ME: I’m worried about you, Butch. What’s with you not eating lately?
BUTCH THE CAT: You’re thinking I might be sick.
ME: Yes. Maybe. I can’t tell.
BUTCH: It’s a bitch, I admit. We cats. We play that stuff close to the vest. Kind of hide it. When we’re sick, I mean. Seems like one day, everything’s catnip. Then bam. Deader than Dillinger.
ME: I’d rather you’d stay away from the outdated dead gangster metaphors. Particularly the dead part.
BUTCH: Suit yourself.
ME: I wish you could talk. Imagine if our companion animals could talk. Cats, dogs, guinea pigs, goldfish—
BUTCH: Pigs, snakes, hermit crabs, anteaters…
ME: Yeah. Yes. Though maybe not so much anteaters. If our animals could talk, then we wouldn’t have to worry. We’d know if they were sick or not. If only…
ME: Oh yeah. You can talk! Wow, it’s a miracle. So… are you sick?
BUTCH: Not sure. But I might have scurvy. Might, I’m saying.
ME: Really? Cats can get that?
BUTCH: Possibly. If they’re sailors especially.
ME: But you don’t have it, right?
BUTCH: I don’t think so. And I thought about the navy, but decided against it. It was the hats. I’d look ridiculous in a hat like that.
ME: So is anything wrong with you?
BUTCH: It might be a touch of leprosy.
ME: Oh my god. You have leprosy?
BUTCH: Probably not. Well, at least I think not. If my paw falls off in the middle of this conversation, then maybe yes.
ME: I don’t think cats can get leprosy.
BUTCH: But you’re not sure.
ME: No, I’m not.
BUTCH: You’re not sure about a lot of things.
ME: That’s true.
BUTCH: Like you’re probably not sure if you’re really having a conversation with me right now.
ME: That’s true—
BUTCH: Like maybe you’re just a loon. A loon who talks to cats.
ME (brow furrowing): Could be. It’s just I worry about you.
BUTCH: Shit, like you needed to tell me that. Your brain is a fear factory, you got like assembly lines cranking overtime in that flat little head of yours. All kinds of heat and choking fumes—
ME: Assembly lines in my brain?
BUTCH: Don’t interrupt me, I’m on a roll. Like I was saying, you got little kids up in your head, working twenty hours a day, slaving over your panicky thoughts. Child slave labor—I could be wrong—but didn’t they phase that out like a hundred freaking years ago? Might want to give it a break.
ME (sighing): If you tell me you’re alright, maybe I can.
BUTCH: You probably got kittens up there too, in that brain. Working them to death. Sweet little kittens. How could you?
ME: Butch. Your health. Are you alright?
BUTCH: So the other day. When you laid down to take your nap. In the late afternoon, the sun just so? The window open, the sparrows talking shit out there. Remember that?
ME: Yes! Yes I do. You jumped on the bed and came to me. You circled me for five minutes, stepped over me, kept poking your nose in my face. I didn’t know what was going on—
BUTCH: Making sure is all. Checking that everything was copacetic—
ME: And then you curled up right next to my chest. You spooned me. For the first time. I’ve had you for six years, and you’ve never ever done that before. That made me so happy.
BUTCH: Yeah, that was nice.
ME: It took so long… I knew you had a rough kittenhood. Why did it take so long for you to curl up with me like that?
BUTCH: You were patient. I’ll give you that.
ME: It was so… amazing. My arm cradling your whole body, like a baby.
BUTCH: Whoa, “baby”?
ME: Like a kitten, I mean.
ME: Yeah, and your face was tucked into the crook of my elbow. I could feel your cool breath on my skin. And your heartbeat—for the first time I could feel your heartbeat. I felt your energy… your being… sort of flow into me, if you can believe that. And vice versa. It was like our bodies were joined.
BUTCH: Yeah. That was nice. I liked your arm around me, that felt safe.
ME: Maybe it reminded you of the womb or something—
BUTCH: Let’s not get carried away, kay?
ME: Okay. So, please tell me. Is there anything wrong with you? Are you sick?
BUTCH: I think I’m gonna nap on the window sill for a bit. Catch you later.
ME: You’re not going to tell me, are you?
BUTCH: Relax. Go pound like five cups of coffee. For you, that’ll slide you down some. Pull you back from the edge. I probably have a few naps left in me. A few more naps in your arms. If you’re partial to that sort of thing.
ME: Of course! But you know… if you are sick. Now that you can talk, it’s like a fantastic opportunity to let me know—
BUTCH: Yeah, that reminds me. Now that I can talk. We should do something about my name. I think you can do better. We need something with more…. gravity. How about “Hannibal”?
ME: Are you kidding?
BUTCH: I’m as serious as J. Edgar Hoover. Oh. Hey look.
Butch gives me his paw.
BUTCH: My paw didn’t fall off. Guess you can definitely rule out leprosy.