Thursday, July 17, 2008
Ten Years Ago this Week
In Pittsburgh, visiting Kristen. At a bookstore:
A charming little boy, perhaps 5, in the back of the literature section. A cat is on a chair in the corner. The boy wants to touch it, but isn't sure.
"You go play with him," I say to the cat.
"You like cats?" the child asks. I nod. "Do you have any pets?" I say.
"No," he says, "Once I had a goldfish in a bowl, but then Dad put chlorinator in the water and the fish went blind and died."
The child pets the cat lightly on the tail and the cat bats angrily, claws out. "Be sure to pet it the right way," I say. The boy tries again and the cat gets alarmingly close to biting the boy's hand. In a flash, the cat hits, claws out.
For a long second, the boy's hand is stuck to the cat's paw--the claws are under the skin. The child, frozen, can't pull back his hand. The cat can't retract his claws. The cat looks further inconvenienced by this. For that second the child looks at me as if expecting me to tell him what to do next, then I hear the skin give way with soft snapping sounds. The boy brings his hand far back, up to his shoulder; covers the wounded hand with his other.
I think the cat is in a bad mood. Maybe you should just leave it alone for now is what I manage to say after a few more seconds of the boy looking at me, his hand, covered, drawn back, the cat looking at me also, self-satisfied. The boy walks away slowly backwards, not saying anything, then runs down the aisle. The cat looks up at me with a smile and a blink. I kick it off the chair, without checking to see if the owner or anyone is behind me.