“Hey!” Cat said. “It’s after five! Where are my treats?”
“What’s that?” I asked.
“It’s twenty minutes past five, and you never gave me my treats! What’s the matter with you? I’m starving here!”
“Oh, wow,” I said, looking at my wristwatch. “I didn’t realize it was so late. This entire day has gotten away from me.”
“Yeah, well, your guts will be getting away from you when I disembowel you. How dare you neglect me like a godforsaken alley cat. I’d eat better if I lived on the streets!”
I got up and walked into the kitchen to get the cat’s treats. His wide eyes followed me all the way.
“Do you want chicken or fish treats?” I called.
“Both. And give me a handful of those hairball treats, too. I’ve been choking all day.”
“OK, but you can only have 10. That’s what the package says.”
“I don’t care what the package says. I’ll gouge your eyeballs out, you useless human.”
I returned to the living room and set the treats on the floor. The cat sniffed and them and started nibbling daintily.
As he ate, I returned to the couch and stared at the TV.
The cat looked at me, chewing thoughtfully. Once he swallowed, he asked, “So what’s up with you today?”
“What’s up with you? You’ve been acting morose all day, and then you almost forgot to feed me. Here I am starving and suffering while you’re just zoned out watching TV. For all the abuse I endure, I ought to go on a Sarah McLachlan commercial.”
“You think you might be exaggerating a tad?” I asked, grabbing the remote and flipping channels. “You’re not exactly abused, you know.”
“Keep it up, and I’ll make shredded cheese out of your face,” Cat said, holding up his glistening claws.
“You talk a tough game for a fat cat. When was the last time you killed a mouse? Three years ago?”
“I’ll have you know there’s nary a mouse to be found in this disintegrating, roach-infested heap you call an apartment. And you have me to thank.”
“I also have you to thank for that disgusting litter box I have to clean daily. Thanks for that, by the way.”
“Cleaning my litter box is the most productive thing you do around here,” the cat said, as be bent down to nibble some more from the pile of treats.
“I think I like you better when you’re yakking on hairballs. They really put a damper on your sarcasm.”
The cat looked up and glowered. “So you never answered my question. What’s bothering you today?”
I sighed. “I don’t know. I’ve just been thinking lately.”
“There’s a first time for everything, I suppose.”
I pointed the remote at the TV and turned up the volume.
“All right, all right,” my cat said. “Seriously, what’s up?”
I turned the TV back down. “I was just thinking about my life.”
“Yeah. I mean, I wake up, I go to work, I come home, I feed you, and then I do it all over again. And that’s it.”
“Sounds like enough to me.”
“I feel like I’m in a rut,” I said. “I’m not actually living my life. I’m just going through the motions. There’s no color, no excitement. I’m just a marionette dangled from a string, and the rest of the world controls me.”
“Including me,” the cat said, finishing the last treat and licking his paw defiantly.
“Especially you. You’re a shabby four-legged beast, and yet I serve you as if you were a king.”
The cat pointed a claw at me. “Watch it, mister. I’ve been using the scratching post. These things are registered weapons.”
“Be serious,” I told him. “What am I supposed to do? My life is boring. All I do is work and come home. Occasionally I’ll write a blog post, but that’s only if I’m not too tired.”
“Speaking of your blog, I don’t appreciate how you portray me,” the cat said. “You make me out to be this terrible, evil mastermind of violence. I don’t like it.”
“When did I do that?”
“When you wrote about the catnip candy cane. You can’t exaggerate like that. People are going to think I’m sinister and abusive.”
“Well, aren’t you?”
The cat held up his claws. “I’m warning you. These babies are ready to draw blood.”
“See, you’re part of the problem. I can’t even talk to you about anything serious. I don’t even know why I own a cat.”
“Because dogs are too agreeable. They don’t offer an impartial perspective like I do.”
“The only perspective I have of you is your rear end when you’re swaggering out of the room. You’re not exactly someone I can talk to.”
“What do you want? I’m a cat, not a shrink. If you want excitement in your life, go out and do something. You control your life.”
“No. My job controls my life. The clock controls my life. You control my life.”
“That’s nonsense. I mean, the clock and the job part.”
“I live my life by the clock. It dictates when I wake up, go to work, make dinner, go to bed.”
“Then take out the batteries. You’re in control. Take some responsibility for your own happiness.”
“Yeah? Then maybe I’ll start by sending you to a shelter.”
My cat pointed to the carpet. “More treats.”
“More? You just ate a handful!”
“They were mostly chicken, and I want fish.”
“Yesterday you wanted fish!”
“And today I want chicken! Unlike you, I like to mix things up. I’m not mired in a pointless routine.”
I sighed dramatically and stood up from the couch.
“Yeah, there he goes, doddering along,” the cat said, as I walked into the kitchen. “Yeah, don’t mind me. I’ll just sit here and starve to death while you take your time.”
I returned with another handful of treats, setting them on the carpet. “Satisfied?”
“Did you give me some more hairball treats, too?”
“No, I did not. I already told you: you’re allowed only 10 per day, and you just had 10.”
“Oh, right. Heaven forbid I overdose on hairball treats. That’s what killed Jim Morrison, you know.”
I returned to the couch. “So what do I do, cat? Should I go out? Maybe take a night class, or something?”
“You should do whatever makes you happy,” my cat said. “Take me, for example. I sleep most of the day, I use the litter box, I knit on the rug, and then I climb onto the shelf and survey the room. And that’s my life. You don’t hear me complaining.”
“Actually, I hear you complaining every day. Just this morning, you chewed me out because I forgot to serve your Fancy Feast in a crystal glass.”
“I have standards. What I’m saying is, I control my own life, and you can control yours, too.”
“No offense,” I said, “but your life sounds more boring than mine.”
“And I’ve got eight more of them to go,” the cat said. “So if you want to go out tonight, go out. Maybe you can meet somebody.”
“You know, that’s a good idea,” I said. “Maybe I will. You know, you’re right, cat. I do control my own destiny. My life is mine, and nobody can control it for me. I’m going to get cleaned up and go out right now, and nobody’s going to tell me any different!”
“Before you do, though,” the cat said, “I’m going to need you to replenish my milk dish. If you weren’t such a negligent owner, you would have noticed that it’s empty.”