The Cat

I dug through the things in my Dropbox after rebooting my computer, so I’ll be posting a few things from there while I’m busy with midterms.

There’s a, um, a cat. The cat sits in a chair. The chair is bigger than the cat, but not too much bigger. It’s roughly cat-sized in both available surface area and ability to support weight. Maybe it can support much more weight, but we’ll never know until something heavier than the cat tries to sit on it.

Anyway, it’s fortunate for the cat, the chair, the chair’s owner, and the cat’s owner that the chair is big enough. Had it not been, I mean, shit, do you expect the cat to care? Trial and error would leave the cat comfortable somewhere else, but that chair would be ruined forever.

The cat is licking its front paws. It has, uh, something on them. It could be blood. It’s probably blood. The cat is a natural-born killer. Most of the time it kills small creatures it finds when it sneaks out at night.

I’m tired of this “it” business. The cat’s name is Mittens.

Most of the time Mittens kills small creatures he finds when he sneaks out at night, but, in feline dreams, he kills larger prey. Other cats. Great Danes. Humans. Horses. Once, a dinosaur. Dream Mittens cannot be stopped.

He’s licking blood off of his front paws. Specifically his right front paw. The left front paw also has blood on it, but it’s questionable whether Mittens has noticed. That should tell you what a natural-born killer he is, not even noticing blood on his paw. He takes pride in those paws the way a prize fighter takes pride in his, I don’t know, pectorals, except instead of doing tricks with them to impress ladies (ha, “prizes”) at parties, Mittens does tricks with his paws to murder, and the blood on his left paw still hasn’t attracted his attention.

He pays great attention to his task. It is, after all, his right paw, and he is a right pawed feline.

There is, in addition to the cat, the chair, the paws, the blood, and the callous unconcern, a corpse. The corpse lies in front of the chair in a pool of blood, kind of. The corpse once lay in front of the chair in a pool of blood, but the blood has dried, leaving a filled outline of a pool of blood in red, blood red, specifically, with tinges of rust. The blood on Mittens’ paws originally was blood inside the corpse doing blood things, like circulating, keeping the corpse’s (then not a corpse of course, but how else should we call it?) brain well fed with oxygen, inadvertently transporting pathogens to different parts of the corpse’s body. It was fairly effective blood, as far as blood goes, but outside the corpse the only thing it could do was get on Mittens’s paws.

The corpse was, when alive, the owner of the cat, the chair, but not the paws, but also the blood on the paws, but not the particular callous unconcern having to do with the blood on Mittens’s left paw (but some other callous unconcern). This story is not a fight-the-power parable. Mittens was not responsible for the corpse. Mittens was only on his way to the chair and there happened to be blood on the ground between Mittens and his destination. He could have walked around it, but I think we’ve discussed that he is a natural-born killer, and thus a little blood did not faze him. With time on his paws, he was unconcerned about cleaning same before his night out with his lady cat friend.

Having finished his task, Mittens stood up, leaped over the corpse and now dry blood puddle, and left. He had a date, after all.

Since stories are supposed to have morals, here is a moral: not every cat with blood on his paws is a killer, or at least not every cat with blood on his paws killed the original source of the blood on his paws.

In Which J. Edgar Hoover Hosts a Dinner Party, Scene I

[A knock at the door. J. Edgar Hoover, played by Stephen Fry or at least someone who looks and acts
like Stephen Fry setting the table. It’s also allowable that someone whose mannerisms and appearance
are in no way similar to Stephen Fry’s could play this role. Whatever he looks like, J. Edgar is dressed
in a green jumpsuit with the hammer and sickle on the left breast. Everyone else, with the exception of
Jackie Kennedy and the chef, will be dressed similarly. Jackie gets to wear a dress. The chef should
meet the description he is given on his entrance The table setting is ORNATE, of course. J. Edgar keeps
switching two place settings back and forth until Dwight D. Eisenhower runs around the table. The two
he is switching are his own and Joseph McCarthy’s. The place settings for Jackie and John Kennedy
face away from the audience.]

J. Edgar: Come in!

Dwight D. Eisenhower [from behind the door]: How do you know who it is?

J. Edgar: The same way I know everything, just come in!

[Eisenhower enters]

Eisenhower: Sorry I’m early, you know how I am about these things.

J. Edgar [looking frustrated with the two place settings]: Preemptive attendance, first strike capabilities,
yes, I’ve heard all about it.

Eisenhower: What’s the matter with that plate?

J. Edgar: The plate?

Eisenhower: Yes, the plate.

J. Edgar: Which?

Eisenhower: The one you keep fiddling with!

J. Edgar: I just, oh it’s nothing, don’t worry about it.

Eisenhower: Whom did you invite this evening?

J. Edgar: Sacco and Vanzetti.

Eisenhower: [laughs] No, but really.

