Penny is about a year old, which makes her a young adult. I tell myself that Penny is old enough to make her own terrible life decisions. Before we adopted her, she lived in someone’s garage and birthed a litter of kittens. She looks stout and stunted. I think pregnancy halted her growth, like coffee or arsenic.
Living in a studio apartment is not unlike living in a garage, and therefore Penny has no interest in conquering the great outdoors. Garages and garage-like places are all she knows. I found this out when I chased her around the apartment with Olive’s leash, which she misinterpreted as an attempt to hogtie her. I walked Olive by the pine trees outside of the window so that Penny could watch.
“See, Penny? This is what the leash is for.”
Penny responds with a meow so awkwardly deep and husky that you might suspect that she has been smoking for the past twenty years while working as a waitress in a casino. This is the only sound Penny makes, from the moment she wakes me up at night galumphing back and forth across the headboard to the sound she makes when she plunks into the toilet.
Penny is incurably clumsy. She balances herself over the toilet like the ninja spy that she is not, but someday hopes to be: three paws splayed across the toilet seat, one paw dipping surreptitiously into the sage green basin, lowering her head towards the prize. She licks her paws with quiet satisfaction before her shaky legs get the best of her. I hear a thump. A trail of paw prints leads away from the toilet to a dryer place. A place with towels.
Penny meows for food she cannot have. She nonchalantly helps herself to multigrain chips and sesame seed bagels and mushroom pizza. She will dip into the garbage looking for a savory morsel. Penny did not grow up with Science Diet Cat food; her palate is not accustomed to giblets. After Penny laps up the gravy, stands over her bowl of giblets scratching the wood floors and meows desperately. I resent this, says the cat. Dave mushes up the seafood giblets with a fork until it becomes a pate. Now that Olive has seen that the giblets can be refused, she has joined the hunger strike in reluctant solidarity. In the end, all the cats will get pizza. All the cats in the world will have their pizza.
Penny is still hungry but leaps onto my lap. She leans against me, sticking her butt in the air for rigorous lower back scratch. Penny falls asleep in my lap at night and I don’t want to move her and wake her up. I wonder if I am her person.