A guy I know, a real photographer named Tony Mendoza, has done very well publishing pictures of a cat named Ernie who was not cute. Sherlock is not cute either, but even this picture cannot make me think of him as "just a cat." (The close reader will observe that one canine tooth is not there. That happened before we knew him. Psychic investigation has led me to think that somewhere there is a raccoon with a cat tooth imbedded in his shoulder, a raccoon who is lucky to be alive.)
Years of living in forced seclusion with us has made Sherlock all too human. Last night Tom was sitting on the couch watching the news, idly scratching the cat's ears. I wasn't watching until I heard Tom yelp, but I know he was not being rough with the cat; that would be foolish.
"What happened?" I asked.
"He bit me," Tom said, without rancor.
"Why?" I recalled how on election night Sherlock turned his head and bit our friend Hap on the arm. Hap hadn't done a thing. But Sherlock, sitting beside him, had apparently been thinking about the fact that Hap was sitting where he usually lies curled up when we watch TV. Every cat knows you can't just let people take over your territory. This is not being macho, just instinct.
But Tom was not sitting in Sherlock's place, so what was the problem?
"I wasn't giving him my full, undivided attention," Tom said. I understood.
Sherlock was being touched casually. Energy was being directed somewhere else. I thought of only children I have known, and said, "That cat's practically human." It was not a compliment.