a conversation with my cat

zocalo.jpg

"Hola, Señor."

"Hello, cat."

"It is a lovely and glorious day today, is it not? The sun is shining, the birds are chirping…"

"You're not supposed to be on the table. What do you want?"

"Well, speaking of birds – since you won't let me outside to eat them, would you instead treat me to a bite of your pizza?"

"No."

"No?"

"No."

"I see. Well, these are tumultuous times that we live in. The world is changing at an ever-increasing rate, and we must change with it or become lost. So, how about now?"

"No."

"How about now?"

"No."

"Now?"

"No."

"Now?"

"No."

"Allow me to remind you that, I, Ernesto Zocalo El Gato, your closest and most loyal friend, am simply asking for a small bite of your pizza."

"I've had you for less than a month."

"Stronger friendships than this have been forged in less time."

"No, you can not have my pizza."

"Perhaps a nibble?"

"No."

"Perhaps a tiny nibble?"

"No."

"I see, so my friendship means nothing to you. Very well. I turn my back on you."

"Good. Leave me in peace."

"Señor, it occurs to me that perhaps we have started on the…how do you say it in your language…wrong foot."

"Why?"

"Perhaps this is due to a misunderstanding."

"No, why are you back? I thought you were going to let me eat my lunch."

"Fine. You do not wish to talk. I understand. Perhaps I will simply climb down into your lap."

"What? Hey."

"Shall I purr for you? It is one of the many services I offer."

"Well, ok. If you're just going to stay there and curl up."

"This is all I desire, you see."

"Ok."

"Though, now that I am down here, I am mere inches from your pizza. Perhaps I could have just a tiny bite."

"Hey! Get down!"

"Why am I now on the floor? How odd."

"Damn it, cat. Why are you back on the table?"

"I detected the scent of pizza, Señor. Oh, look, there is a slice of pizza, simply lying on a plate, desperately waiting to be consumed. It would be rude to leave it there to rot."

"Leave my pizza alone! I said get down."

"The floor again. It is so very confusing. I do not understand how this occurs."

"I put you there."

"Where?"

"On the floor. Stay on the…damn it."

"Hola, Señor. I notice that you are not eating your pizza. Perhaps you are not hungry. It would be a shame to let it go to waste."

"You can not have my pizza."

"Not even a little?"

"No."

"A crumb?"

"No."

"An imperceptible quantity?"

"You know what? Fine. Go ahead. Have some pizza."

"Pizza? What a kind offer, Señor. The kind that only a loyal and trusted friend would make. You are truly a credit to your species."

"Uh-huh."

"Hmm. That is an odd taste – the orange paste on top of the pizza. What is this concoction called?"

"Sriracha."

"Is that a Spanish word?"

"No, it's Thai. It's the name of a hot sauce."

"A hot sauce. I see. It is creating a strange tingling sensation on my tongue. Is this normal?"

"Pretty typical."

"Well, this is becoming somewhat uncomfortable. Perhaps you are not such a loyal and trusted friend after all."

"You want more pizza?"

"You are a cruel man, Señor. A cruel, cruel man! Madre de Dios! Mi boca es en fuego!"

"You wanted the pizza."

"How do you make it stop?"

"Make what stop?"

"The burning!"

"Oh, it'll go away on it's own, or…"

"Or?"

"Forget I mentioned it."

"I would remind you that you have caused irreparable harm to my sensitive mouth. I would like to know what comes after the 'or.'"

"Well, ice cream helps, too."

"Ice cream? Do you have ice cream?"

"Don't even think about it."

lars rehnquist is always wrong

“John! John, I’ve just made an amazing discovery!”

John paused the soccer game, set down his hamburger, and groaned. Whatever was about to come out of his roommate’s mouth was bound to give him a headache. “Really? What now, Lars?”

“Cows!” he was waving a sheaf of notes over his head with such vigor that he was nearly out of breath.

“Ok?”

“Hyper-intelligent cows!”

“Huh?”

“Hyper-intelligent cows rule the world.” He thrust the sheaf of papers toward John’s face and waved them excitedly. “It’s all right here!”

John started, stopped, and then let out a sigh. He set down the remote and rubbed his temples. “Ok, explain.”

Lars looked at him with disdain and then brushed a lock of sandy blonde hair away from his eyes – where it had fallen when he was waving his notes. “Well, John, it’s the only answer that makes sense.”

“Answer? What was the question?”

“Why cows hold such an elevated position in our society.”

“Elevated?”

“Yes, elevated. They have spent millions of years cultivating us to be their caretakers. They have trained the Hindu, for example, to worship them as gods.”

John squinted at the transplanted German computer programmer who now stood in front of him. “Ok, first, Hindus don’t actually worship cows. They represent fertility, and therefore killing them is considered taboo.”

Lars looked concerned. “Where did you read this?”

“Wikipedia, I think.”

“Ha!” Lars shook his head. “John, you can’t believe anything you read on the internet – especially Wikipedia.”

John sighed. “Why?”

“Don’t you know that anyone can edit that information? People who have no credentials can write anything they want. Just yesterday, in fact, I had to correct an egregious bit of misinformation.”

“Oh no. What did you do?”

“Well, an article claimed that fluoride is added to the water supply to aid in the formation of healthy teeth, but in reality, it’s there to mask the presence of certain agents added by the CIA in an attempt to sedate the populace. That’s why I never drink tap water — only bottled water.”

“Lars, most bottled water comes directly from municipal tap water. I think they even have to mark it on the label somewhere.”

“Ha! Another thing you probably read on Wikipedia. John, will you never learn?”

“Ok, back to the cows.” John’s head throbbed. “We eat cows.”

“Yes, exactly!”

“What?!”

