Dharma missed the pot smoke and the bongos.
The pot smoke didn’t do much for him — he was already a fairly chill soul, as The Man with the Long-Tailed Typewriter and his friends used to say — but it made them more like cats. They slept more, they lolled more on the furniture, they ate less politely, and they contemplated the subtle vibrations of the universe.
The bongos just kind of reminded him of the soft patter of his own feet on rooftops.
It was not Dharma’s choice to be taken in by the Wilsons, and it definitely was not his choice to be renamed “Mittens.” He had no mittens, not even white dabs on his paws, but Juney always wanted a cat named Mittens and here he was.
Here he was, listening to Juney’s soft cooing, to the rasp and squeak of Mrs. Wilson’s needle through fabric, to the crackle of Mr. Wilson’s newspaper and the sizzle of his ulcer, and to the yowling of the radio box as Junior turned the dial.
While wearing a tie. A fucking tie. That made him the worst of all.
Though Dharma was aware that yes, all life was suffering if we chose to think it so, the Wilsons were a unique and trying form of it. Were they as natural as the wind and the lightning, they could be endured as signs that all things were in their order. But they were not natural: they built their mediocrity, cultivated it, gave away all their spirit to other people on the other sides of TVs and radios.
The Wilsons, to Dharma’s knowledge, had never spray-painted an old school bus and rode across the country in it. They had never thrown beer bottles at the cops. They had never given a ride to an old hobo on his way to the Capitol. They had never spread open their arms at the edge of the Grand Canyon. They had never run naked into the surf, and the only sex the elder Wilsons had was arranged with all the clanking majesty of someone jumping on garbage cans.
There really was no way of getting around the fact that the Wilsons were complete squares.
For the last three months, Dharma had been quietly measuring each Wilson in his mind. Three of them disappeared every day, perhaps on a hunt though they never returned with much, and the fourth — Mrs. Wilson — stayed in the house. She did a lot of whistling while the record player turned and her hands were often in water.
What was different about her was that she cried. Often around one in the afternoon, she’d sit on the couch with her hands on her knees, staring at the clock. About five minutes would pass, and then she would sob. Sometimes she was quiet but others she really let it out, almost a primal scream. Almost a poem, a wordless poem.
When Mrs. Wilson would write her thank you letters, Dharma would pace across the paper with his tail in her face, trying to tell her to write something else.
That was Dharma’s only sign that someone in the Wilson house had even the glimmer of a soul, and it changed his plans from simple escape to an escape-and-rescue. He had slowly built her trust over the last three months by following her through the house and curling up on her lap at the crying time, and he was pretty sure that if he ran, she’d come after him.
True, Dharma had no real idea where The Man With the Long-Tailed Typewriter had gone; it was his disappearance on another bus trip that left Dharma vulnerable to Animal Control, after all. In the end, it didn’t matter because Dharma would simply keep running, slow enough that she could still follow even in heels.
They could find the old cottage easy. And if the bus wasn’t back, Dharma supposed they could always find one of their own, along with a Long-Tailed Typewriter for Mrs. Wilson.
Tomorrow, he thought, his paws flexing on Juney’s lap with impatience. Tomorrow this bullshit was over.
Tomorrow they were gone.