So I’m standing talking to the painter in the kitchen. The painter doesn’t like cats, he explains, because they don’t do what they’re told.
Yes, I nod, as Monty the expansive Siamese ginger tom lands on the table soundlessly.
No, Monty, I admonish him. I ease his bottom off the table. He’s not for moving, and the painter is onto another subject, telling me how he filled a particularly difficult crevice in the shelf before painting it, and I’m edging the cat’s bottom off the table, and eventually the behind in question is forced to joust with gravity and lands virtually soundlessly on the floor.
You sanded it how many times? I ask politely, as a ginger tom lands on the table. Flup. Challenging stare.
Monty, I say firmly,( Julie-Andrews-Maria-Von-Trapp style), get down. Cats should not be on the table. Gracious, yes, what a great job you did, what time do you plan arriving tomorrow morning? I ask the painter, trying desperately to make displacing a fat ginger tom’s behind the secondary activity in the room.
I fail. As I talk, the tom simply speeds up his cycle. I push him off, he jumps back up, I scoop him, he defies the floor in a boomerang-light turnaround, a graceful and probably impossible arc the likes of Schrodinger would adore.
I am juggling a cat, I think. In front of a painter, who seems oblivious to the whole thing. Defying the laws of physics seems to be all in a days work for this cat as I desperately draw the surface-level conversation to a close. Goodbye, goodbye, I call thankfully as the painter clutters off with his paint pots.
The dog walks in. He’s impressed at the cat’s virtuoso display, I can tell. He admires, but does not feel envious. He has his own armoury of tactics to baffle humans.
He jumps up on the sofa.
Get down, Macaulay, I admonish.
He turns on the guilt lasers. Invisible yet unstoppable, they work using a subtle form of emotional radiation. Two big brown eyes, hunched, victimised shoulders. A moustache which would have made a seventies he-man proud; a moustache grubby beyond words, home to a thousand micro-organisms.
But I am prepared. I have turned my force field on. Get down, I say again, and the dog turns the guilt ray up.
It backfires on him. His pathetic seventies-shaggy demeanour reminds me that he needs a haircut. Badly.
I stride off to the kitchen, studiously ignoring the cat sitting on the table, and I head to the scissor drawer.
The next five minutes represent progress in my book. I cut away the decades, transforming the dog from seventies man to a preppy graduate. He does not move away because he did not count on me arriving brandishing scissors. Perhaps he overestimated the power of the Guilt Ray. Or did not realise it might be deflectable.
My husband takes his seat at the other end of the sofa. Usually, the dog garners a place where he can rest his unspeakably filthy chin on my lap.
Today, not so much. Today he catches my eye – important to have the right audience to make a point – and walks with tortured martyrdom past me, the full length of the sofa; away to the other side of my husband.
And he wedges himself between the far armrest of the sofa and my husband’s legs.
See what you made me do? he emanates.
The cats walks in. He’s not letting on to my spouse about the juggling session earlier.
But he plans to do it all over again tomorrow.