Cats show up in three of the stories found within IRREGULAR CREATURES.
Not inappropriate, I suppose. Cats are definitely irregular around the margins. Quirky, kooky critters. And yet they have that kind of weird feline grace, too – an almost alien sense of the world around them.
We had a cat once. I was a wee tot at the bright young age of five. When I wasn’t solving complex mathematical theorems or creating new heart valves from wombat skin (I was a real Doogie Howser type), I was apparently busy putting our cat in the clothes dryer.
I know, I know, that sounds horrible. No need to go around assuming things. You know what they say about assuming, right? It gives you herpes.
I didn’t put the cat in there to hurt it. And I didn’t turn the dryer on. My motives were all candy canes and lemonade: I just wanted to give the kitty-kitty-boo-boo a warm place to lay down.
Thing is, when my father came and asked me, “Did you put the cat in the dryer?” it wasn’t a friendly question. It was a “jaw muscles locked into place” question.
“No,” I lied.
At that age, I was a terrible liar. My father smelled it on me like some kind of animal musk.
That’s when he dragged me away and beat my butt with a wooden paint stirrer (a stirrer marked with the MAB logo, should you be a stickler for detail). He never had to whup on me like that again: the only move necessary was a sly glance toward the aforementioned paint stirrer.
So, from early on, cats have been emblazoned upon my mind. Or, at least, my asscheek.
(I also apparently tried to make soup from kittens one time, but let’s not talk about that.)
That cat was the last cat we owned.
My father actually hated cats. I won’t say that the story in that collection, “Beware of Owner,” is true, exactly. But I wouldn’t say it was false, either.
And yet, I remember when I came home one day (this was after I’d come back from college) and found a box on the kitchen floor with a kitten in it. I wondered, “Was this tonight’s dinner? Is there a second kitten, and this will be some kind of Kitty Thunderdome?” It turns out, the old man found the kitten in the barn with its dead litter mates and a dead mother. Killed by raccoons, maybe, who knows?
But he rescued that last living cat, which was somewhat remarkable to me. Therein lies a small seed for what you see in the collection’s lead-off story, “Dog-Man and Cat-Bird (A Flying Cat Story),” where the protagonist (a self-described “dog man”) rescues a… well, a physiologically improbable cat from harm.
I myself am not a cat-owner. Not because I don’t like them, but because I’m allergic.
And yet, despite that, three of the collection’s stories feature cats as characters. Two prominently, one less so. And then there’s “Mister Mhu’s Pussy Show,” which, ahem, features a different kind of kitty. So maybe bump that tally up to four cat stories, if you’re feeling charitable.
Irregular Creatures is available formatted for your Kindle (or any device with a Kindle app installed), or as a PDF.