J. Edgar: Sacco and Vanzetti and John Wilkes Booth.

Eisenhower: Cut it out, you know I’m sensitive about that kind of thing.

J. Edgar: [laughs] Not at all. You can read though, the names are all on the place cards, can’t you tell?
Eisenhower: And if I switch these two?

J. Edgar: Don’t.

[Eisenhower picks them up and starts prancing around the table like a drum major]

J. Edgar: Dwight please, you’ll shake the microphones right out!

Eisenhower: Of course. I’m terribly sorry.

J. Edgar: It’s alright, just put them back where they were.

[Eisenhower replaces the place cards]

Eisenhower: John coming tonight?

J. Edgar: Yes, tragically.

Eisenhower: You ever worry he’s a commie?

J. Edgar: Dwight, I worry everyone is a commie.

[The phone rings. J. Edgar picks it up]

J. Edgar: Hello this is J. Edgar, may I say who’s calling?

Eisenhower: I’ll just run to the little boys’ room. [Exits opposite where he entered]

J. Edgar: Oh Jackie it’s just too droll that you should call right now.

Jackie: [from offstage] Oh really? Why’s that?

J. Edgar: Well wouldn’t you know, I just got the surveillance set up on your house moments ago, and
the feed’s coming through great.

Jackie: Oh J. Edgar, you didn’t!

J. Edgar: I did!

Jackie: Well, J. Edgar, you’re always up to those tricks of yours. Anyway John and I are on our way.
He’s out in the limousine now. Says we should leave early so that if anyone knew where we
were going they’d get there too late. I just don’t know where he gets these ideas about bad things
happening to people in limos!

J. Edgar: I know, dear. He really is just so concerned all the time about these ideas of his, and civil
rights, and I just don’t know how you put up with it.

Jackie: Well he has a kind soul.

[Eisenhower returns, again from the opposite side]

Eisenhower: Would you believe, I went to the little boys’ room and there was actually a little boy in

Jackie: What was that?

J. Edgar: Nothing dear.

Jackie: Was that Dwight D.? You didn’t tell us you invited him! He’s such a dear. We’ll be right there.

[She hangs up]

J. Edgar: What’s that you said? A little boy in the bathroom?

Eisenhower: Well yes. It was very odd. What’s he doing there?

J. Edgar: I certainly have no idea. You know if it’s not the communists, it’s the queers. I’m sure one of
those groups must be to blame.

[A knock on the door again]

J. Edgar: Come in!

McCarthy: Well hello, J. Edgar. Nice of you to invite me.

J. Edgar: Joseph, Joseph, you always sound so surprised to have been invited to social events.

McCarthy: [ignoring him] Dwight, good to see you.

Eisenhower: Joseph.

J. Edgar: Would either of you like to hear the schedule for the evening?

Eisenhower: Say that’d be swell.

McCarthy: Sure, J.

J. Edgar: Well, we’re still waiting on the Kennedys, but once they arrive I thought we’d start with
appetizers. I made sure that all of the food was from non-Communist countries, Joseph, so we
won’t have another incident like that other time.

McCarthy: Thanks, J. That was thoughtful of you.

J. Edgar: Anyway then I thought to fill the time between appetizers and dinner we could interrogate
another suspected communist I found.

McCarthy: Who’s this one?

J. Edgar: He was a grocery boy with whom Julius and Ethel Rosenberg occasionally communicated. I
think some of their notes may have been a code.

McCarthy: Can I see ’em?

J. Edgar: Yeah, sure. [He pulls some sheets of paper out of his pocket and hands them to McCarthy]

McCarthy: These are dated even! Look, several weeks in a row: “Leeks, onions, celery” in all of ’em.
You think that means something?

Eisenhower: It is not by deciding whether it means something that we stay prepared, but by staying
prepared that we decide whether it means something.

McCarthy: By Jingo, Dwight, that’s a mouthful.

Eisenhower: And we, Joseph, are prepared.

McCarthy: Ok, so we’re prepared, so does it mean something?

Eisenhower: I don’t honestly know.

J. Edgar: I haven’t told you the best part.

McCarthy and Eisenhower, more or less in unison: Yeah? What is it? [and improvise as many other
enthusiastic or otherwise intrigued expressions they can invent on the spot]

J. Edgar: Would you like to guess how long I’ve held him here?

McCarthy: A year.

Eisenhower: Three years.

J. Edgar: He was born March 22, 1939.

McCarthy: No.

Eisenhower: I can’t believe it.

J. Edgar: and I detained him on March 22, 1938.

McCarthy: No but I really can’t believe that.

Eisenhower: That has to break some kind of physical law.

J. Edgar: Joseph can tell you all about how laws change with interpretation.

McCarthy: Or, really, if you haven’t read them.

[J. Edgar cracks up]

McCarthy: What?

