6 A Slip of the Tongue
Bingley has always liked to catch a string–I’ve told you about the tiger-jump. Whether I pull it under a blanket or towel so that he has to dig underneath to get it or just run along so he can catch up and grab it, catching the string has always been one of his favorite games. He likes when I position the string just beyond the edge of his view, around a corner or underneath a piece of furniture. If he can see it, it’s no fun to catch, and if I hide it too well, he figures it’s not worth the energy to pursue. Hints fascinate him more than facts.
Once, after he had pursued and caught the string a few times and we were taking a break, he picked up one end of the string in his mouth and walked out of the room, stopping just on the other side of the door. He left the frayed end that he enjoys catching so much just visible to me around the corner. After a few seconds, he peaked stealthily around the corner to see if I was just about to jump over to catch it. Only then did I get what he wanted. When he saw me still sitting where I’d been, he looked at me, and his eyes said, “Come on, man, you’ve got to try this game. It’s really fun. I can tell you from experience.”
One morning we’d been playing games for about an hour when I realized time was slipping away from me. “Sorry: have to go to work now,” I told Bingley.
“No!” he said.
“Really: I’m sorry, but I have to go now. Got to get to work.”
“Don’t go!” He ran over and grasped my foot in both front paws and put his face against my ankle. The claws sunk into my skin just a little.
“I know. I don’t want to go. I have to go.”
“Why?” The claws sunk in a little deeper.
“That’s how I make a living. I need to go to work so I can pay for things. I’d rather stay and play.”
“Stay and play!” he said, and the claws got deep enough to cause pain.
I pried myself free at the expense of getting a nip on the ankle. Then I made my big mistake.
“I have to work to make money to buy mmao.” I did my best to say his word for food.
“Mmmao?” He said. “Mmao now? Mmaooo!” he called out, and he ran for the pantry where we keep his food.
I was stuck then. I had to give him something, or he’d panic all day while I was gone. So I gave him a few nibblies and hurried out to work.
When I got home, he was waiting, standing by his bowl in cat stance giving me his Mr. Spock look.
You know how Spock will raise one eyebrow, glance pointedly, and say “Fascinating.” Bingley can do almost that look, but instead of an eyebrow raising, one of his ears lowers to about half mast. The corner of his eye curls up just a bit, too.
I knew I was in trouble.
“Yes, I know.” I said. “And I’m glad to see you, too.”
So I got him his dinner. After he ate, he jumped up in my lap (didn’t trouble him that I was trying to eat dinner, too), took two turns around, settled in, sighed loudly, and went to sleep.
I was glad to be forgiven, even if finishing my dinner was a little more difficult while balancing a (large) sleeping cat in my lap.
Ever since, I have taken great care not to say the “m-word” except when I really mean it, because it is sacred, and one doesn’t use such words lightly.
In the morning I try to keep him playing long enough so that when I leave for work, he’s ready for a nap and so, for a time, not thinking about food. Now where did I leave that string?