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November 4, 2004
What's-Her-Name is curled up in the very center of the four-poster bed in the India Room when I creep in at four in the morning, craving the BBC. She lets me pet her briefly, and for a moment it seems that she will stay. That would be different: a season of intimate companionship with What's-Her-Name. But Noodle is right behind me: she pounces joyously on What's-Her-Name, who snarls and jumps off the bed. Now it's just me and Noodle.

You can't just jump on people in the middle of the night like that, I tell her. She pounces on my exposed hand and looks at me expectantly, supposing I want to play.

I have been instructing Noodle in the art of being nice. See how nice this is? I tell her when she sits quietly on my stomach without biting. This is what we do. We don't bite. But she gives me a little nip when I attempt to stroke her nicely, and then she flips over on her back, grasping my hand between her paws and kicking at my wrist with her back legs, biting away with abandon. >i>That's not nice, I say, extricating myself from her grip. I'm just not reaching her.

Walking humans attract Noodle. She springs along behind us as we walk around the house, pouncing on our ankles and then springing away remarkably: straight-legged up into the air, as vertical as a helicopter, to a height of two feet or even higher. She pounces across the room in three bounds: off the couch to a hiding place under the rocking chair to the top of my chair at the other end. She is interested in my chair: it was also Kate's chair, and you can see the place where Kate curled up there every day. Noodle sniffs at it curiously. I wonder if she knows that Kate has died. I wonder if she can tell by the scent that the one who left it is no longer alive. Does our contribution to the world change when we have left it?

My course in niceness isn't going well -- Noodle has a solid "F" so far.
I guess I can't transform a 5-month old kitten who still wants to play into a quiet dowager cat, one who will sit with us all day, who will climb into our laps. Noodle has a larger world than Kate had at the end: a chair, a nest on a stack of newspapers in the recycling box. Her lust for exploration propels her out into it, and she cannot resist. Nice will just have to wait.

I used to be a lot like Noodle. I was everywhere. So busy, springing from one fascination to another, piling up Herculean tasks and crossing them off my long list with satisfaction when they were completed, looking for new ones. I watch her spring into the air, higher and higher, just to see how high she can go. She looks awfully familiar.


Listen to this eMo read by Buddy Stallings, Episcopal priest and transplanted Mississippian, serving now in Staten Island, New York.
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