J. Edgar: I just had the funniest image of a coyote running through the air over a canyon, held up only
by his ignorance of gravity.

Eisenhower: What could he have done before he was born though?

J. Edgar: The coyote? Probably nothing.

Eisenhower: The detainee.

J. Edgar: Right. Well I had it on good authority that he would have been a Communist, had he been
born into freedom, so I detained him to celebrate my fourth anniversary in office.

Eisenhower: But you detained him on your third –

McCarthy: He wasn’t even born on your third anniversary in office.

J. Edgar: Gentlemen, I do not take the duties and privileges of my position lightly.

McCarthy: I’ve never been so impressed with you.

Eisenhower: What’s for dinner though?

J. Edgar: I’m sorry?

Eisenhower: You said we’d interrogate him between the appetizers and dinner. What’s for dinner?

J. Edgar: Oh right. Well my chef [he gestures toward the door into which Eisenhower disappeared to
use the restroom and a shirtless, bronzed, and ripped man emerges and walks across the stage
smiling and waving, exiting on the opposite side. While he is still on the stage, no one else
moves] is making his specialty.

Eisenhower: Which is?

J. Edgar: It’s a state secret! [All laugh] No really it’s some Chinese chicken dish.

Eisenhower: Oh good, I simply cannot stomach beef after a good interrogation.

J. Edgar: From before all of this Mao Zedong bullshit, too.

McCarthy: I was worried.

J. Edgar: I assure you, the recipe dates from the opium days.

McCarthy: I loved the opium days.

[The Kennedys enter without knocking. John takes a moment to beam at the audience before following
Jackie upstage]

Jackie: [teasingly] Did I just hear Joseph McCarthy say he loves opium?

McCarthy: Now Jackie, I know you won’t let that leave this room!

Jackie: Because you scare the shit out of me! Really Joe, how are you?

McCarthy: Good, good. John? How are you?

Eisenhower: Rested I hope. As long as you two took to get here, we thought someone had been

Jackie: You would not believe the traffic on the highway. Whose idea was this highway system if we
can’t get anywhere on it anyway?

John: Jackie, come on now, shouldn’t we be more diplomatic? He’s the president, after all, he has
to make a lot of hard choices.

Eisenhower: It’s true, John. You know, if you play your cards right, you could be president someday

John: You sound like my father.

McCarthy: Anyway, now that we’re all here, should we start with the appetizers?

J. Edgar: I should tell you all, one of the plates has a camera in it, but I won’t tell you which one.

McCarthy: Only one?

Eisenhower: J. Edgar, how are we supposed to feel safe if you’re only monitoring the room with one

J. Edgar: Oh it’s not so bad as all that. There are also the other cameras there, there, and there [he points
to each as he says them. He doesn’t need to point anywhere specific.] I also have an armed
security detail in the audience. There is one sitting in every seat whose number can be expressed
as the product of three and a prime number.

Jackie: Oh well that’s alright then.

Eisenhower: In every seat like that?

J. Edgar: Well, no, not every seat, just some of them, so [to the audience now] there’s no reason to be too
suspicious of your neighbor.

[They all grab seats at random, except John. No one ends up in front of his or her place card. The
empty seat is directly across from J. Edgar Hoover]

Jackie: What’s the matter John?

John: Well, J. Edgar didn’t take the only remaining seat.

J. Edgar: That’s true, I took the one I’m in.

John: So I know he’s not concerned about his seat having the camera.

Eisenhower: Right, so?

John: So doesn’t that make it more likely that the remaining seat has the camera?

Jackie: J. Edgar probably didn’t choose his seat sinister…ly. He probably just grabbed the closest seat.

John: But why is the open seat the furthest from him?

McCarthy: Come on, John, I’ll trade with you if you like.

J. Edgar: No!

[Pause, confusion]

J. Edgar: I just mean that we can’t let these paranoias get the best of us. John, let’s be realistic. Even if
that plate is the one with the camera, it’s not like you’ll be much more under surveillance than
you already are. It’s important, I think, when overreacting to stupid civil liberties concerns, to
remember that if it’s a battle you think you can fight, you’ve probably already lost.

McCarthy: That’s true, John. Surveillance is the price we pay for safety from the Soviet machine.

Jackie: Yeah, John! Even if that is the plate with the camera in it, it’s not like you’re being duped. You’re
being a patriot!

McCarthy: For America and dinner then, won’t you sit down?

John: It’s just so suspicious that all of you would dash instinctively for the chairs not directly opposite
J. Edgar.

Jackie: Nobody dashed, John. Sometimes people end up places, and that’s what we did.

John: Oh I suppose that’s alright, I just wish I weren’t so conscious of being monitored.

J. Edgar: John, that’s why I hid the camera in a plate.

[John sits down]

Eisenhower: Now that that’s settled, you two will not believe the surprise J. Edgar has for us as an
amuse bouche.