Thursday, September 24, 2015

Кошка

I have owned only two houses in my life, and both houses sooner or later included cats – un-asked for, and uninvited, yet accepted as “family” in the end. My first involvement began one Saturday afternoon in 2005 in Southern California. I heard a knock on the front door, and opened it to find one of the neighborhood kids standing on the front porch. “Mr TH,” he said, “Can you please take a cat? If you don't, it's gonna die.”

“Er,...what am I supposed to do with a cat?” I asked.

“Feed it...take care of it...its mother is dead and it's just a kitten. If you don't take it, it's gonna die.”

 “Let me think about it,” I said. “I'll get back to you if you can't find anybody else to take it.” And with that the kid disappeared for a while.

As time passed, I began to believe that I had dodged a feline bullet. But after about an hour, there was a second knock on the door. “Oh, no!” I groaned, then opened the door again. There was the kid, of course. He was so sad-faced that I felt compelled to follow him to a dumpster about a block away from my house where we found the kitten in question. It did indeed look pathetic in its calico fur. “What are you gonna name it?” the kid asked. It was an interesting question. I had just seen the movie “The Sixth Sense” on DVD for the very first time, having missed its release in movie theaters by several years. The cat's face reminded me of the kid in the movie. “I think I'll name it Haley,” I answered.

That animal may have looked pathetic at the first, but with care and feeding, Haley turned into quite a ferocious and wild kitten. (The kind that would shred you without warning if you petted it too much.) As Haley was maturing into adult cat-hood, I found out that Haley was actually female. Her pregnancy gave her away – along with the arrival of two baby kittens. Her mean streak went away for a while as she nursed, then re-appeared as her kittens matured into adult cats. It was with only mild regret that I bid farewell to her when I moved from So. Cal.

In my new neighborhood a thousand miles away I lived comfortably pet-free for almost three years. Then one day, I got a phone call from a former neighbor of mine, who asked if he could come over to talk with me for a few minutes. “Sure,” I answered. After he arrived, as he was getting out of his car, I saw that he was holding something small, gray and furry in one hand. “What's that?” I asked. “A kitten,” he replied. “My cat had kittens and I'm giving them away. Want one? You like cats, don't you?”

“What am I supposed to do with a kitten?” I asked, surprised by this unforseen “gift,” as he handed me the kitten. It seemed rather ill at ease, yet it nestled in my hands without protest. I held it for a few minutes, as doubtful in mind as the cat probably was. After a long silence, I said, “Well, because it's you who gave it to me, I think I'll name it Кошка.” (My neighbor was Russian.) “But what if it's a male cat?” he asked. (The kitten was too young for either of us to reliably tell its gender.) “Doesn't Кошка work for both sexes?” I asked. Thus Кошка became a member of my household.

                         

Кошка
As that kitten grew, two things became apparent. First, he was incredibly rambunctious. I had been under the impression that kittens were supposed to be cute and cuddly; yet every time I tried to pet that cat, he would attack my hands. When I took him into the backyard, he would sneak up on me and attack my hands as I was weeding my vegetable patches. In his mind, he was a prizefighter and the whole world was a mixed martial arts ring. He attacked furniture, string, electrical cords, dust bunnies, curtains, screen doors and everything in between. The second thing that became apparent was that Кошка was in fact male. (Later I learned that in order to be grammatically correct, I should have named him Кот.)

Daily I tried to hold him in my lap and pet him; almost daily he turned our “bonding” sessions into a wrestling match. One day I turned in desperation to a colleague at work, a woman who volunteered in her spare time to put cats up for adoption. She had turned her office into an extension of her hobby, so anyone who visited her usually saw various cats being fed or petted or sleeping. All of her cats were cuddly. I told her about my cat and his extreme rambunctiousness.  (Нехорошо Кошка!)  “TH,” she said, “your cat is so rambunctious because he has no one to play with. He thinks you're a kitten. You need to get him a companion. It would really help with his socialization.”

So it was that I called my former neighbor after a few months and asked, “Say,...do you have another kitten? Preferably a male.” Half an hour later, he showed up with another gray striped fur ball. My neighbor said, “This one's name is Вася.” (Вася is short for Василий, by the way.) Once he let him go, the kitten promptly disappeared under the backyard deck and I did not see him again for nearly two days. Вася's timid temperament was nearly the polar opposite of that of Кошка, even though Васия was a strongly built, rather stocky kitten. Because I misheard the pronunciation of Вася's name, I corrupted it to Вашка, and that cat has been Вашка ever since.

                                  
Вашка

Several months later, spring came, and Кошка disappeared for a few days, not even bothering to show up for meal times. I had not dealt with cats for a very long time, so this took me by surprise. I thought he might be lost or might have been hit by a car, not realizing that he was actually randy and out sowing wild oats, or, in his case, a crop of little котята. I was sufficiently worried about him that I made a bunch of bilingual posters and started to put them on telephone poles throughout the neighborhood. I ran out of staples while putting up posters and returned to my house to reload, and there – in the backyard – was Кошка, looking none the worse for his long absence. The little doofus! (Непослушны Кошка!)
                          