“It’s the ultimate proof of the enlightened state these creatures have reached; they face their own oblivion with complete serenity. In fact, they’ve engineered our society so that their deaths directly contribute to the betterment of the world around them; they understand their place in the grand cycle of life in a way no other sentient creature possibly can.”

“Or they could just be dumb enough to hunt with a hammer.”

Lars sniffed and clutched his sheaf of papers to his chest. “You’re mocking me.”

“Yes.”

“Fine,” he turned and walked back to his room, “Go back to your pedestrian football game.” Before he disappeared, he stopped and turned, “The next time you go shopping, though, consider giving a prayer of thanks to our bovine overlords. In fact, if you really want to pay tribute, you’d…”

The rest of the sentence was drowned out as John simultaneously unpaused the television and turned up the volume. Lars glared at him, and then rounded the corner.

John settled back, shook his head, and then picked up his hamburger. He stared at it for a minute, sighed, and then looked back at the door to make sure that Lars was really gone. “Ok fine,” he said as he stared at the burger. “Thank you.”

—-

Author’s note: this was originally written in 2007.

the negotiation

CHARACTERS

ARTHUR: A middle-aged bureaucrat. He wears unstylish glasses and a suit one size too big.

BERTRAND: A talking duck.

SETTING

An unremarkable conference table in an unremarkable conference room in the depths of the FDA. ARTHUR and BERTRAND are sitting on either side of the table, surrounded by piles of paper and groups of assistants.

SCENE

ARTHUR: I have to say, you seem remarkably calm about this agreement.

BERTRAND: Well, we are prey animals as much as predators. One gains a different perspective about life when one is a member of such a species.

ARTHUR: Hmm. (Scratches head) I guess I would have expected that to change once you gained sentience.

BERTRAND: Perhaps in time, but our instincts are deeply ingrained.

ARTHUR: It’s still a bit mystifying to me that you’re negotiating with us voluntarily.

BERTRAND: You must remember that you are one of a handful of species that is an apex predator. You are not used to being eaten. This negotiation is to our advantage as much as yours.

ARTHUR: True. I suppose I never thought about it that way.

BERTRAND: Why would you? It is a privileged position.

ARTHUR: Ok. We’ve had a chance to review most of the agreement, but there were some items you wanted to clarify, right?

BERTRAND: Indeed. First and foremost, we ask that each member of our species be allowed to make the Great Pilgrimage at least once before being consumed.

ARTHUR: The Great Pilgrimage?

(BERTRAND consults with his assistants. Quacking ensues for a few moments.)

BERTRAND: We believe you call it “migration” in your language.

ARTHUR: Uh huh. What guarantee do we have that you’ll return?

BERTRAND: Well, some of us will be eaten I suppose. Some will undoubtedly be injured, and others could become lost, as well. However, those of us who survive must return in order to complete the cycle of the pilgrimage.

ARTHUR: I see.

BERTRAND: We have no choice. It is what defines our existence.

ARTHUR: Ok. (Writes on notepad.) I don’t think that will be a problem. What is your next term?

BERTRAND: We must be allowed to roam free throughout the day and also be allowed to swim and fly for at least one hour.

ARTHUR: I’m not sure about that.

BERTRAND: Well, in exchange, we agree to return to cages of no smaller than four feet square each evening.

ARTHUR: Why would you agree to that?

BERTRAND: Once again, you forget that we can be preyed upon by others. A cage is a safe, secure place to slumber.

ARTHUR: That makes sense. I think we’ll need to discuss the dimensions of the cages, but we can work that out offline.

BERTRAND: Agreed.

ARTHUR: Next?

BERTRAND: That we be allowed to choose our mates freely. We do not wish to be selectively bred.

ARTHUR: Ah. Hmm. (He quietly consults with his own assistants.) That might be a sticking point.

BERTRAND: Well, if you agree to let us roam free during the day, it’s more of a formality anyway.

ARTHUR: Hmmm.

BERTRAND: Besides, we’ve had millions of years of evolution behind us. We know what will be best for the flock in the long run.

ARTHUR: I’ll have to take that back to my people, but I can probably make that argument.

BERTRAND: Finally, I want to note that while we agree to be eaten, we cannot guarantee that we will always come peacefully. We are not cows.

ARTHUR: (Chuckles) Yeah, they signed off on an agreement without any questions at all.

BERTRAND: Unsurprising, frankly. (Consults with assistants, briefly.) Very well, that exhausts our terms and conditions. I believe you had several items to address as well?

ARTHUR: (Shuffles through papers). Ah, yes. First, we will provide a diet consisting of eighty percent corn-based feed.

BERTRAND: Will this feed contain all of the nutrients that we would normally absorb from our natural diet?

ARTHUR: Yes, we’ve done extensive studies and feel that this should provide everything that you might need.

BERTRAND: We agree then. Our main concern is nutrition – it’s not as though grass and bugs are especially tasty.

ARTHUR: Why do you eat them if they don’t taste good?

BERTRAND: We eat them because they are abundant and provide the nutrients we need. Once again, you forget that your species enjoys a privileged position. You can afford to care for taste.

ARTHUR: I see. Second, we require that your species agrees to binding arbitration to resolve disputes.

BERTRAND: We are prepared to accept this, on the condition that the arbitration tribunal will be composed of one representative from both our species as well as a party of a neutral third species.

ARTHUR: We’re ok with that. Well, then – I think we’ve covered everything else.

BERTRAND: Excellent. My species is very pleased that we were able to come to an agreement.

ARTHUR: As are we. Say, if you have a chance, put in a good word to the turkeys for us, will you? They’ve been nothing but trouble.

BERTRAND: The domestic ones are entirely stupid creatures, I’m afraid. They simply don’t know what’s good for them. They’ll come around in time, I’m sure.

ARTHUR: Well, they’d better. Next month’s Thanksgiving.