I have been taking a walk down Memory Lane, and it needs a good streetsweeper. I am not sure what made me decide it was time to purge and rebox all the files on the shelves of the music room, which have been contained for years in milk crates, you know the things with the groove for a hanging folder, or in oxidizing cardboard storage cartons with obsolete identifiers scrawled on them in Sharpie pen.
It was scary what was in there: college papers I would probably cringe to re-read but can’t throw out, spiral pocket notebooks full of dreams I wrote down when I was twenty (if you have even a hope of writing fiction, the facile invention of dreams is irresistible), letters I had forgotten saving from men I had forgotten dating. There were a lot of old bank statements, resulting in a large Shred pile.
Somehow with all the sorting and reminiscing and rearranging things on various shelves, I managed to only half-shut the door to the storage area under the stairs. What emerged, in due course, was not Harry Potter but the royal and fluffy Torvald, whose silhouette mimics no other cat’s in the house, so that twenty minutes later, when I looked up from the dining room to the top floor and saw him outlined in the declining light from the west window, I froze and said “Oh shit.”
The Catma Sutra kids, whose domain is upstairs, can’t even stand this fearless and amiable galoot on the main floor. At certain times of day he and Agatha retire to the laundry room, which communicates with the storage area, so that Fergie and Nickel can take their turn with me downstairs. Torvald in their territory? I couldn’t think why the roof was still on. I arrived at the stair-head in time to see him flush Nickel Catmium out from under my bed, toward a cowering Fergie, who was under the sofa in the back guest room before I could get in there, moaning in dread. Nickel stationed herself half way up the cat tree. Torvald sauntered around the room as if he were considering renting it.
Nickel went up another level. Torvald noticed, and jumped up to a platform below her. She laid her ears back.
He stretched his neck up for a sniff. Her ears flattened against her head and she uttered the marrow-dissolving, Pleistocene sound that I have never heard from any other feline throat, a combination of eagle, Federal-Q siren, and tires peeling. Torvald came a little closer, seeming to ask “Could you say that slower?”
She said it again. I don’t know if she said it slower but she emphasized her point by voiding her bladder from an elevation of about six feet, straight down past the lower three platforms of the cat tree and splashing all of them. Also the pine paneling. A raunchy, sharp, nostril-painting aroma bloomed around us.
Torvald finally decided to venture a little hiss. I trapped him under a laundry basket, as is the custom, and shuffled him out of the room, returning shortly with cleaning cloths, a bucket and a large jeroboam of Nature’s Miracle. It took an hour before Fergie would come out from under the couch.
Another memory surfaced while I was cleaning: my father — whose birthday it was yesterday, oddly enough — used to, when he had had quite enough of some futile enterprise, snap “Piss on it, from a considerable height!” I had just never actually seen it done before.