 Can you find the misspelled words in the second half of the poster?

As time passed, Кошка mellowed out considerably (with the exception of one incident about two years ago in which he thrashed the next door neighbor's dog). In fact, he became far calmer than Haley had ever been. He is now sociable and even quite pleasant, at least toward me, as seen from the habit he developed this last summer of snuggling against my legs as I watered my sunflowers.  (Немножко Кошка!)  He has grown, changed and matured in such an amazing way that I believe it's time for him to seek a position of supreme responsibility in this world.

This is why I have decided to announce Кошка's decision to run for the Presidency of the United States. You may ask, “Why a cat for president?” The answer to that question involves comparison of the current batch of presidential candidates to animals of a rather different sort. To me, it seems more obvious than ever that not only in the United States, but throughout the industrialized West, the political process has degenerated into a choice between wolves and characters who pretend to be shepherds but are actually in league with the wolves. The role of the wolves is obvious, namely, to turn the rest of us into lamb chops.

The role of the ersatz shepherds is also obvious, as can be seen from the behavior of the Democratic Party in the United States, the Labor Party of the United Kingdom, and the Syriza Party of Greece. That role is to provide a distraction and a harmless outlet for the frustrations of sheep who are feeling the pain of being munched by wolf teeth. So it is that every so often (two to four years in the United States), we get a number of candidates who promise to dismantle the power of the wolves in charge of society and to fight for the poor, the disenfranchised, the oppressed, the marginalized. Once the ersatz shepherds are elected, they reliably fail every opportunity that arises to protect the sheep from the wolves. Cases in point include Barack Obama, unfortunately, who has allowed the continuation of the “War on Terror” started by a former Wolf-in-Chief, and whose administration has persecuted such whistleblowers as Bradley Manning, Julian Assange, and Edward Snowden. There is also former British Prime Minister Tony Blair of the British Labor Party, who allowed himself to get too cozy with wolves during the last decade, and because of whom Britain helped to destroy at least two countries without just cause from 2001 to 2008. There is (perhaps soon-to-be former) Missouri Governor Jay Nixon, a Democrat, who allowed a miscarriage of justice concerning the murder of Michael Brown, and unarmed Black teenager, by the Ferguson Police Department. And there is Alexis Tsipras, the Prime Minister of Greece and head of the Greek Syriza Party, who capitulated to European Union demands to turn Greece into a nation of debt slaves. Basically, ersatz shepherds seek to win elections by promising to be “tough on wolves,” yet when they are elected, they almost always end up spreading their hands, shrugging their shoulders, and saying to the sheep, “Ya know, wolves gotta eat too.”

The political strategy of the wolves, on the other hand, is to try to convince us sheep that a liking for lamb chops is a good thing. So we have American mainstream media outlets which are all starting to sound alike, because they are owned by the same small handful of pathologically rich people. Their united message is that greed is good, unbridled competition is good, “freedom” is good (as long as freedom is defined as indulging any craving that crosses one's mind), war is good (because it kills those who “hate our freedoms!!!”), predation is good, and any restriction on one's freedom is BAD, especially when such restrictions are proposed as a means of protecting others from being hurt by one's exercise of “freedom.” In other words, “We wolves have it pretty good, and that's a good thing. And you can be just like us if you're willing to embrace your 'inner wolf'.”

One way this is seen is in the perpetual, universal efforts of the Republican Party (yes, every last one of them, including Ron Paul), to create “out-groups” who can serve as scapegoats for deluded sheep who are frustrated because they through their own fault are being continually fleeced. (“Cats, sheep, goats, wolves – you're not planning to add lions, tigers and bears, are you?” Rest assured, the answer is no.) So the brown-skinned (or dark-wooled, if you will) are routinely targeted, whether they be citizens, foreigners or immigrants. And anyone who benefits from “socialism!!!” as defined by the wolves also becomes a target. But those who are taken in by the politics of identity, supremacy and division often find themselves in surprising situations as a result. Consider the state of Wisconsin, which in 2010 elected a Republican majority to the state legislature and elected Scott Walker as Governor. Oh, the wonder, shock and surprise they experienced when Governor Walker and his legislative allies began to cannibalize the very constituencies who voted for him!

(“Бабушка..., почему у вас такие большие зубы?”

“Это чтобы съесть тебя, маленькая девочка!”

“Ои!...Ои! Ты волк! Я Боюсь!”

“Вы также являются волк, маленькая девочка!”)

So it goes with wolves, that there are actually cases in which the strongest wolves in a pack will kill and eat their brethren. If a Republican wins the presidency, things should become very interesting for mainstream American society, many of whose members will be found saying, “I thought they couldn't do (you fill in the blank) to us. After all, we're Americans!”

Given this sort of electoral menu, why not vote for a cat? I can vouch that Кошка will never lie to you. Indeed, he cannot lie, for he knows how to say only three things: “meow,” “purr” and “hiss.” Nor will he try to turn anyone into a lamb chop. A vote for Кошка may well be the sanest vote you could cast in 2016, as it will show that you regard the Western political process with all the seriousness it now deserves. Кошка за президент!

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