Sunday, September 11, 2011

"Mortgage Cat"

We arrive at our house and we celebrate: it is our own piece of land and sky. We are worried about debt but we remain hopeful, my wife more than I because she has always been optimistic.

Because the house has many nooks and crannies it takes two weeks to find the previous owner's cat, which we'd hoped had died. This creature, a tabby with glossy fur and no name, is the legal embodiment of debts which we are required to assume. It is easy to love a cat, but one cannot become attached to the physical manifestation of debt, so we feed it but refuse to play with it. It is not allowed to sleep with us.

We acquire knick-knacks and furniture and we are pleased with our purchases, but every night the cat howls at something we can't see. Lack of sleep and the complaints of the neighbours force us to buy a smaller house for the cat. Our lawyer assures us that this is our best option, but he is also the lawyer for the cat, so we don't entirely trust him. We cannot afford a lawyer of our own. Our money goes toward tending the houses and buying a lot of kibble.

The cat is young and could live twenty years, long enough to outlast the university careers of our newly-born children. They are not allowed to visit the cat lest our legal situation become complicated: if the children ever feed it, they are required to share a portion of the debt which the cat represents, saddling them with responsibilities they are too young to handle.

The lawyer had given us a paper which certified the cat was sterile, but when kittens begin urinating on our front porch we realize the uncertainty of chemical sterilization. We are not allowed to touch the kittens without permission, which our lawyer refuses to grant, even after our own children die overseas in the Infant Wars. The kittens become our heirs. We must provide for them and their offspring, and rather than look at them every day we send them to subsequent and much smaller houses that we buy for them in the suburbs.

Our first home, the most beautiful one, we bequeath to the kittens. We move into the smallest home. It smells like urine and its furniture is scratched, and there are scraps of fur everywhere. It is hard to stand up because the rooms are so tiny.

Shortly afterward, and with no explanation, the houses burn down and our tragedy ends. We rent a bachelor apartment because we are too old to start over again. At night we are haunted by small burning kittens and their smoldering toys, which they jangle into and out of our one and only closet.


Gary said...

This wonderfully bizarre story reminds me of absurd themes in some of Paul Auster's stories. The nihilistic undertone of "Mortgage Cat" seems similar to his "The Country Of Last Things." Talk about unrelenting sadness!

Adam Thornton said...

Thanks Gary! It's something I wrote just after I signed my mortgage, which might be obvious. But fortunately the previous owners took their cat with them.

I've heard of "The Country of Last Things," but I'm not sure where...