide the stage upon which an animation occurs. It's a drama—sometimes soap-opera quality and others, great literature—grinding out inevitably epic sagas, usually several simultaneously. I this morning imagine the purpose of my HomeMaking might at root actually be KittenMaking, for this provides all the essential elements underlying great comedy, tragedy, and meaning. Attending to turning these cats into kittens, into literal pets, provides motivation for everything else I might undertake here, and, unsurprisingly, seems to have been steadily domesticating me. I could be kittenizing myself in the process. Max and Molly insist that I maintain a regular schedule, lest I miss their all-important treat time or breakfast or supper. They require that I not retire without at least asking myself if they've made it safely back inside before I lock up and inadvertently trap them outside overnight. I stop when I pass, and scratch a head when they're dozing in one of their lofty cat towers, always watchful, always aware that I'm there.

The smallest things seem to matter most. Anyone could get lost in the vastness of HomeMaking, so staying anchored seems especially important. I sit at my desk writing as the sun appears each morning, watching the evergreen hedge across the street where Max has taken to watching the squirrels cavorting overhead in the ancient French lilac bush. He's practicing his more feral instincts with little hope of recovering them. After an hour or two, he'll wander back home, munch a small snack, then retire for the balance of the morning, purring, practicing his more dominant role here as kitten. Who knows where Molly spends her days? Mostly, she disappears over the back fence or into the tomato forest and won't return until late afternoon, when she'll suddenly appear, often with a dusty face, licking her lips and plaintively crying for supper. Dare I say, Kitten-like? When she's finally eating, usually on the kitchen table, she'll submit to a streak of petting and throw in some odd obligatory purring, perhaps even nudge her head into my hand. I'll whisper when I'm sure she's listening that I'm turning her into a kitten. She offers no believable resistance then, though she's not about to resort to any lap sitting yet. My KittenMaking seems to be working.

©2021 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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