I APPROACHED the desk with trepidation, and all their other pals.
The Lies Reversal Co. : so said the sign above the one man booth, right next to numerous others, all in a line with phones bouncing off the hooks, the general cacophony piercing my ear drums. I could hear them from two blocks away, no exaggeration: I’M A CAT.
Adopting the hindleg walk with a small matter of difficulty, I brushed off the sides of limbs of other animals and people until I reached the wooden desk four times my body length.
I didnt like to, but felt obliged to do it. On all fours I sprang up on to the desk catching the stout curly haired man off guard, sending him rocking on his heels.
He wiped sweat from his brow and looked at me with iceberg fury. “Shoo! Be gone! Before ya’ start pissin’ all over the place!”
I was no more there to urinate on his fake mahogany desk and coffee stained papers, than I was to give up my regency of Cutterbox, my home turf.
“Haha! God damn, the cat…it talks! The cat talks!” He was waving and trying to catch the attention of anyone nearby. They ignored him or gave him the silent treatment, till he gripped the greasy curls of hair in one hand, studying me, like my form might change.
A customer at an adjacent booth leaned across. “Of course they can talk.” She looked at me; “The guys clearly just started.” A wink. “Best of luck with your case furball…”
“Hey!” I yelled, before uncoiling, seeing her cheeky grin. Satisfied my dignity had not been besmirched, I returned my attention to the booth operator.
What the hell?!
He was leaning close, hand stretched out, eyes fixed on my black coat.
“Hey! Those fingers have no business near my business. What’s your name mister?”
He reeled his hand back quickly, his yellowed eyes still filled with wonder as one of three phones jangled below him.
I’d seen humans do it. But I couldn’t, no opposable thumbs. Snapping my fingers – paws – was not an option.
I sat down, tail dangling down the desk front when a looming shadow made me turn, my hairs raising. Oh ok, just an elephant behind me in the queue adding pressure to the situation I didn’t need but could handle, I had a PHd in handling pressure or whatever those humans called it. I wrinkled my nose and got back to business.
“Hey! I talk. I’m a cat. Get with the program or I’ll get your manager on the ringer.”
The operator gathered himself, fiddling with his rolled up sleeves and waistcoat, hitting me with a confession. “I only started three weeks ago, forgive me sir. What can I assist you with today?” He grinned like a buffoon, but the meaning was well intended.
“I have a class action complaint. Write it down…” I encouraged.
He plucked a pen from his pocket. A step in the right direction.
“The complaint is that cats do not, contrary to popular belief, have nine lives. We wish to have this ridiculous rumour put to bed…no…to sleep. For good. I am Lionel Lux and I speak on behalf of the cat kingdom far and wide. We live once, same as you, or him or him, or her. And on the subject of outlandish stereotypes I don’t mind betting that trunky back there has forgotten plenty things..”
“Ok…” Tongue out the man was concentrating on transcribing. He read it back as soon as he was done with it. Seemingly an epoch later.
“And as you know…mister?”
“As you know Mr. Cardollo. As you know, class action suits on cases of severe and historical untruths of such magnitude are covered by tax payers money. Is there a form? I heard there’d be a form.”
Alfonse scratched his head, thinking about where he’d placed them or if he even had any. Raking through cubby holes on the desk he searched and searched.
Meanwhile, I looked around cooly. Yet another elephant was lumbering in, cracks visible in its wake in the marble as the chandelier closest to it rattled in its fittings. Humans and animals mingled in harmony, the place busier than Grand Central, sometimes one was with the other. Although what sickening self disregard a dog must have to be led everywhere by a master. Euggghhh…
“Ha yes, here!”
Swivelling, I was greeted by a yellow paper with print on it held up and slapped down next to me.
With one glance I knew it was the human issue – too many parts to fill in, too many utterly needless specifics. I had no employment contacts and no criminal history. “Mr, I need the animal form. Do these look like hands?” I directed his eyes to my shining black paws.
“Of course, of course!” More rootling ensued, mutterings, the phones incessantly ringing, my ears felt, as if they were bleeding already.
I looked right and saw a woman in a headscarf pleading with a man behind the desk. In a lull she glanced over, her large watery eyes squashing as she smiled at me. “What a beautiful cat!”
We weren’t compatible, and lord knows I’d heard one too many horror stories of prime specimens like myself being essentially kidnapped by lonely women never to see the streets again. And men in white coats stole their balls too, of all the treacherous acts. Fury began to build just at the thought of such injustices.
“A ha! Forgive me for such poor service. Here is the form. If you would place one hand – I mean paw – in the inkpad and press down in the box on the paper please.”
It was wet – sticky. I overcame my instinct to lick, dabbing my paw onto the empty box on the form. One small dab for cats, one giant dab for Lionel Lux.
“Thank you. There will be a few days to process the information, you can expect the lie regarding nine lives to be reversed in the press as soon as that is approved. Oh yes – and I will fill in the funding application on your behalf.”
Finally, he’d got his shit together. “From myself and on behalf of all cats…” And that’s when I noticed the lady with the scarf right next to me. No! Goodness no! – her hand! – was…stroking my fur…