One morning, while sitting at home in my office, reading a surprisingly-weak essay one of my smartest and most talented students in Introduction to Essay Writing had written about mid-Twentieth Century European cartography, I heard a loud, anguished yowl. Then I heard another one, then another. I could recognize my cat Slothrop’s yowl anywhere. (My future ex-husband, whose literary tastes differed from mine, to say the least, had bought him at the pet store and named him, in fact had already named him before permitting me to hold that fluffy gray kitten and thus melting my canine-loving heart.)
The cat’s yowling grew louder and more anguished. I leaped from my chair and raced from room to room, trying to locate the Sloth (my name for him these past ten years since my marriage’s implosion). Not finding him anywhere, but still hearing the yowling, I panicked; what if he had seriously hurt himself? He had just turned twelve; though he’d slowed down somewhat, he could still on occasion jump great heights and race maniacally around the house; however, intense physical activity could have dire consequences for a geriatric furball like him.
My pre-ex had lost all interest in his dear Slothrop (but not in Tommy Pynchon, unfortunately) upon starting to indulge in what my parents would have called the sin of adultery. I had concurrently started indulging in that so-called sin, too, but I never abandoned the cat, never stopped feeding him or refreshing his litter box or pressing him to my chest while gently purring.
Anyway, breathing heavily, my heart jackhammering, I ran down into the basement and could hear the yowling grow louder. I spun myself around once, twice, attempting to locate the yowling’s source. I discovered the source: he had entered the laundry room, and the door had shut behind him. Opening the door, I felt angry over not having closed it completely the previous night after removing my dirndls from the dryer; then I felt angrier that the Sloth showed his appreciation by hissing, then scampering off before I could scoop him up in my arms and embrace him. Then I felt ashamed of my anger. Despite my education and rationality (my pre-ex had often opined that my brain consists of a bloated left hemisphere and a submicroscopic right one, the latter giving me my doodling talent), I had forgotten that due to evolution, cats instinctively look out for themselves to avoid danger, tolerating humans for food and for aid in escaping cramped, frightening, lavender-detergent-scented spaces.
I trudged upstairs back to my office, sat down at my desk, and resumed reading the cartography essay, thinking my smart and talented—but also arrogant—student had written something so lifeless on purpose, daring me to give the paper a C-minus so she could tear apart my reasoning before the whole class. My pre-ex’s mistresses had included a brilliant female undergraduate writing major, along with a somewhat less-brilliant one, neither of them a current or former student of his, meaning he had behaved morally in his opinion. The Sloth slunk into my office and sat down under my chair.
Copyright © 2016 by David V. Matthews