The coffee pot blackness of night has given way to a steely eyed grey sky but still, at this early hour, the only light in the kitchen emanates from a trio of nightlights, each adorned with original artwork by my two daughters that’s been scaled down to the size of a super-sized Saltine cracker. There are dishes, a whisk, forks, spoons and other utensils, an 8″ frying pan, and a few more remnants of last night’s dinner leaning up against each other like a Home Ec puzzle on a damp drying mat on the counter to the left of the kitchen sink.
The taupe tile of the kitchen floor is unforgiving and cold, and a shiver travels up my legs and through my spine. I shake a little, throwing off the chill like a wet dog. All three of our cats are there with me. The new one, the fuzzy bully, is a few paces in from the hallway, in the room’s narrowest space, between the fridge and the cabinet we store shit we rarely use, the tortilla warmer, french onion soup crocks and the like. From there, she has a clear path to bolt to her safe zones, the comforter on my oldest daughter’s bed or the guest bathroom where her litter box sits, should the situation become too tense. On some mornings, it does. She cries the loudest for what she wants, wails of need and want and desperation, on repeat and shuffle and the batteries never wear out.
The oldest cat, a chill-to-the-point-of-occasional-worry orange tabby, lies half on the scratchy oval rug by the back door, half off of it, in the position closest to the food bowls to ensure she’s the first to taste breakfast, and with a clear sightline of the loud bully. Finally, the quieter than a whisper, sleek and smooth grey third sister cat completes the ‘L’ shape of the feline AM alignment, out of view of the bully, on the other side of the bowls, in the dining room, sitting up like the shadow of an Egyptian statue and waiting patiently, silently, nervously.
This is every morning, so this was also today, three cats on Inauguration day.
Each of the three cats want the same thing, food, wet food to be exact, Fancy Feast wet food with gravy to be extremely specific, meat or fish, doesn’t really matter. Just crack it open and give it to them. 5 minutes ago would have been preferred.
They all want the same thing yet they have radically different approaches in how they go about encouraging the humans with whom they share this space to dole it out into their three bowls. One is loud, active, ready to pounce, bite, flee or eat, preferably eat. The others are more still, their volume graded down to barely a peep, eyes focused on our feet and each other, ears pricked up high for the coming sound of a metal butter knife sliding beneath aluminum tin and the elation that is the poof of air as it first escapes the can.
Three cats fret, every single morning, worried this will be the day, finally, their worst fears realized, that they miss out on what they want and need and crave. The routine, the historical data of constant pre-dawn feedings, the love and care and attention they received regularly, none of that matters when you’re always worried about the other shoe dropping, about a life being turned upside down, about all of the things you cannot control for yourself.
The kitchen floor is still cold as the sun rises and fills in the spaces where the nightlights can’t reach, so I put on a thick pair of socks, turn on the tea kettle for my wife, watch as all three cats munch and then wander away to find a warm place to curl up, and I start again.