I got a cat last week. Correction – last week a cat got me. Because no human owns a cat. Cats may have been the first wild creatures to co-habit with humans, but unlike dogs, they have never let humans dominate them.
My cat is only eight weeks old, but he already runs my household. Wrong again – HIS household! He determines when I shall wake up. By licking the end of my nose, so far.
He has found his own private cave between my pillows, where he spends the night. Unless he decides to wake up long enough to walk across my head.
I expected him to play with my computer mouse – cat and mouse, you know. I didn’t expect him to take naps on my keyboard. Now I know how those computer nerds come up with weird passwords, like 8[UEVrn#ds-ibJEtb&iSio&hf. They invite a kitten to pounce on their keyboard.
Fortunately, today’s computer programs are a little more stable than they used to be. In the early days of personal computers, a previous cat jumped up onto my keyboard and erased 40 pages of laboriously inputted text in a single flash. The screen flickered once and went dark. I asked the geek at Radio Shack what combination of keys could erase so many pages, o quickly. He said there was no such combination. It wasn’t possible; it couldn’t have happened.
My cat knew better.
This current kitten, by the way, is named Dickie. Because he has a little white dickie under his chin. Anybody remember dickies? I’m betraying my age, again.
Just to be sure, I looked up the word. Concise Oxford defines “dicky” or “dickie” as a man’s false shirt front.
While I had my dictionary open, I also looked up “innocent.” I can trace Dickie’s progress through the house by listening for things hitting the floor. Things like my sunglasses. A cactus plant. A souvenir statuette. Sacrifices to the great god Gravity, I suppose.
And then his big eyes look so innocent as I clean up the vase of flowers.
“Innocent” has multiple meanings: Not guilty, in the legal sense. Sinless, unacquainted with evil. Guileless, harmless…
I feel a a certain lack of clarity here.
Because little Dickie is certainly not “not guilty” of knocking over that milk jug. Especially when he’s sitting in the puddle licking up the evidence against him. But is acting like a furry wrecking ball a sin? Does “sin” require intent to do harm?
Is he “innocent” because he didn’t mean to tip that package of Cheerios?
Who would have expected an eight-week-old kitten to spur such ponderous reflections?
We talk about young children being innocent. The most famous use of the term may be the biblical Massacre of the Holy Innocents, when bad King Herod had every male child in Bethlehem under two years old slaughtered, to eliminate the possibility that one of those children might someday usurp his throne.
Those boys certainly had no harmful intent. Not yet, anyway. But two-year-old boys are hardly harmless. Ask any sleep-deprived mother.
Dickie stands over the debris of his wanderings, wide-eyed. He’s innocent. And he’s guilty. Both at once.
Like small children. And maybe like me.
Jim Taylor lives in Lake Country: firstname.lastname@example.org.