Self Indulgence

Kage Baker sternly schooled herself to sit and write every day; in fact, most of every day and into the night. She didn’t always stop for meals – from experience, I recommend a desk with a pull-out self to one side for a writer, as it served her quite handily as a meal tray.

And this dedication was in spite of the fact that she did most of the cooking in our house. I’m an adequate cook – she was inspired. I happily served and did the dishes, in appreciation of the remarkable meals she made. Punctuated, of course, with the times we simply had to have Chinese food or fast food or simply the ultimate I am a grown up meal: ice cream for dinner. Kage favoured Irish Cream.

When she was too tired, distracted or bored – and yes, a writer can get bored with their own stuff, especially the long slogs between major scenes – she would often indulge herself in some recreational writing instead. She said it kept the neurons firing and the fingers nimble, and she didn’t have to think as much. Sometimes it was fanfic, sometimes it was childhood reminiscence, sometimes it was notes on future stories she wasn’t ready to write yet. And sometimes those turned into actual stories, and she found herself frantically writing two things at once: usually in turn. but often simultaneously.

I’d have been more sympathetic, except that that is the way I read. I simply cannot keep my hands off my TBR stack, or stop getting new books … if Kimberly hadn’t offered me space in her house, I’d be living under a bridge in a hovel made of boxes, full of books.

But I am really trying to write every day. However, this week has been a real hellhole of discomfort. I think my body is just tired of the heat and is considering quitting. I won’t let it, so it’s retaliating by refusing to work. The solution, obviously, is to write something indulgent. Like about coffee. The candies we enjoyed as children? Rating all the gas stations/rest stops on I-5 in terms of accessibility, hygiene, and demented snacks? (All, maybe, six of them …) No, I know! Pets! Cats!

Kage insisted that she hated cats. Nonetheless, she could go on for hours about the beloved cat of her childhood, Mittens. He was amiable, black, and 3-legged; he walked with the slantwise dignity of Richard III, one shoulder canted higher than the other, casting gold-eyed glances of princely hauteur behind him.

And like most people who detest cats, cats adored Kage. She could never sit down in Kimberly’s house without one of Kimberly’s cats coming over begging for pets. My own cat, T’Pring, even liked Kage, and she didn’t like anyone. She just tolerated me.

I, however, love cats. And dogs. And birds. I moved down to Kimberly’s house in Los Angeles with my own sweet baby, Harry the parrot; we joined a household of divers cats and at least one dog. At the moment we are dog-less, but are in search of a Corgi puppy. As a sort of placeholder, we have two gorgeous Maine Coon cats, which are each about dog-sized. The red lady, Ashby, is bigger than a Chihuahua but quite delicate and dainty – for a Maine Coon. The black gentleman cat, Edward, is … larger than a Corgi.

He is astounding – silky jet black, with some pale ghosting colour on his tummy. He is 36 inches from nose to butt, not counting his tail. He’s as long as my leg. He weighs 20-odd pounds, and still has 2 years to go to maturity. The floor shakes when he zooms. And he is the sweetest, cuddliest cat ever, with a teeny tiny voice. Mostly, he says Meep and makes tribble noises; Maine Coons don’t meow much. Ashby has an even tinier voice, and rarely says anything at all. They both purr like engines.

I fondly think Kage would have liked them, as they are such darlings. However, being Maine Coons, they are also walking clouds of silky-soft fine fur – and since I suspect that Kage was actually slightly allergic to cats, that would have been intolerable. Her much-loved Mittens was a short hair; my T’Pring was a cross between and Maine Coon and a Persian (major floof) and Kage couldn’t bear being close to her.

Maine Coon cats have amazing fur – they need to be groomed at least weekly. They don’t shed like ordinary cats, in single strands of fur; they shed vast CLUMPS of fur, which cling to everything and waft through the air like pollen. Combined with Harry’s down, which he also sheds copiously, I end up waking up in the morning looking like the victim of some dubious lycanthropy. My hair is a fur and feather magnet.

One of the great advantages of Maine Coon cats is that they actually like to have their tummies rubbed. And those tummies are incredibly soft and floofy. Edward, especially, likes to lie on his back and make enticing air biscuits to invite you to stroke his gorgeous belly. As a throw rug, he takes up most of the living room floor, and can completely block the hall or a doorway. This necessitates flash lights for any human wandering about in the dark (like me), as he will NOT make a noise unless you actually step on him. Then, of course, you die of guilt … Day or night, he’s likely to wrap all his paws around your foot anyway – not to hurt, but to demand tummy rubs.

Now how, you may ask, does one live with a parrot and two ginormous cats? Training, Dear Readers, and unrelenting vigilance. Ashby is not much of a problem, as she is very shy and terrified of almost everything – she is, I think, offended by Harry’s noisiness. Edward, though, was very interested in Harry as a kitten, and still sometimes watches him speculatively. However, he never reacts as he does to the birds outside the windows, and has been taught since his earliest days that Harry is neither safe to touch, nor even actually a bird. God knows, Harry doesn’t act like any other bird Edward has ever seen … Harry is free-range by day, but they are never left alone; at night or when we are out, Harry is in his cage. Edward sometimes like to sit on top of the cage, but not much – Harry tries to bite his paws.

Edward’s enormous, fluffy, front paws, BTW, are the size of the palm of my hand. His fifth toes are conveniently offset from the other four, which gives him quite serviceable hands; he can grasp a doorknob, hold a piece of kibble and eat it from his paw, and catch flies on the wing – in one paw. Not even most humans can do that. Fortunately, most humans don’t then eat the flies they catch, but, you know – CAT.

Ashby, being near-blind, confines her hunting to the occasional spider on the rug. I like to encourage this, as spiders bite me most evilly. Edward hunts them, too. Bugging seems to satisfy their hunting instincts, along with the occasional murder of a sock full of catnip.

Obviously, I am besotted with our cats. They are charming, affectionate companions; which is good, given their size. But I and my entire family are now addicted to Maine Coon cats. They’re like good furniture; they will always be wanted. And they’re nearly as big.

So: there you are, Dear Readers. I recommend Maine Coon cats wholeheartedly. I think even Kage would have liked these two; T’Pring was a autocratic wanton, but Ashby and Edward are as sweet as kittens even now.

I’m gonna go pet me some kitty tummy now …

About Kate

I am Kage Baker's sister. Kage was/is a well-known science fiction writer, who died on January 31, 2010. She told me to keep her work going - I'm doing that. This blog will document the process.
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2 Responses to Self Indulgence

  1. tom barclay says:

    Maine Coons are simply the best of feline companions. I could go on at Coon-like length, but you already know I speak truly.


    • Kate says:

      It is usually stated that cats self-domesticated, but more recently than dogs – hence their self-centered attitude. But that ignores the fact that they have different base personalities; some cat are further along the path of domesticating us, and learning to live in harmony with humans. Maine Coons are furthest along in that of all cats, I believe.


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