Show some respect. Didn’t you know my cousin is a king?
Once there was a supremely lazy cat who loved to eat fish. However, he loved fresh fish best, and he lived far from the ocean. He dreamed of living right next to the ocean, so that he could be closer to his favorite food.
Perhaps, he imagined, it might be even better to live inside the ocean. He had visions of just opening his mouth and having dinner swim inside. It sounded marvelous.
Of course, the problem was that the ocean is a bit wet, and he didn’t want to deal with that. Being all wet was uncomfortable. It meant that his fur felt odd and stuck up in the wrong direction for days and days afterwards.
The cat did some research by stepping on the remote until the magic box showed him what he needed to know. This took longer than expected. The magic box seemed much more interested in people than fish. Well, that left more fish for everyone else.
However, his patience finally paid off, and the cat managed to learn a number of different interesting things about the ocean. Using this information, he began to develop some plans. Each, of course, had their pros and cons.
His first idea was to find a submarine. Inside a submarine, he wouldn’t have to get wet, even at the bottom of the ocean. After some thought, he realized that there would be no way to actually touch the fish from inside a submarine.
Another possibility was becoming a mercat. This seemed to be a great way to effortlessly enter the water and approach fish. Unfortunately, then he’d always be wet all the time. Even worse, he’d be half-dinner. That sounded dangerous. He really loved to eat fish.
His final idea was to convince the fish to walk up on land and into his mouth. On second thought, he wanted them to walk into his supper dish. Then he could eat around the bones. It was much easier that way, and he really was a very lazy cat. He wouldn’t have to move, and he wouldn’t have to get wet. This idea didn’t seem to have any downsides.
First, the cat needed to learn hypnosis. He experimented with convincing his humans to feed him more often. Unfortunately, the magic box made it all look easier than it really was. He soon realized that he needed more information than the box could provide.
And so, the cat ran away to join a university. After a year of attending lectures of various levels of boredom, the cat had learned enough information to hypnotize passing students into sharing their lunches.
He was ready develop a plan. That may seem quick, but he was a smart cat. It takes a lot of brains to develop the ultimate lazy scheme.
With some effort he left plans in the homework folders of various engineering students, tricking them into building and fine-tuning a solar-powered megaphone. He used the skills gained from a year’s worth of graduate-level theater classes to record an appropriately hypnotic and enticing suggestion. It was easy to convince the computer science students to program the recording into the megaphone as an extra, ungraded assignment.
The cat tested his new fish-attracting device. It sounded like masses of fat, juicy worms and buzzing flies. Research on the magic box told him that fish liked worms and insects, but the reason why remained completely mysterious. How often did worms and bugs go swimming? Why would fish go seek them out?
With his new device in hand, the cat ran away to the beach. With a little searching, he found an abandoned home in an out-of-the-way place near a small stream. If the people who left it returned at some point, he was fairly sure he could charm them into letting him stay.
He set up his fish-attracting device facing the ocean, turned it on, and waited. It didn’t take long for the fish to come. It worked so well, that he turned it off after a few seconds. He didn’t want to empty the ocean, after all.
Now that he had water, and fresh fish, and shelter, the cat was perfectly happy. He had everything he’d ever dreamed of. He hardly had to move at all. He lived to a fat, happy, old age. He was a profoundly lazy cat. Probably the laziest cat of all.
I’m sure the ice isn’t THAT slippery. What are you doing?
Adding an entry to my “famous last words” file.
“Tell me a story,” Charlie said. He leaned on Isaac’s desk, and a pen rolled off onto his keyboard.
Isaac picked up the pen and set it in the jar of pencils. “I’m working right now. Maybe later?”
Charlie slumped further and some papers crumpled under his elbow. “But I want a story now. Please? I’m bored.”
Isaac turned to look at Charlie. He knew that Charlie had homework to do, and books to read, and a yard to play in. But, he also knew that since the quarantine started everything was different and strange, and Charlie wasn’t the only one feeling unsettled. “Okay. I’ll take a break and tell you a story. How about some cocoa, too?” He shut down his computer.
