I don't have to tell this story. I could let it go untold, given the fact that right now, as we speak, our blessed, 14-year-old blue-collar feline boarder is somewhere in this house sound asleep. Our cat has not pestered me to tell the tale. He's very much above needing your or my approval for anything.
I'm no relation to the ancient Pharaohs who worshiped cats. I never posted a cat video and only written Benny up when he did something regrettable. I don't have to tell you what happened. I have no interest in making him an star because he's a miserable egotist, arrogant as a prince, impossibly one-way. But then, Benny is a cat.
He's got this thing for running water. My wife is his slave and dotes miserably, so his bowl is never brackish. But he's got this thing for running water and, yes, toilets.
Benny and I are alone in the morning, when, like now, it's still dark as night. His braying has prompted me on occasion to consider murder, but most morning he's respectfully quiet.
From his anticipation you might think my using the toilet was the highlight of his day. He's thoughtful enough not to stand anywhere close, although his motivation cannot be respect because respect is beneath him. For whatever reason, he's not RIGHT THERE when the task is being accomplished. He waits just outside the door, like some fine footman.
Honestly--you can ask my wife--I'm not a husband who forgets. . .well you know, to flush.
But it was dark as midnight down here, maybe quarter of five a couple of days ago. There's just one light on, the one at the foot of the stairs, and it was time for certain bodily functions. My age is showing in so many ways it hardly seems necessary to describe them, but one manifestation is that I do not, anymore, wake up quickly. My mind is considerably mushy so toiletries, you might say, get accomplished in a darkened daze. I'm not quite ready to go even if I am very much ready to go, if you catch my drift.
So I did what needed to be done, Benny politely waiting in silence, as always, just outside the door. He listens closely to the tinkling, then waits for the tide to wash in, you might say.
Okay, here's my humiliation: I walked away and didn't flush. I left the stool behind without, I'm sure he'd say, the sound of music, all that fresh water swirling into the bowl. I'm not a clod or a headache. Go ahead and ask my wife. She'll tell you I'm not so great a sinner.
But this time, I stumbled.
On my way out, there he sat, his bedeviling green eyes upon me in that perfectly cat-like emotionlessness. And, remember, this is for him a ritual, a kind of dance. The moment I flush, he's there, even if I'm still preparing myself for the world. He approaches the bowl in eerie cat-silence, tours the circumference, then puts up his front paws from the left side to witness the delicious swirl.
But this time he didn't move. He just looked at me. That's all, he just looked at me, sat there, his paws beneath him, still as a statue, those green eyes in saying clearly, "Sir, were you born in a barn?" He could just as well spoken those words like Balaam's ass because not to I catch the revelation of his reprimand was impossible.
I didn't bow, didn't wince, didn't talk back. I pivoted, returned to the scene of the crime, and flushed.
He could have rolled his eyes, but he didn't. Don't think him thoughtful or forgiving, for heaven's sake. He's a cat, and it's verily beneath him even to recognize my incivility. He put his paws up on the stool and never looked at me because what is always clear is that I really don't matter much at all.
This Calvinist has no need of a conscience. I've got Benny.
*From March, 2015, reprinted in memory of Benny Schaap, 17, who last week suffered a quiet, peaceful death at the vet's office, after spending two long days in pain that left him barely able to walk. He is mourned by the long-time friends with whom he shared a life in his country home, Jim and Barb Schaap, especially Barb who, with undying love, kept him well-fed and his sandbox clean. Bennie has been a beloved member of the Schaap family since 2001, although, in our profound grief, we may be overstating.
Benny was born in Quincy, IL, in 2000; lived a full and happy life in Sioux Center, IA; spent his retirement years just outside of Alton, IA; and died, April 7, 2017. He is buried in the field behind his country home.