The Training of a Kitten
Her eyes narrowed as she watched the thin black cord carefully. Unexpectedly, the cord twitched, and her instincts took control. One swift paw darted out, lightning against the brown shag carpet, and batted at the snake-like cord three times in quick succession.
“Hold! You failed it again, Frisky.”
The feline slumped, and looked up warily at the tall grey male jumping down from his perch at the window. Only a few months older, and already a Master, he was the natural choice as her instructor.
“I've told you a thousand times, not everything that moves is alive. You cannot become prey to your instincts.”
“I know that,” Frisky replied, a little more testily than necessary. “I couldn't help it. It was just... instinct,” she finished lamely.
Blue walked over and casually slumped his large grey body onto the floor against the wall. “A cat's instincts are to be used and trained, not to be permitted to control the cat. Have you been working on those training exercises I assigned you last week?”
“Of course,” retorted Frisky, leaving the black cord where it lay and sauntering over to the nearby water dish.
“And?” Blue's golden eyes, unusually bright, paced her every move. Only the twitch of his tail belied any impatience.
“And what?” Frisky answered back, far too busy with her water to bother being congenial.
“How did you do with the computer screen?”
Frisky turned from the water dish and sat, curling her tail about her feet as she'd been taught. “I did just fine. I watched the little white arrow move back and forth across the screen for a full five minutes – without trying to bat at it!”
“Good, and the faucet?”
Frisky blinked one eye, then lifted a paw to lick. “Actually, I don't find that one much of a challenge. I don't find water all that fascinating.” She lowered her paw and looked directly at her instructor. “Unlike some cats.”
Blue didn't reply.
“Really, I don't see what all the big deal is,” Frisky continued. “So what if I'm a little slow at cord-watching? I haven't bitten one yet, have I? That's the real danger. I think we should move on.”
“How are you ever to become a Master Spy if you continually push on before actually mastering a skill? The secret to becoming a Master is first developing complete control over your instincts and only then evincing a sense of apathy towards everything in existence. The apathy is useless to you without the skill mastery.” The tall cat raised himself from his floor-spot. “Come on, I think it's time I showed you one of the most dangerous things in a living-space.”
The two cats padded slowly down the carpeted hallway and turned the corner into one of the mid-sized rooms of their living-space. The two important pieces of furniture were the ottomans, one blue, one purple. Frisky knew this room. This was the room where their people sometimes sit to watch the glowing movement on the wall. She sat by the door.
Blue continued in a few steps, then jumped up to lounge on the bright blue ottoman. “Come up here, you'll have a better view.”
Frisky leaped up to the purple ottoman, but remained standing, facing the futon sofa.
“What are a cat's biggest weaknesses? Besides food, I mean.”
“Laundry, mats, sleeping people, sun spots, windows and baskets,” Frisky recited.
“Good. Now, what's the difference between a blanket and laundry?”
“A blanket is more dangerous, because it is both laundry and smells of sleeping people.”
“Excellent. Now look on that futon, there. You see that pale grey blanket? That's a cat-trap. Cat-traps are the most dangerous exploitation of a cat's weaknesses known to feline-kind.”
“What do you mean, cat-trap? Why isn't it just a blanket?” Frisky leaned closer, trying to catch a whiff of what might be dangerous about it. Cautiously, she stepped onto the futon.
“This already dangerous object is made of a new kind of material, a material so soft that a cat's instinctual reaction is to knead it. The very fibers dull the senses by setting off every pleasure-sensing node in the brain, and a cat has no option but to continue to knead the blanket, and begin to purr. Once a cat is caught, it's almost impossible to get away. This stuff is becoming more and more common, too, so we need to be watchful....” Blue trailed off. It was useless. Frisky was caught.
One paw had touched the corner of the grey blanket experimentally, and once again, instincts kicked in. Now both paws were kneading their claws deeply in to the lush microfibers; her deep-throated purr had already begun and was gaining volume. Frisky's eyes had begun to roll back and were even now half closed.
Blue sighed and tucked in his paws. He would wait. Eventually, Frisky's purring began to slow. Her eyes closed. She curled into a ball on top of the cat-trap and was fast asleep.
(For Frisky, and in memory of Blue)