I’m sure this never happens to you.
But sometimes, some humans let their mouths and their egos outrun their smarts and their sanity.
Believe it or not, some cats do the same thing.
You could say that Steven talks a big game.
In defense of our sandy little soul, it’s not that he’s without reason to believe he knows a thing or twelve. Steve has been at Tabby’s Place for five years. That’s five years longer than many of his roommates. You can swagger and thunder and otherwise be Tom Jones Angus as much as you like, but you can’t fake seniority.
Think of Steven as the fifth-grader at the back of a busload of kindergartners. Swami-like, he sits serene, all too happy to tell the awed hordes all he knows. He dispenses his years of knowledge like pearls: “The nurse keeps the Batman bandaids in a separate box, so you have to ask for them. Every day after recess, Mrs. Butterwhistle eats a gigantic black-and-white cookie behind the school. The lunch lady really does eat kids who don’t finish their peas. And there are always fish sticks on Thursdays.”
It’s easy to impress the uninitiated.
Unfortunately for Steven, every cat thinks he’s not only initiated, but also the only true and righteous Initiator of All Things.
Fortunately for Steven, humans are a lot easier to impress.
And so he talks his big game.
It happens without fail. I will be giving kindly visitors a tour of Tabby’s Place unassisted…until we reach Suite B. This was always the “model suite” I used to show folks the whole ramp-tube-solarium shebang. I used to think it was because this was the most easygoing group of cats.
Then I learned that it’s because I need help.
No sooner do I crack the door to Suite B, than Steven springs up and streaks up the ramp. He stops short at the tube, poised for action and awaiting his cue, his tiny, close-together eyes trained on me. The moment I take the kindly visitors out into the hall, Steven sets out on a calculated mosey, ambling at precisely the right pace for the visitors to marvel at him and say, “Ohhh, that’s how it works.”
The instant our feet cross the solarium threshold, Steven skitters down the outside stairs, taking two at a time to hit the floor just as we do. If his beady little eyes could speak, they’d be squealing in a vaguely French accent, “And zeees is zee solaaarium of zee reech and faaaahmooous!”
Steven’s shtick is more consistent than the creepy chanting dolls in It’s a Small World. He is the ultimate tour guide. His timing is impeccable. It would appear that this, this, is the man with the master plan, who has the skills to pay the bills.
The game of which he has spoken is big — immeasurably vast.
And then the visitors swoop in to pet him.
Suddenly and just as surely, Steven becomes very, very confused. He’ll trot halfway back up the ladder, double back down, get hissed at by Violet, circle around the visitors, look at me accusingly (“Why did you make me come out here?”), then try to remember what, if anything, he knows. Suddenly our fifth-grade ace is surrounded by eleventh-grade trump cards, and all he can say is essentially “Guhhh….”
Even after five years, Steven doesn’t know exactly what the solarium is. He doesn’t know Vladimir Putin from Weird Al Yankovic. He doesn’t know the difference between Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason and his Critique of Practical Reason. Actually, he’s not even 100% solid on what the whole litter box thing is all about (which is the main reason Steven still hasn’t been adopted after five years).
On the spot and made the center of attention, Steven seems to not know much. But…he knows he loves you.
And that may be all he needs to know.*
Back on his game, Steven will remember who he is and what he’s really come here for, and start rubbing legs with all his might.
He’s no swami. He’s not the Great Gatsby.
But his tour is still the one that you will take again and again.
*And if you are now finding yourself incapable of not doing a very bad Aaron Neville impression, I love you and we should be best friends.
Photo credits from de top: AT, Heather X2, Mark, Jess B, AT.