Now for something lighter – a story from the pre-web days when you had to phone in to get onto the net

Of Cats and Cyberspace

Hi! My name’s Toulouse. No, not the town in France – one of the aristocats! We were in the SPA, minding our own business with our Mom, Duchesse, when the woman that fed us – we’d just been dragged away from Mom’s milk a couple of days before, but we still liked to try for more – where was I? Oh yeah, the woman that fed us – wasn’t bad, kinda crunchy for our small teeth – anyway, she was saying: “If you can, take the male and the female, they are always together.” 

That was me and Marie. Berlioz liked to do his own thing. 

“It’s not her first litter, you know. She might turn on them.” 

What?! Mom turn on us?

“No, none of them has a tail. Some aberration from birth. It happens, you know, but they’re all very sweet.”

Marie, and least of all Berlioz, wasn’t watching all this. *I* wasn’t just listening, *I* was w-a-t-c-h-i-n-g. The stump of my tail was on end!

“Well, three would be too many, but I guess we could manage two. They’d be company for each other,” the woman said. Well, I guess she was a woman because she was big, bigger than the kid who helped feed us – sort of like the woman that did all the organising round the SPA, only she looked nicer. She sort of smiled more when she looked at us. 

“You’ll have to have them desexed, of course. But they’re too young yet.” 

Desexed! What’s that? Well, I found out later what that was – when the local toms threw it at me! Anyway, this isn’t about me; it’s about her. 

She must have been quite a cat herself because when she got us into that huge room, the kitchen they called it, she said to another bigger person like her – he had hair on his face, like us in a way – she said, “But they’ll be company for each other, dear.”

Time flew and we grew. The big person was her tom – he was always around, and he was the only one she called “dear.” There was a smaller version of her that she called “darling.” Me she called “Cat.” He called me “Toulouse.” (Much more respect between toms, I guess. She never called Marie “Cat.”) Marie and I had a great time – we’d climb up their jeans, and one day they let us outside. Wow! What a thrill! 

Well, you know what it’s like with little sisters. Marie followed me to play on the other side of the road one day. She got squashed by one of those metallic monsters that can’t stop careening along. Anyway, you should have heard – my mistress, I’ll call her now. She screamed at the big person in the car – called him “murderer,” she did. Then I realised I’d lost my little sister. It took a while for me to get over it, but my mistress helped me a lot, patting and cuddling me, and giving me stuff to eat and to drink. I soon forgot Marie and I lapped it all up. Until … 

Well, it must have been the time I started bringing her presents. (There was that mini-clone, too. She called her “darling,” but I never brought *her* any presents.) I’d bring in a mouse here and there, a starling when I was swift. But what does my mistress do? Why, with a heel on my neck, she sweeps up my booty in a dustpan – a royal blue one. Ok, it was plastic, but nevertheless. And then she yells at me and locks me in the laundry – such a cold, damp place!

She lets me out again after a while and I sulk – the booty is gone! So she lets me sit on her lap, and she strokes me and I purr – and just when I’m sort of drifting off to the land where the mice don’t get away, up she jumps. I mean, I was purring. OK, it was loud – so loud it was drowning out her Sir’s gentle snore (he was much more than a tom, I found out in the meantime). But she leaps up and goes to a place called her “Souk.” 

Now, this place is something else. Ever heard of drowning in paper? It crunches under your paws. So, what do I do? I see her stroking those little square keys – and I want some of the action. So I leap up and try walking on them, getting under her hands, as it were. OK, I’m jealous! So…? Boy, does she get mad!

“Get out, damn cat!” she cries.

I jump down and keep quiet. She calms down real quick, though. So I stay there on the floor and then I go and sit on the sofa, on the bit of space left on the top. Books everywhere! And she starts humming … then she starts laughing … and then she starts crying … can’t work her out. There she is, in front of a big TV with no pictures, stroking away on what should be my back …

Just when I’m feeling sorry for her, she stretches out her hand … no, not for me … for some old snail shells. She fiddles about and sticks paper clips through them and then threads them through her earlobes. And then she starts giggling – all to herself. She’s a strange cat, all right! 

But that’s not all. She starts talking about numbers and places: “If it’s 24:00 in California, it’s 19:00 in Canberra the next evening. No, that’s wrong, it’s the evening before, but then it’s 9 am in France.” Doesn’t make any sense. 

Then she goes to the kitchen and gets out this glass of red liquid. She sips it first, then chug-a-lugs … and the next thing I know, it comes flying over her shoulder, so I duck – and the paper breaks its fall. And this goes on every night for a whole week! 

Last weekend was a riot. I’ve seen her before in front of that box – sometimes she wears a terry white robe – never bothers to comb her hair the way she does when she goes out the front door. But this time she has on a Drizabone because it looks like rain, I suppose. You know, one of those smelly coats she brought with her after she was away a long time. (He says it pongs – you know what she says to that? “Of course, it does, dear. Pirana liver oil.” You work it out!) And then she leaps up and out she goes with a smaller version of the box in her souk under her arm. 

I wander around the house for a while, sniffing at the Sir, to wake him. 

“What’s up Toulouse?” *He* uses my name! “Where’s she gone now?” he says. It wasn’t to me. I don’t know anyway. 

Well, the Sir puts on the coffee. It’s Sunday morning; the clone’s still asleep. And we both hear this huffing and puffing outside. So we go to the door, and there she is in her Drizabone. Wide open it is, and we can see this short gumnut skirt and a swathe of eucalyptus leaf covering her upper part, up to the neck. The Sir just stares. He sees what she’s lugging and so do I. But *he* knows what it is. A telephone booth! 

“Where’ve you been?” he demands. I would, too, mind you. Desexed or not. 

“To a party.” She even had the cheek to say it with a grin as she dropped her portable minibox in the hall! 

“You look like you dropped out of cyberspace!” There are more like her? When’s the invasion? And I slink hiding behind the Sir’s legs. 

“Oh, it was such fun, dear,” she says and stands on her tiptoes to give him a kiss. Then she bends down and rubs my nose with hers. “Salut, Cat,” she says and starts to giggle. 

And would you believe it? The sun comes out. 


Copyright Sylvia Petter 1999.

This story was first published in September 1999 in #8 of FreeXpresSion, an Australian magazine aimed at writers and readers of all ages, as well as beginning and published writers.