Charlie followed him into the kitchen and started handing him the ingredients he’d need. He leaned in and watched the small bubbles form on the surface as Isaac stirred. “Is it done yet?”
“Almost.” Soon enough, Isaac was pouring the cocoa into mugs. He left the pot in the sink to soak. Marianne was in the bedroom on a phone call, so Isaac set her mug aside for her. He and Charlie took their mugs to the living room, sat on the couch, and turned to face eachother.
“What do you want a story about?”
Charlie thought for a minute or two. “Space cats.”
That was different. Space cats? “Alright. Space cats. Are they cat astronauts from earth? Do they live on the space station?”
“No.” Charlie frowned. “They always lived in space. They’re space cats.”
“Okay.” Isaac sipped his cocoa while he thought for a moment. Still no ideas. He needed more information. “Do they look like regular cats? What do they eat?”
“They look like regular cats except they’re purple. And they eat shooting stars, if they catch them. They chase them really fast.” Charlie waved his hand back and forth. “Really fast, like that, see?” He waved his hand back and forth a few more times.
“Got it. I’ll see what I can do.” Isaac set his mug down.
“Once, there was a family of space cats. There was a mom space cat, and a dad space cat, and a brave and smart little boy space cat. They lived in space and took naps on asteroids, unless they were in a hurry. Then they napped on comets and got where they were going really quickly at the same time. They were very smart space cats. The mom space cat was the smartest one of all, of course, so it was probably her idea.”
“But what about the shooting stars?”
“I’m getting there.” Isaac took another sip of cocoa, very slowly.
“Daaaaaaad,” Charlie said. “Finish the story.”
“Oh, alright. Let’s see, the space cats liked to nap on asteroids best, because that’s what they ate, so it was nice to stay close to their food. The type of asteroids they liked best were the ones that were fiery hot. They tasted better that way. They heated up when they go too close to a planet and were pulled through the atmosphere really, really fast.”
“Yup. But they had to catch them before they burned up all the way, and they couldn’t fly as fast in atmospheres, because gravity made things difficult. The little boy space cat was the best at catching shooting stars because he was the fastest. And then, one day, he had a great idea. He thought that they needed to think of a way to heat up asteroids without going into the atmosphere. And then he looked at the bright, shiny, sun”
“The sun is too hot for space cats,” Charlie said. “They’d melt.”
“Yes, and it wasn’t the same thing at all. But it was on fire without any atmosphere at all. He told his parents that they needed to find a way to set asteroids on fire without chasing them into the atmosphere all the time. They needed to find a way to steal a piece of the sun and carry it around with them. The mom space cat had an idea. She said that she remembered seeing a crystal on the other side of the galaxy that was strong enough to hold a piece of the sun. They rode a comet over and found the crystal.”
Isaac took a long sip of cocoa.
“Sorry, sorry. Let’s see. They got they crystal. And then the dad cat thought that if they sent it through the atmosphere and it got hot like a shooting star, it would be like having a piece of sun to carry with them, but not too hot. But they would have to catch it at just the right time. And who was the best at catching shooting stars?”
“The little boy space cat?”
“That’s right. So they sent the crystal into the atmosphere, and he caught it at just the right time, when it was shining its brightest. Then they took it back to an asteroid and used the crystal to cook dinner. A long time later, when it stopped glowing as brightly, what do you think they did?”
Charlie bounced on the cushion in excitement. “They sent it into the atmosphere again and caught it when it was just right!”
“That’s right. And they lived happily ever after.”
Charlie grinned and drank the last of his cocoa in one big gulp. “That was a good story.”
“I think it turned out well. You had a great idea.”
“Like the little boy space cat!”
Isaac nodded. “Just like him. You should write down our story so you don’t forget it. We can make it into a book.”
