There once was a little kitten. No, not the kitten I wrote a story about one week for Backstage Passes. Definitely a different kitten. A very different kitten.
Oh, fine. It’s the same kitten. So I’m reusing characters. So what?
This kitten had had a hard time going outside. Which is as much to say as it didn’t. Not after its first experience with snow, which is probably like a person’s first experience with horseradish: you either like it or you don’t. And, in this case, the kitten didn’t like it.
In the last story, wherein the kitten realized that there was probably maybe some benefit to going outside after paying me good money to sit around and ask it questions containing answers that it decided it had come up with all on its own, wondering what I was doing with my life being a psychologist to my friends’ nine week old kitten.
The only problem with this picture (I mean, aside from the obvious) was that the kitten wasn’t paying me out of its own money. Let’s be serious: I can be a kitten psychologist all I want, but we have to admit that a kitten having its own income stream at nine weeks stretches credibility quite thin. Which is as much to say as that this kitten had mastered the use of arcane computer enchantments and pulled the money from my friends’ – its owners’ – bank account.
Frankly, I thought my friends would have figured it out on their own. It might have been a bit cowardly of me to wait until they got a clue and started investigating but either this kitten was more clever than I thought or my friends had an awful memory for their own spending habits. I’m not actually sure which is more concerning, but I had plenty of concern on hand to spend no matter which it turned out to be.
In other words, while my friends were out of the country a couple of weeks later, I house-sat. And, as I sat the house, I had a conversation with my friends’ kitten.
“You really have to stop this,” I said.
“I don’t pay you to have an opinion,” the kitten said with a swish of its tail.
“You pay me to be a psychologist. That’s exactly the same as paying me to have an opinion.”
“What happened to unbiased objectivity?”
“Fine. In my unbiased, objective opinion, you have to stop this.”
The kitten tapped its chin. “Stop what?”
“Paying me from my friends’ bank account without their knowledge or consent.” As if it didn’t already know.
“If you don’t like it, I can always find another psychologist…”
“That’s not the point.”
“And how do you propose I tell them about it when the idea of my sentience is patently absurd to them? Certainly you can’t. They already think you’re crazy.”
Obviously, I was going to have to have a conversation with more than just the kitten. “And how would you inform a potential new psychologist of this patently absurd idea?”
“That’s different. They’re not my human. They aren’t used to me. They don’t have ingrained ideas or habits about me to contend with.”
I bit back a sarcastic remark about the strength of eleven week old habits. For the kitten, that was a lifetime. That and it wasn’t as if I hadn’t had plenty of ingrained habits and ideas of my own about the nature of kittens when this one hired me. I wondered if maybe I should have kept one or two of them. No amount of income was worth this trouble. Well. Perhaps not certain amounts of income.
“Well, just give it some thought and see what happens,” I finally said.
The kitten avoided me after that.
Which could have been the end of that, I suppose. Certainly it seemed like it, which I was a bit peeved about, to be sure. But, in a few days, I received an email:
Come at once. My humans are away. Sincerely, you know who.
I wondered if the kitten had finally got to my friends’ YA collection. That and I went.
“So, I told my humans.”
“How did they take it?”
“Now they’re seeing a psychologist.”
“You know-” the kitten stretched- “I’ve come to a realization.”
“This is a ridiculous situation. I’m a kitten. Why do I even need a psychologist?”
“Exactly. I should be going my wild way on my wild lone. Except…” it glanced at the couch. “…I don’t think I’m prepared to give up the amenities of my current living situation.”
“Oh, I’m not. This may not be ancient Egypt, but this is certainly something. Do you suppose you could talk to my humans? Now that I have, that is.”
And admit that I’d been complicit in what was essentially theft? Um. “No.”
“Drat. I had a feeling this was my fight.”
Sure. That’s exactly what it is.
“Well, do you have any advice on what I should do next? Some words of wisdom I’ll probably ignore when I inevitably come up with something better? Like nothing? I rather like the idea of doing nothing.”
“If you’ll just come up with something better, then why do you need my advice?” No, theft was too harsh a word. Underhanded dealing, perhaps?
“So, am I psychologist or court jester?”
“Whichever makes you feel better, I suppose.” The kitten yawned. “I’m going to have a nap. If you come up with something, email me. Or stop by. I’ll pay you as soon as you do.”
Who was I kidding? It was definitely theft. By the time I’d got home, I realized that. I also realized that, despite the fact that the kitten really should be acting responsibly with its humans, so should I with my friends. With a sigh, I picked up the phone.
I wondered how long I’d be paying them back.
Dear psychologist human,
I’m not entirely sure what you stood to gain by informing my humans of your part in all this. My intention had been for you to merely vouch for my sentience. You have done me a service, and it is right that you should be compensated in turn, not that you should throw that all away.
But no matter. We shall speak when you return from vacation. I think you will see things much more clearly when this is all over.
You know who.