The Dreaming Cat

Some time ago, I wrote about a bookstore which housed a small, dainty cat.  Her name was Zola, and she had that peculiar feline quality of making one ashamed in her presence.

Before being accepted into that literary haven, she had a hard life.  Misuse and untended infections destroyed her teeth, and took away one of her golden eyes.  Her remaining eye, though scarred, has still kept all of its facets:  a yellow diamond embedded in a petite icon.

Her paws are like snowflakes:  small and silent.  Her voice is a little song:  I can see notes and flats and sharps falling from her mouth each time she meows.  Boyfriend and I hadn't seen her lately.  But the last time we were at the bookstore, I quietly pointed out to him the warm, dappled rug curled on top of a pile of books, fast asleep.

Now, when asleep, most cats will dream of champagne-colored mice, spilling out of glasses, with infuriating whiskers and tails.  They will dream of velvet pillows, smelling of feathers and sky, warming in the sun.  They will dream of exploring fields of white flowers that nipped at their noses and drove their muscles into delight and madness.

But it is the special cat that will make a bed of books.  She absorbs the visions and histories, adventures and tragedies, poems and meters that drive upward like roots from a fertile, creative ground.  Languages that are not her own course through her and create new, purring dreams.

She might be stalking through jungles, drawn towards heartbeats hidden in the thick darkness.  She could be on the seas, riding on the back of a whale – with every twist and turn thundering like an earthquake.  Perhaps she will be in a Victorian alley – concealed by the smoke of nearby opium dens – watching a man in his parlor reading about murder and brandishing a syringe.  Or maybe she would be lost on a battlefield, stepping over shredded flags, glancing distastefully at the stale, red pools, comforting the dying horses' white-eyed pain with her whiskers.

Or that lucky cat would feel its substance losing dimension, until it could walk through centuries of art.  She would nibble at Dutch still lives:  broad plates of tulips, bread and cheese.  Her form might appear in a carved frieze of warriors and slaves, riding in a chariot.  She would invade the portraits of women who hunted the courts with feral intensity.  Resting by their petticoats, her tail would wrap around shoes painted with scenes of masquerades and banquets. 

Before we left that day I saw that Zola was awake, and was yawning luxuriously.  Whatever story she had chosen (or had chosen her), it must have been a very fine and lengthy journey. 

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18 responses to “The Dreaming Cat

  1. Have you read the Neil Gaiman story 'Dream of a Thousand Cats'? It's in one of the Sandman comics and I think that's what Zola might be dreaming about.

  2. lucky Zola – gets to travel wherever she wants

  3. That's exactly what I was going to say. Zola will lead the feline revolution.

  4. Superb – I was right there with you

  5. I have met Zola. She is a lucky cat in her selection of abode.

  6. And now you must write about her wicked stepsister Zola Kathryn, my black Persian, who believes she may be Scarlet O'Hara. Fiddle-de-dee.
    I love store cats. I always have a store and I always have a cat yet the two never come together for me.

  7. wow! the one thing I so love about animals no matter what happens they still push forward, my cat lost one of her legs and that chica could still climb a tree and hunt! now this cat is making a big statement int he literary world

  8. Is there a better combo on Earth than kitties and books? Well, add in some chocolate, maybe, but still…

  9. what a lovely read! yes, i do believe in another life i wouldn't mind being a cat in a bookstore….

  10. I would love to dream as Zola does! I love bookstore kitties!

  11. Now, when asleep, most cats will dream of champagne-colored mice, spilling out of glasses, with infuriating whiskers and tails.Congratulations, Aubrey, on writing the best sentence I've read all week.

  12. very well told ms. aubrey

  13. [this is exquisite]

  14. You are a wonderful writer Aubrey. The paragraph that first made me gasp was "Now, when asleep, most cats…." It is all excellent and I wouldn't suggest any changes.Lucy

  15. I adore the idea of her dreaming her way through the books. Every bookstore should have a cat…or perhaps every cat should have a bookstore.

  16. Wonderful post!A print shop we used to use at work had a store cat, a sweet black kitty who was the official greeter and who assumed the responsibility of making everyone welcome. When they notified us not long ago they had to close the shop (rotten economy), I contacted the owner and told her I could adopt the kitty if there were any problems, but she said no, kitty was going to live with her and run her house instead of her store. I'm sure she's still greeting and welcoming everyone there.

  17. [This makes me want to be Zola]

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