The Cat

I had been to the office numerous times before. So much so in fact, they buzzed me in if I simply looked up at the security camera. The office was not your typical New York Construction Management affair of beige cubicles surrounded by early nineties motivational posters. This company was cutting edge. The girl on the front desk was neither dumb nor beautiful. The few cubicles that lay behind her were waist high and large as a church door. The ceiling was further from me than the other side of the room. Giant pieces of art clung to the cold bare exposed walls, static as they were incomprehensible. An oil painting of a piece of wood, a watercolor of a carpenter’s tool box and a badly charcoaled drawing of a welder’s glove.

One always grabbed my attention every time I entered. A three foot by four foot heavily framed photograph of a ship stuck on a sand dune after the tide had long since gone out. The irony of which I’m sure seemed to be lost on the funky cube dwellers in a similar situation – that is, if the boat represented their dreams and the receding ocean represented all time and happiness. It was all lost on me, not because its meaning was beyond me but that it simply had none. I love art, I love how it’s an underused vector of feelings, I love how it takes you places and I love how it exposes people for who they really are.

The art in this office was simply, sterile shite.

I was greeted by Mr. Peterson, a tall thin man in his fifties. Minimally polite he reminded me of an old sea captain without the tales. A man who had travelled the globe and saw nothing. He spoke with a serious tone regarding the most mundane of issues.  

– Colin, good to see you. Let’s walk to the back room and go over the drawings shall we?

Wow, what gravitas, this must be important. It wasn’t. It never is, I’ve worked at this long enough.

We were to discuss a new building we were constructing together in the west village, issues with the neighbors and permit delays. Just once during a meeting I wish we could discuss something truly unique or unusual. Like how the people in the neighboring building were aliens and required a wide berth…or something, I don’t know, something exciting.

– They call themselves Aqualdaburgs, they exist partially in this dimension and feed on the skin of the living. The government has settled them at this address as it’s right above the fifth polar tri-spike into tomorrow. There will be a delivery every Tuesday between 11am and 2pm of human skin from a local hospital. Do not make eye contact with the driver. There’s an agreement in place but if any of your laborers fail to turn up for work call us immediately and cover yourself in milk. Curl up into the fetal position, close your eyes and breath through your nose until we get there.       

Unfortunately it’s more like Lego for grownups.

I explained that my boss was parking the car and would be along shortly. He reacted as if I told him my boss was out on the street taking a dump and would be up as soon as he could wipe his arse on the next passing child. He left me alone as I waited for my bosses fresh arsed arrival.

I passed the time watching the office cat make its rounds through the over sized cubicles past various employees collecting affection. I had seen it do this before and had also noticed previously that there was something, well, off about the cat. It was a clumsy little fucker. It was bright white, over weight and very old. It tripped over itself, banged it’s head on the printer, and stared off into space before totally miss-timing an easy leap from one desk to another. Graceful this cat was not but the staff loved it. Judging by the atmosphere in the place it was probably the only living creature anyone loved. This was the type of trendy workplace that a cat like this could only exist as some type of ironic non-cat.

– Yeah it’s our office cat but it doesn’t act like one. It likes to flop around like a dog but that’s cool. Whatever, we don’t judge it.

Perhaps the person buying the art also bought the cat. That made sense.

Their minimal hospitality towards me may have fuelled this animosity I had towards the cat. They loved it, regardless of its inability to be a simple agile cat.

It was loved.

I was being tolerated.

It is a cat.

I am a human being.

My boss arrived and the meeting began. As soon as Mr. Peterson sat down the cat was rubbing against his legs. Minutes later it hopped up onto the desk and was stalking the blueprints tripping over pencils and giving us each a thousand yard stare.

What the fuck is wrong with this cat?

My mind drifted from my job to the look I was receiving from this feline fuckwit. It surely knew me from all the other times I visited the office.

Why is this cat bugging me so much?

Mr. Peterson rubbed its back as it stared at me like a spoilt child. Why was it staring at me, or at something near me? No it was staring at me. Wait, maybe something behind me. It was staring near me? That’s when after all these visits I suddenly realised what it was about this particular cat that unsettled me. Before my mind could tell my mouth to not say it, my ears heard it.

– Mr. Peterson, do you know that your cat is cross-eyed?

The meeting stopped. Silence. My boss glared at me. Mr. Peterson’s droning eased to a freeze. He slowly looked at the cat and then back to me. Without a hint of emotion and with that pointlessly traveled gravitas he stated matter-of-fact.

– No it is not.

And then continued with the meeting as if nothing happened. My boss threw me a few more bewildered looks. I focused as best as I could on my notebook and scribbled away with notes but my mind drifted again.

Why did I say that?

Scribble, scribble.

That cat is cross-eyed!

Scribble, scribble.

Why would he deny the fact that his cat is cross-eyed? They could get it fixed. These guys are loaded!

Before I knew it the meeting was over. We shook hands and Mr. Peterson retired to the back office while the cat meandered in that general direction, sorta, kinda. It was hard to tell where it was going half the time to be honest.

Outside my boss cornered me. He knew me too well but asked the question anyway.

– Why did you tell Mr. Peterson that his cat was cross-eyed?

All I could think was the truth.

– Because it was.

– You don’t have to say the first thing that comes into your head you know.

– I didn’t mention the art work, I mean what’s up with that crap?

– He collects that crap. He also pays our fucking bills so keep a fucking lid on it in future.

I was in the wrong, I knew it.

– He has money, he could at least get his cat fixed. That’s all I’m saying.

I meant it, the image of that cat bumping around the art strewn office filled my belly up with stones. Who gives a flying fuck about your shitty art? Fix your cat.

He shook his head in disbelief and put it behind him.

– Go back to the office and work on those items Mr. Peterson wanted done by the end of the day.

I cut through the crowds to Union Square and got the L train back to the office. My mind was blank from the meeting. That boat, that fucking boat on the sand dune. I pulled out the notebook and opened it to assess the work I had to start. To my horror was the day’s date and three pages filled with various pictures of spirals, boats and of the cat.


How do I fix this?