My Cat is Ruining My Credit–headline on thebillfold.com.
It was coming down to the wire, as always around this time of the year. I had made discreet inquiries of my wife as to what she’d like for Christmas, and she had answered me, in her roundabout way, by saying she’d like a silver chain of “just the right length.” I assumed she meant to go around her neck, not mine.
Note the lack of precision as to exactly how long is “right” and–more importantly–how much this was going to set me back. I’ve always thought it was a bit circular to buy a spouse a gift from a joint checking account, and so as a matter of honor, I always dip into my earnings as a highly unsuccessful free-lance writer and blogger to pay for her presents. As a result, whatever she wanted, things would be tight.
I logged into my account at the local bank that had been acquired by a Pennsylvania bank that had subsequently been gobbled up by a Spanish “banco”–if I remembered my Esperanto correctly, that meant it was still a bank and not a bullfighting supply company. After successfully remembering my user name, password and wife’s mother’s maiden name, I checked my credit limit to find it was–$13.62?
“That can’t be right,” I cried out loud, causing Rocco, our tuxedo cat to grumble “Pipe down.”
“Have you guys been using my credit card again?”
“I thought it was a debit card,” Rocco said, not answering the question.
“It’s a payment card–whatever,” I began, but he cut me off.
“‘It’s not a whatever!'” he said, throwing back at me the words I’ve used for years in a vain effort to eradicate this solecism from our household.
“You’re not being responsive,” I said, but I knew there was no point arguing–he’d just go back to sleep, so I began to scroll through the recent transactions for evidence of perfidy, defalcation and yellow, waxy buildup.
“What’s this?” I said with what I hoped was the tone of a disciplinarian. “12/04/16 PET-O-RAMA $42.97.”
Rocco is rarely at a loss for words, but he’s also not the most–how shall I put this–unselfish cat in the world. Even though he’s younger than Okie by two years, he’s the alpha male of the house, pushing past his older brother at the catfood bowl like a frat bro elbowing aside a pledge on pizza night.
“I don’t know,” he said with the most innocent face he could muster. “Let me talk to the Oak-man.”
He nudged Okie, who rolled over as far as his ever-expanding girth would allow.
“Whuh?” Okie replied in a dull tone. He’s a good-looking cat, and as a result he’s never needed to sharpen his wits to get by in the world. In his beautiful mind, dull is good.
“Dad has a question,” Rocco said. “Some money’s missing from the pathetic proceeds of his ‘writing’ income.” I tell you, nothing hurts more than a cat who feels the need to make air quotes with his paws when discussing my career as a man of letters.
“I didn’t do it,” Okie said, then took a few desultory lick at his stomach fur and went back to sleep.
I gave Rocco the once-over, in the manner of Sgt. Joe Friday processing a suspect’s preposterous alibi. “So–you know nothing?”
“What more could I possibly want?” Rocco said. “I have everything a cat could need. Dry Iams Low-Cal cat food for less active cats–and all the chipmunks I can eat out back.”
His demeanor–as prosecuting attorneys like to say–was his testimony. He was a bit too flip, a common mistake of miscreants trying to beat the rap. The better thespic approach is a low-key monotone, geared to induce torpor in one’s interrogators–and try saying that five times fast.
Just then the doorbell rang, and when I answered it I was greeted by a UPS man carrying a big box from–wait for it–Pet-O-Rama, the domestic animal superstore that offers a full money-back guarantee if your kid gets leprosy from a gecko.
“What’s this?” I asked the delivery man. What I really wanted to ask him was whether it was true, as reported in The Washington Post, that the UPS uniform is an irresistible aphrodisiac to bored housewives.
“Delivery for a Mr. Rocco Chapman–sign right here,” the guy said.
There was nothing I could do at that point but grin and bear it, so after casting my best I-thought-so glare back at Rocco, I moved the little pen across the screen on the guy’s hand-held device, using the ruffles-and-flourishes signature I developed in fifth grade when I ran for class president.
“So–this comes as a total surprise to you, huh?” I said to Rocco.
“Shhh–don’t wake him–it’s a surprise for Okie.”
I was, to say the least, taken aback. Rocco–buying a gift for the brother he mauls on a daily basis, as if the many chew toys we’ve bought him over the years are no substitute for fresh cat flesh? “That was . . . very nice of you,” I said, a bit chagrined that I’d mistrusted his motives.
“Open it up–quietly. I want it to be a surprise!”
I was cast back in time to the Christmas Eves of long ago when my wife and I would stay up late putting toys together for our sons. It was with a tear in my eye that I recalled those halcyon days, thinking to myself–what the hell is a halcyon?
When I had the Hugh-Hefner quality bed unpacked and assembled, Rocco put a paw to his lips in an exaggerated gesture to silence me, then crept up behind Okie and–whapped him squarely on the head. “Wake up, dingleberry–it’s Christmas!”
“Whuh?” Okie said, adjusting his eyes to the light.
“Look what Santa brought you!” Rocco exclaimed.
You could tell that he was moved; his eyes watered a bit, and his whiskers twitched, like the recipient of a long-delayed lifetime achievement award about to make a speech. “This . . . you guys . . . thank you so much!”
“No problem,” Rocco said. “Dad paid for it, I shopped for it on-line.”
And with that, Rocco made his way into the new seraglio-like enclosed sleeping unit, where–after the obligatory three turns ’round to settle in–he lay down with a look of smug satisfaction on his face and watched as his dim-witted brother jumped into the empty cardboard shipping box and said–“I absolutely LOVE IT!”