Five a.m. and I’m up before my alarm goes off. I let Okie, the old grey tabby, out of the basement and open the back door to let in Rocco, the young buck of a tuxedo cat.
“It’s about time you got up,” Rocco says as he jumps up on a chair for a scratching. “A little too much red wine last night?”
“I had a long day Monday,” I say as I lie down on the floor to start my yoga. “I’m entitled.”
“Speaking of entitled,” Rocco says, “before you get all mellified, is there any food in the bowl?”
“Maybe I missed something,” I say as I close my eyes and begin to relax my body from toes to head. “What did you ever do around here to be entitled to anything?”
“Check the back steps,” he says with a cocky tone. “Last night was a two-mouse night.”
“Weren’t they an awful band of the ’70’s?” I ask.
“You’re thinking of Three Dog Night,” Okie says. He listens to an oldies station during the day. “‘Jeremiah was a bull frog!’”
“Right, right,” I say. “There should be food in the bowl.”
Okie has reached the point in his life–49 in cat years–where he benefits from yoga too, and he takes his position next to me.
We lie there, trying to become one with the sounds of the spring morning; birds chirping, the wind rustling through the trees. The stillness is broken only by the sound of Rocco out in the kitchen, crunching on Iams low cal-low fat cat food, dropping pieces on the floor he’s eating so fast. I look at Okie–we know what’s coming next.
Sure enough, a half minute later we hear the sound of barfing from the dining room. At least he’s smart enough to pick the Oriental rug that I like, but which my wife despises.
“When will you ever learn,” I say to Rocco as I grab a paper towel and wipe up the mess.
“Hey, I’m a guy. That’s how guys eat,” Rocco says as he takes a drink of water.
“Guys don’t have to eat like pigs,” I say as I deposit the towel in the garbage. “If you’d do something to calm yourself down it would help.”
“Like yoga,” Okie says from the living room.
“Thank you,” I say as I lie down beside him.
“Give . . . me . . . a . . . break,” Rocco says with disgust. “I’m a hunter. I need to keep my edge. If I don’t, this place will be overrun with mice, not to mention chipmunks. Yoga is for old farts like you two.”
“Not necessarily,” I say. “I got into it when I was in my twenties.”
“So that would have been right after the Middle Ages ended?” Rocco asks sarcastically.
“At least you don’t see him throwing up after every meal,” Okie says as he rolls his eyes backwards and crosses his legs.
“No, but I’ll bet he used to back in his twenties,” Rocco says.
“I’ll admit, there were some nights when I had too much to drink,” I say.
” . . . this month,” Rocco adds, sotto voce.
” . . . but yoga helps me pace myself.”
“Puh-lease,” Rocco says. “I’ll bet you got into yoga for the same reason 99% of guys do.”
“What’s that?” I ask, genuinely interested in his stupid, stereotypical view.
“To watch chicks in leotards doing contortions.”
“Well, there is that benefit if you take classes. But that wasn’t me. I always did it by myself, in the privacy of my bedroom.”
“With your Nude Yoga book hermetically sealed in a giant Zip-Loc plastic bag to keep the pages from sticking together after your . . . uh . . . routine, right?” Rocco adds cynically.
“That’s one muscle you don’t stretch with yoga,” I say as I fold myself into a Lotus position.
“You know, Rock,” Okie says as he stands up. “I think if you tried yoga it would really help you get rid of some of the negative aspects of your personality.”
“Me? Negative? I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Rocco says defensively.
“Let me give you a few examples,” Okie says, settling himself down as if he’s about to deliver a 50-minute college lecture. “If I take ‘your’ spot on the back of the couch, you get all pissy.”
“It is my spot.”
“When I’m eating, you pull your alpha-male routine and knock me out of the way.”
“If you’re not the lead dog, the view never changes,” Roc says sharply. “I’m #1–I’m #1,” he chants with one paw up in the air.
“Whenever mom or dad opens the door to let us out, you have to go first,” Okie continues. “Are you beginning to get the picture?”
While they’ve been jawing at each other, I’ve progressed to the cobra pose, the one exercise I absolutely must do to relieve pain in my lower back, the daily reminder of my glory days as defensive captain of my freshmen high school football team.
Rocco is silent for a moment. “Perhaps you’re right,” he says finally. “I suppose I could use some help relieving the stress that comes with being the top producer of mouse and chipmunk carcasses around here.”
“That’s terrific Roc,” I say, trying to encourage any sign of maturation I see in him. “I’ll let Okie show you a few basic poses.”
“Here’s one you’ve got to try,” Okie says, as he lifts one of his back legs behind his head. “This is called the Eka Pada Sirsasana pose.”
“What’s so special about it?” Rocco asks as he watches.
“It’s the quickest way to reach nirvana.”
“The American rock band formed by singer/guitarist Kurt Cobain and bassist Krist Novoselic in Aberdeen, Washington in 1987?” Rocco asks. He prefers grunge to the ’70’s pap that Okie listens to.
“No, the state of being free from suffering in sramanic thought,” I add, trying to bring us together as a family.
“And why is that?” Rocco asks.
“Do you know of any other way,” Okie says with a sly smile, “that a cat can lick his own balls?”
Available in Kindle format on amazon.com as part of the collection “Cats Say the Darndest Things.”