One way I’ve been getting out of the Nest more this year has been teaching remote piano lessons, where I travel to a student’s house rather than having the student come to me. Thursday I went to S.’s house. Usually I see S. on Tuesdays, but a foot of snow fell this past Tuesday and we were all busy shoveling. S. and Mimi met me at the stairs to her living room, which as usual was cheerfully cluttered with kid toys, cat toys, and sippy cups. S. is five years old. I’d guess Mimi, a small brown tabby, is about a year old. Three cats live here, but Mimi is S.’s cat. S. is always dressed to impress, and today she wore a headband with a big green sparkly bow in honor of St. Patrick’s Day. (Last week: Princess Elsa from Frozen.)
S. introduced me to Mimi, as she does every week. I left my pencil at her house one time and my stickers another, so S. thinks I need help remembering things. (She could be right.) Then she put Mimi on the piano bench next to her. The cat jumped off the bench immediately. Mimi is not into piano. Beethoven bores her. She prowled about the room for a bit before settling into her favorite lesson spot, which is sitting in a bay window, staring at the outside world, thinking whatever cats think.
A half hour later I had collected my things–S. with a keen eye out for any stray pencils or stickers–S. urged me to hold Mimi. I scooped the animal up to my chest, and she curled quickly and neatly into my elbow. Tiny thing, but she purred like a tiger, a deep thrum that vibrated through to my back ribs.
Home a few hours later, Sonny (back from college for spring break week) and I were relaxing, watching TV in the family room. It’s cluttered a bit at the moment, but with grownup stuff. Books, notebooks, a wineglass. No toys. Sonny sprawled on the couch with his laptop, paying half attention to two screens. I was curled up nearby in a swivel chair, wrapped in a throw. Capone came flirting up, his tail high and quivering, mowrling at me. He stepped tentatively onto my lap, trying to find a way to fit himself into the confusion of knees and ankles underneath. Ordinarily I would have been ecstatic. Capone never sits on my lap in the swivel chair. If Sonny or Dave is on the chair, Capone is purring contentedly on their laps, but not if it’s me on the chair. Capone likes to play with me, to race me up the stairs (he spots me 10 of the 12 steps and still beats me to the top), to pounce at my ankles, to bat paper balls with me, but unless it’s nap time and I’m in the recliner–different chair, different room–he keeps a discreet distance. But I had things to do and couldn’t stay. Interrupting cat, like the interrupting cow in the knock-knock joke. (Heard it? Knock-knock. Who’s there? Interrupting cow. Interrup–MOO.) “Don’t get comfortable,” I told him. He lay twisted like a Mobius strip, purring. A soft sound that was more the suggestion of a purr, but that’s his way.
I put him on the coffee table and rushed through my chores. Five minutes, tops. Locked the doors, brushed my teeth, turned off the hall light, grabbed my book. When I got back downstairs, Capone was still crouched on the table. He’d waited for me! So I arranged the throw on my legs and chirruped invitingly. He flicked an ear in my direction, but otherwise moved not.
“Come on, you silly cat,” I said. I picked him up, grunted–he’s 14 pounds, it takes some effort–and put him on my lap. Capone would have none of it. I stroked his fur. Sometimes that works and he settles down, willing to be comfortable and adored. He didn’t struggle or scratch. Like Mimi, he waited until he’d been set and the hands were off, and then he jumped away. Back onto the table, in fact. The coffee table made of chilly, hard, slate and wood. Capone settled with his rear towards me, about a foot away. Maybe staring at Sonny (Sonny is Capone’s favorite), who was laughing at the outcome of my efforts. Maybe getting ready for a nap.
Sonny laughed some more. He patted the couch next to him. Capone didn’t even bother to cock an ear, he just stayed on the table. “Our cat is a jerk!” Sonny said.
“You got that right,” I said.
All screens forgotten for a bit, one of those little moments that stick in your head. Timing is everything, I guess, in comedy. And affection.