Charlie jumped up. “I’ll draw pictures, too. It’ll be the best book! We can put it on the shelf with the dinosaur books, and you can read it to me at bedtime.”
Charlie raced away, and Isaac finished his cocoa. He stood to take his and Charlie’s mugs to the sink. Just then, Charlie peeked around the corner. “Dad?”
“Thank you for telling me a story.”
And Charlie raced away again, apparently no longer feeling bored and unsettled. Isaac took the mugs to the sink, and smiled when he saw that Marianne’s mug was gone. He hoped her phone calls were going well. Then, feeling less unsettled himself, he went back to work.
I don’t know why you’re always chasing your tail. Mine stays where I left it.
The house was too quiet. Charlie and Marianne were at swim practice, and Isaac had the house to himself. He was trying to read, but turning the pages sounded unnaturally loud in the empty house. It was starting to feel a little creepy, as though the house was watching and waiting for something to happen.
And so Isaac left the house to whatever it was waiting for and went on a walk. He had to step back in for a moment for a coat. The air was just a little too chilly to be out for long without one.
He zipped up his coat as a breeze started to blow, scattering the dead leaves on the sidewalk. They chittered as they swirled around, looking and sounding like a plant kingdom parody of squirrels. On the trees, the green leaves were turning red and gold, the colors as much Christmas as fall.
That was when the first cat passed. Isaac didn’t really notice. His attention was on the leaves and looking in his pockets for his gloves. It was probably gray with stripes, but it may have been white with black spots.
He noticed the second one because it was so large and orange that it was hard to miss. It ran through the gutter, scattering the leaves left there in waves to either side of its path. And then the third and fourth cats came, two small black cats chasing each other in zig-zags down the sidewalk and narrowly missing Isaac as they ran.
After that, it was hard to keep track. A stream of cats flooded the street and overflowed onto the sidewalk on either side. They came pouring around the corner and just kept coming and coming and coming.
Isaac looked around. There wasn’t any catnip or fish or cardboard boxes leading the cats down the street. Were they running away from something?
What would the cats run from? And where did they all come from? Were they evacuating some super secret cat base that was set to self-destruct? Should he be running too?
And then he heard it. Off in the distance a voice was singing. Well, not singing exactly. This was music on a higher level. The voice was yodeling.
“Heeeere kitty-itty hee itty-hi del laaaaaaaaay
Ittty-itty ha del lee del laaaaaaay
Heeeeere kitty-itty Theeeeere kitty-itty
Itty-itty ha del lee del laaaaaaay”
Isaac relaxed. There was no imminent catastrophe that the cats were all fleeing. Obviously they were being herded. It made sense that it would take a superior herding method to herd cats.
He retraced his steps and stood on his lawn to watch the cats pass. There were so many different colors and patterns and sizes of cats. At one point, he even saw a bobcat pass by. Isaac hoped the bobcat came from outside the neighborhood.
Looking closely, he couldn’t tell whether the rest of the cats were local or just passing through. The few neighborhood cats he could remember looked enough like a dozen of the cats that passed by already that he couldn’t say for sure if he had seen them or not. Hopefully, if they’d decided to join the cat herd, they’d go home when they were done.
And the yodeling grew louder, until finally the yodeling cat-herder himself stepped around the corner, herding the last of the cats in front of him as he went. He was dressed in lederhosen, and wore a brown cap with a feather tucked into the hatband. There was a red bandanna tied around his neck, and he carried a walking stick that he tapped on the ground to the beat as he walked.
Isaac waved as he walked passed. The man briefly took off his cap and nodded as he continued to yodel. Then he, and the cats disappeared around the next bend in the road. Isaac continued on his walk, and the whole time he was sure that he could almost hear the yodeling cat-herder off in the distance.
“Heeeere kitty-itty hee itty-hi del lay hee hooo
Ittty-itty ha del lee del lay hee hooo
Heeeeere kitty-itty Theeeeere kitty-itty
Itty-itty ha del lee del lay hee hooo”