TThe door to my office shed opens to catch the sounds of late summer mornings: the luminous ring of scaffolding poles is projected onto the back of a truck; someone washes garden furniture; The choppy hit of a distant helicopter. Because of all these sounds, I don’t hear the youngest approaching before he leans through my door and holds an open bag of cat food.
“Did you feed the cat?” He says.
“Yes, I say.
“It annoys me,” he says. I glance over the shoulder of the youngest of them and see the cat frozen halfway in the middle of the grass, keenly interested in our conversation.
I say, “He’s lying to you.”
“But I opened it now,” says the younger.
“Niall,” the cat says from the garden.
I say “that’s not your name”. “Don’t let it get into your head.”
“I think I’ll feed him again,” says the younger. He turns and walks back towards the house, the cat following him on his heels.
I say ‘If you do that, you will destroy what’s left of the system’. “And I will be the one who pays.”
Here’s the regime: in the morning I give the cat some strange dry food prescribed specifically for its kidneys, which the cat hates. Sometime before lunch, the dog eats the cat’s food. Then at 6 p.m., after an hour of intense pressure from the cat, I put some wet food in her bowl, which swarms for about 30 seconds before I leave most of it for the dog to eat at night. At seven in the evening the cat starts harassing me to feed the dog because what she really wants is dog food.
This system is already under stress because the dog is still on vacation, so there is no dog food for the cat and no dog eating cat food. The youngest person’s decision to deviate from the schedule has an expected effect: A cat appears at my open office door at 2 p.m.
He says: “Mahbah”.
I say “I don’t know who this is”. “Are you sure you pronounce it correctly?”
“Rawadan,” says the cat.
I say “You have already been fed”. “twice.” The cat stares.
I say “Yes, the system is down”. “But it’s not my fault.”
The cat watches as I push my chair back and stand up.
I say: “It is not that I obey you.” “This is me going into the kitchen for reasons of my own.”
I walk through the grass and the cat follows him. Once inside, I realized that the problem was not a lack of food available, but rather a surplus: Leftovers from unfinished meals piled up in the cat’s bowl in layers, with the untouched day being presented off schedule on top of it all in a sticky, package-shaped slab. The dog is really an essential component of the system.
I say “Okay, we’ll reset.” “Full reset.”
I throw the uneaten food in the trash, scrub the bowl clean and dry it well, while the cat watches. Then I put the bowl on the windowsill and get a bag of dry cat food from the cupboard. He follows the cat from the sink to the window sill to the cupboard to the window sill, and stands over the empty bowl waiting.
I say “right”. “Erase today from your memory. It is now eight in the morning tomorrow, as far as you know.” Fill the bowl halfway, as usual in the morning, and take two steps back. The cat looks at the food, then returns to me.
It says “Noirin”.
I say, “You don’t even know what you want anymore.”
She says “Niall”.
I said, “Niall is not here.” “Niall can’t help you now.”
“Niall,” says the cat.
“Niall walks in, disturbs the system and gets tossed again. This is Niall.”
“Niall,” says the cat.
I say “we’re done here”.
Back at my desk with the door tightly shut, I began to wonder if the cat had eaten anything besides dog food. When I looked up 20 minutes later, the cat was sitting on the other side of the glass. speaks on behalf of.
I say “I can’t hear you”. He speaks by another name. And another.