Steve’s got the cats now.
He’s got the cats and he’ll keep them for two years while my wife Molly goes away to college. Steve’s got the cats for two years because David is allergic to cats and I want David, more than anyone, to be my roommate while Molly is gone. So the cats had to go somewhere else and it might as well be to Steve.
I’m sure Steve will take good care of the cats. The feeding, the petting, the litter box, the necessary annual shots, and so forth: Steve has dealt with other cats in his recent past, he’s told me. He’s got experience, he’s looking forward to living with cats again, and so I know I can rest assured. He’ll take care of the frisky young orange-striped one and the lazy old solid-white one, and he’ll fall in love with both of them, albeit in a strictly non-bestiality sort of way, and so everyone – me, Molly, David, Steve, and the two cats themselves – will be happy.
Except that I’ve got to tell Steve about the hat. I definitely must remember to broach the subject of the whole hat situation to Steve the next time I see him at work. Because I’ve given the cats over to Steve’s care for two years in full knowledge that, at any time, some injury or perturbation of health or even outright death might occur to one or both cats.
And that’s okay, because shit happens, and I’m sure that whatever misfortune might occur would occur in spite of, not because of, Steve’s caring and expedient ministrations. But, especially considering the constant possibility of such misfortune, I really need to tell him about the hat.
I’ve been thinking about how to talk to him about it. I’ve devoted most of my half-hour commute to work the past two mornings to running hat-situation conversations, dialogues between Steve and myself, in my head.
“Hey, Steve,” I’ll say, casual as hell, the next time I see him at work, probably in the break room as we stand waiting for coffee to finish dripping into its squat Pyrex pot. “How’re the cats?”
And he’ll say, as he’s said for the past couple of days already, “Oh, they’re fine.” He’ll smile and nod his head slowly like he does sometimes. “Yeah,” he’ll say, “they’ve finally stopped hiding under the couch all day long. I guess they’re getting used to me. They’re getting used to the new, I guess, environment.”
“Oh, great,” I’ll tell him. “That’s great.” And maybe I’ll do something corny like give him a thumbs-up or an OK sign before saying, as I said when I handed the cats over, “You know, Molly and I really appreciate you helping us out like this.”
And he’ll start to protest, telling me that it’s his pleasure, that he loves cats and can really use the company and so forth. And I’ll interrupt him with: “But there’s something I’ve got to tell you.”
And Steve will stop talking and he’ll frown and look at me like I’m about to play some embarrassing joke on him. “Yeah?” he’ll say.
And then I’ll explain that, although the cats are family cats, although they belong to both Molly and me, the orange one is ultimately more Molly’s and the white one is ultimately more mine. And so each of us, we’d decided years ago, gets to call the shots regarding his or her cat.
“Uh, okay ... ?” Steve will say, puzzled.
“And, well, y’see,” I’ll tell him, “I’ve had this plan concerning the white cat. I’ve had this plan for years. Molly doesn’t necessarily appreciate it, but she’s willing to go along with it. In the interests of domestic tranquility and all, and especially since the white one is really more my cat.”
“You have this plan,” Steve will say.
“Yeah,” I’ll say. “When the white cat dies, see, I’m gonna make it into a hat.”
Steve may blink a couple of times at this point, I’m imagining. “You ... what?”
“I won’t actually do it myself, of course,” I’ll tell him. “I’m gonna get some taxidermist or whatever and have him do a tigerskin-rug job on the dead cat for me. You know – with the skin all flat and the head still whole, the ears back and the mouth pulled into a really fierce kind of snarl? Except that, instead of a rug, I want the guy to make a hat out of it. Like a winter hat, y’know? With the front legs coming down like earflaps, and snaps in the paws so I can snap them together under my chin.”
Steve will look at me for a few seconds then, and maybe he’ll tilt his head slightly to one side. “You ... uh, you’re joking, right?”
“No,” I’ll tell him, “I’m serious. I want to make a hat out of him when he dies. So I just wanted you to know. In case he’s outside sometime and gets hit by a car or, I don’t know, has a kitty heart attack or something. Because I’d really appreciate it if you’d save the body, if it’s in decent enough shape, and let me know as soon as you can. Okay?”
“Don’t you think that’s kind of sick?” Steve will say.
Or maybe he’ll say: “You’re out of your fucking mind, aren’t you?”
Or maybe even – although I know this is far-fetched – “Well, if he dies while I’m watching him, I should be the one to get the hat.”
But I don’t actually know Steve well enough to gauge, with any true precision, what reaction he might have. He might just shrug and say “Sure,” and no more will be said about the matter. But I do know that I’ve got to at least mention it to him. He’s already had the cats for three days now, and it’s an uncertain world we live in, so I think I need to let him know as soon as possible.