Date: Mon, 16 Dec 1996 21:21:53 -0500
From: "clyde w. voigtlander" <cwv@ACADIA.NET>
Subject: Cats, guilt trips, and rituals
To: Multiple recipients of list WORDS-L <WORDS-L@UGA.CC.UGA.EDU>

Tonight, as we settled down for pre-dinner drinks and nachos, Bonnie decided to build a fire in the stove. During the cocktail hour, Sasha--our 18-year-old-cat, also known as Her Majesty---came onto my lap to be told yet again that truly she is the most beautiful and wonderful of beings. (She knows this already, but appreciates being reminded.) Then, as cocktail hour was winding down, Sasha took up a position directly in front of the stove and began to gaze fixedly at the (cold and closed) stove door. Periodically, she would turn her gaze to Bonnie, with a control of the head and a coolness of gaze that would by comparison make every western-movie gunfighter-hero look positively neurasthenic.

Very soon, the other two cats picked up the clue. Drusis--the middle-aged one--kept Sasha company, while Xerxes---the youngest---explored the corner behind the stove (a favorite spot when the fire is going). This was the infliction of a guilt trip, big time, in silent feline stereo. So, Bonnie relented and prepared to start a fire; I went downstairs for an armload of wood.

Once the fire was started, the cats took up their positions--all upon or next to Bonnie, on the couch. Clearly, warmth and comfort was desired but more important, the winter ritual must be observed.

Dinner is over now; Sasha is close to the stove (in the corner); Drusis is on the hearth rug; Xerxes has the wool throw on the couch all to himself. A short time ago, Sasha was sitting in the warm corner with a look of total satisfaction---not smugness, but rather in the mode of someone who has observed that the world is back in its proper orbit, and finds the prospect pleasing.