By 4:45 Sunday, the cat is seated on the couch, her attention fixed on the TV.
In front of her, the NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Championship bracket. To the immediate right, a can of Royal Crown Cola with a straw in it; to the immediate left, one of her many souvenir ashtrays, this one in the shape of a human foot, the words “We got a kick out of New Mexico!” embossed on the bottom. In the ashtray is one unlit Virginia Slims.
Apparently the “no smoking” rule in the house doesn’t count if you only have one.
Arranged along the top of the bracket is a neatly arranged row of six exquisitely sharpened Number 2 pencils.
Dolly Gee Squeakers, formerly of the Humane Society Squeakers, is ready for March Madness.
Dolly takes a sip from her cola. “It’th like thith…” she says, but then does not go on to say what it’s like.
Poor Dolly. Saddled with a lisp since kittenhood, it is a sign of just how distracted she is that she is speaking aloud.
“What’s that, Dolly?”
“Hmm?” the cat looks up, her bright blue eyes ever so slightly crossed. A long-haired, somewhat pyramidal-shaped Siamese, she picks up the cigarette, pats the general area of her ribs as the cigarette dangles from her lips.
Unable to find her lighter, she gives up, puts the cigarette back into the ceramic foot.
I clear my throat. She looks up, surprised.
She had forgotten I was there.
“You said ‘it’s like this’ but then you didn’t say what it’s like.”
Dolly smiles shyly, glances at the clock.
“I’ve got it figured out,” she says.
She nods, picks her words carefully so as to avoid “s’s”. The cat is known to studiously steer clear of sibilant sounds, all sensitive-like.
She nods again.
She looks right, left, then beckons me closer with one curved claw. I lean forward.
“I got a thythem.”
Her system last year: big mascots over little mascots.
The loss of the Syracuse Orangemen to the Michigan Wolverines had hung over the cat’s head like a knobby inflated moon for days.
I lean over, scratch behind a silky ear.
“Tell me,” I say.
“Four-legged,” she smiles. “The four-legged mathcotth will triumph.”
She nods to herself as the hands on the clock slide to 5:00 exactly.
“Now if I could have a moment? I have a bracket to attend to.”
And I leave the room as the cat picks up the first of her six sharpened pencils.
“Yeth,” she whispers, “the four-legged mathcotth will have their day.”