I’d only been dating Amy a couple weeks when she asked me the question that changed everything. It happened in a coffee shop a couple blocks from campus. She’d just come from an art history class and sat warming her hands around a double mocha grande with extra whipped cream, waiting, as I finished reading the last few paragraphs of a novel for English Lit.
The minute I closed the book she pounced. “So, Steven, are you a cat person?” She’s like that, no build-up, just right to the point. A refreshing change from the kind of girls I usually dated.
We’d met at the campus health center. Friends had brought me in after I’d landed hard on my head during a game of supposedly touch football. She was there having some prescription filled. The first time I saw her, she seemed surrounded by a glow of light. Okay, it could’ve been part of being smacked in the head, but at the time I just stared at her like I was seeing an angel. Then she turned, and her eyes caught mine, and the next thing I knew I was introducing myself to her and asking her out.
And now, two weeks later, she was asking me about cats.
“What? Well, I guess. I mean, sure, I like cats. I don’t dislike cats. I’ve never had any though; we always had dogs when I was growing up. And my little sister had a rabbit once.”
“You’re talking about pets,” she said. “I’m talking about cats.”
“Yeah?” She still had that glow. I couldn’t see it any more, but I could feel it.
“Cats aren’t pets. They’re autonomous beings that sometimes choose to share their lives with you.”
“Cats aren’t pets?” I took a sip of coffee. Not a latte or an espresso, just ordinary coffee. That’s the kind of guy I am.
“Well, okay, some cats are pets. But that’s like some people are dumb, you know? Like some people go through life as drones, no imagination, no creativity, no ambition. So, yeah, some cats are like that, there are drone cats. Those are the ones that are pets. But the real cats, they’re special and they’re smart and they are most definitely not pets.”
“Do you have a cat?” I asked. I’d never been to Amy’s place, but I knew she had an apartment somewhere off campus. Like I said, we’d only been dating a couple weeks, and on the few occasions we ended up somewhere, it had always been my dorm room.
“I don’t have one, but there’s a cat that who came to live with me three days ago.”
I smiled at that. I’m not sure why, but it sounded cute to me. So many things about Amy struck me as cute. “What’s her name?”
“I can’t pronounce it. It’s in cat talk.”
“The language of cats. Not the pet kind, the real kind. And he’s a he, not a she.”
“Well, if you can’t pronounce his name, what do you call him?”
“I call him Mr. Buttons. But he says his name in cat talk translates more closely to ‘Traveler Amidst Shadows of Possible Destinies.’”
She said it with a totally straight face, and I had to fake a sneeze to keep from laughing out loud. When I’d recovered, I asked, “Why is that his name in cat talk?”
“Because,” said Amy, “Mr. Buttons can tell the future.”
“How do you mean?” Don’t get me wrong, I had real feelings for Amy, but this was starting to go from silly to weird, and you only have to date one really weird girl to get a little gun-shy about it.
“He knows things,” she said. “Things that are going to happen.”
“Right,” I said. “And he tells you these things?”
“Steven, don’t be silly. Cats can’t talk.”
“Then how does he—”
“He uses the words on the refrigerator. Those magnetic poetry things. You know, individual words that you rearrange to make a haiku or sonnet when you’re putting away the milk.”
“And the cat does this? Puts the words together in different ways to tell you the future?”
“Yep. He’s only been doing it for the last few days. I haven’t told anyone else. You’re the first.”
“Why me?” I asked, not sure if I meant it rhetorically or not.
And then she smiled and I felt that glow again. Yeah, I was smitten.
“Because Mr. Buttons told me to. He wants you to come see him. He says there’s something about the future you need to know.” She looked at her watch. “Do you have time now? I’m all done with classes for the day.”
We finished our coffees and I followed Amy to her car, my boots crunching through the snow. We drove to the older section of town, about as far from the university as you could go, to a small collection of apartment buildings that had probably looked shabby back when they were new, and they hadn’t been new since my parents were in diapers. A shining blanket of snow makes a lot of buildings look nicer; it didn’t help here. Amy pulled the car into a parking lot and stopped in a numbered space. We got out and I followed her through a rusty gate and up two flights of stairs. Her door had t -- [End of Preview.]