I vaguely remember the pursuit of perfection. Long before my thoughts ran amok and lined up in a shared obsession. I think it started around freshman year. My English teacher had a poster behind her desk of a tabby cat clinging by it’s paws to a rope. Written below the cat read the pun, “Hang in there! Nobody’s purr-fect,” in bright pink script. The poster showed no indication of where the cat was relative to the ground, or how it got into its unfortunate, near-death situation. Every weekday, I stared at that poster. I repeatedly pondered its fate, watching it hover dangerously close to the assumption of subconscious motivation by Comic Sans and happy endings.
In religion, there are no posters, no neon colors. Sister Susanne said that cats have only one life; Not the nine I knew of and declared as a reasonable explanation as to why the Egyptians praised cats as gods. That comment ultimately got me a Saturday detention… (because innocent observations and inquiries of natural human behaviors have no place in Catholic Doctrine…not even in the 90s) …Which I righteously served during an uncharacteristically sunny, winter Saturday. Horrendously bored and deep in daydreams, ideas popped in and out of my brain. Flash in. Flash out. Flash in.
Yes! I finally thought of something for my English research paper, which would consist of an entire semester grade. To me, it was increasingly important. And my idea? It was perfect! I was to write about, The Horrors of Cat “De-claw-tion.” In honor of The Poster Cat, who would no doubt be in trouble if its’ owners decided to declaw him in a selfish, misinformed attempt to protect their Sears-Ikea Kingdom from minor imperfections. I imagined time slowing, the cat falling towards infinite darkness; Its American Gothic-looking owners run from their farmhouse in a panic to save their precious Poster Cat, only to trip over their own pitchfork, piercing their beloved beast and ultimately causing his demise. If only they had bought that scratching post instead of forcefully ripping out Poster Cat’s nails.
Weeks later, I anxiously wait in line during English class to discuss my research paper. This feeling is a revelation. The excitement I have to write it surprises my own will. I’ve never felt so passionate, not at school. It’s odd. Maybe I’m odd. I begin to tug at my shirt, twist and pull my hair. I feel I am about to do black-flips, I want to share my ideas so badly! The line shortens. I am getting closer and closer to Poster Cat. I am second in line now. Close enough then ever before. Close enough to notice some fine print at the bottom of the poster. I squint my eyes and focus. I already saw what it said, but I don’t understand… Next up! My turn, yes!
“Tell me about your brain-stor…”
“What does circle c, 1971 mean?” I blurt out while pointing to her poster.
“It’s the date it was created. Now lets discuss..”
“How long do cats live?” I interrupt again.
“About 15 years…Is this about your paper?” She tries to redirect. I don’t respond. I am concentrating on some math. Twenty-Eight. Poster Cat is 28. Poster Cat is dead?
“Did you do your brainstorming homework..” she sighs.
“Of course! …My research paper is about..about..hmmm..” It doesn’t seem like she is amused by my stalling attempts.
“…My paper is gonna be about..THE GUINNESS BOOK OF WORLD RECORD’S… THE WORLD’S OLDEST CAT!”