How do you know when you’re home? In my case, when you sit on a cat.

The man who sat on a cat – yes, it sounds straight out of Oliver Sacks – was a man who originally sat in an armchair. He sat there because he was tired, at loose ends, and seeking the nurture of introspection. Staring at the wall, I describe it. So there I was, fresh from the Last Writer’s Disruption, a splendid two days in Monterey, ensconced and ready for writerly thoughts. When that other thing happens, writerly distraction. There is so much, everyone knows.

In this case, the household ecology is out of balance. One dog, Bixby, has accompanied Jane to a blessing-of-the-animals event at her church. The latter promising to be quite sweet. In fact, I would have been there myself, but for the peninsular geography. I had traveled enough for one day. The hundred-mile drive from Monterey came off without a hitch. That was enough. No need to go to San Francisco. But I digress. Without Bixby, there is Bella, or more precisely, the other dog and me.

There is also Paprika. Why is a black cat named after a red spice? If my memory serves me, and it usually doesn’t…. Jane’s daughter Eleanor originally adopted a couple of cats. And in the era of the Spice Girls, well, you get it. The other cat is named Nutmeg. Anyway, Jane has warned me about Paprika. “She doesn’t understand consequence,” Jane says. And this sums it up. The cat is very weak in the cause-and-effect department. So here’s what happened.

I had to pee. For someone with a quadriplegic bladder, this is run-of-the-mill. But I really had to pee because Paprika was on my lap. Again, more exactly, I was in my recliner chair, Paprika was in hers. Actually, I encouraged this. This black cat roams around the apartment looking rather lost. Or she has these many months since animals began to congregate downstairs, rather than in Jane’s apartment upstairs. It’s complicated. We live together downstairs, but Jane still has space upstairs, whatever.

So, I have to pee, which means I have to get one cat off my lap. Jane does this with relative ease. She sort of talks cat talk to them, suggests that it’s time to be someplace else, maneuvers the domesticated animal of choice out of the way…and so it goes. It does not go this way with me. First, I have less confidence in my ability to speak to cats. Also, I only have one available limb, and that one tends to be occupied with balance and stabilization. So I am standing up, or being stood up by the mechanical tilt chair, hoping that Paprika will finally get the hint. Which she does. Hopping directly onto my wheelchair.

Speaking of hopping, do remember that I have to pee. I try to bat her out of the way, but Paprika isn’t going anywhere. Surely if I make to sit down on the wheelchair she will get the idea. No. I sit down, practically squashing her, and this has no effect. Okay, there’s nothing to do, but perch lightly on the front of the wheelchair seat with one squashed cat behind me and roll to the bathroom. Unfortunately, this has taken too long. I almost make it, let us say.

As for two days in Monterey, well, they are always incomparable. Except for the other days in Monterey. But now I am back. And I have a cat to prove it.

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