A couple of weeks ago, Texas lawyer Rod Ponton appeared before Judge Roy Ferguson’s virtual Judicial District Court in Texas as an adorable, little cat. It was a “faux paw” viewed around the world. Is Ponton actually a cat? “Catsolutely” not. Somehow the Zoom filter on his secretary’s computer was set on “cat.”
When I first saw the “catastrophe,” I laughed so hard it induced a coughing fit. I laughed (and coughed) so hard my partner came running down the hall from the other room. “What’s the matter? Are you OK?” He found me gagging for breath on the bed, red in the face, trying not to wet my pants. The second I regained use of my faculties, I showed him the video on my phone. He laughed and laughed hard, but his lungs are better than mine, so there wasn’t concern that he might go into “catdiac” arrest.
“The Late Late Show” with James Corden suggested show titles if the cat lawyer premise was optioned for TV: “Furry Friday;” “The Furry DA;” “Clawyers;” “The Cat’s Meow;” or my favorite “Claw and Order.”
“Cat Lawyer” would be a shoo-in for a TV series or Disney movie. I grew up on episodes of “Bewitched” where Endora was perpetually transforming her son-in-law into this and that — a pony, a werewolf, a toad, a billy goat. Shapeshifting is old “cat” for me. Native American creation stories and legends are full of all kinds of shapeshifters. So, when a lawyer shows up in virtual court as a cat, maybe it’s not a Zoom filter. Maybe he really is a cat, despite his plea to the contrary: “I’m here live. I’m not a cat.”
Sometime last year, my partner, Jay, left me to go housesit a friend’s four cats. For one week I indulged in A: Solitude. B: The toilet lid being put down where Goddess intended it should be. And C: Splaying my limbs out on the bed like a starfish.
Ah, the novelty of having the house to myself after weeks of nonstop “togetherness,” after weeks of quarantine. The “solitude” was short-lived, however, because within an hour Jay messaged me the first dispatch of what was to become the cats’ videography. For the rest of the week, I received one cat video after another.
But who could blame him? The cats were as irresistible as runway models, pouty, enigmatic, replete with “a smoky eye.” The cats also bore names that were similar to runway models — Tia, Gadget, Nutmeg and Cricket.
Among his responsibilities, Jay was tasked with herding them all inside before dark for inventory, rather “fur-ventory,” or “feline-tory.” Usually they came willingly, but once or twice Jay had to search for them in the yard with a flashlight and cat treats. “Ah, a cat whisperer.” I texted back at him. “You have your work cut out for you, good luck.”
He has a special way with cats, he says he speaks their language. He often speaks “cat” with me, meowing whenever he enters a room, for instance. Meowing when wants to excuse himself. Anything more advanced than that and I don’t understand.
I don’t understand a lot of things that he easily understands, so I consult with him often. One night I was reading an article out loud to him while he was drifting off to sleep. The article discussed how western literature’s origins derive from theological texts. The article mentioned Calvin. I asked Jay if he’d read Calvin, and in a half-asleep state he said, “You mean Calvin and Hobbes?”
Every few weeks, Jay asks me if we should adopt a cat. “Should we get a cat?”
“Sure.” I tell him. “I’d like to have Siamese cats, but like, conjoined.”
Our landlords don’t allow cats, but we get the sense they could be persuaded. “I’ll make them an offer they “cat’nt” refuse.” Jay says as if he’s a cat godfather, in addition to a cat sitter, a cat whisperer, and a fluent cat speaker; “Cat as a second language, CSL.”
CSL fluency would sure come in handy for the cat lawyer. I’ve watched that video about a hundred times now, and it never gets old.
Tiffany Midge is a citizen of the Standing Rock Sioux Nation and was raised by wolves in the Pacific Northwest. Her book of essays “Bury My Heart at Chuck E. Cheese’s” was a finalist for a Washington State Book Award. She enjoys composting and frisky walks through dewy meadows. Midge lives in Moscow.