Dennis always lived better than I did. I thought it was because he got free money, but it may have just been that he had better taste. His father had created a metal-fabricating and manufacturing business back in Chicago, and after Dennis emerged from the Peace Corps he received checks, which I envied, though of course I’d already had my turn.
He drove an older BMW, and he had a small apartment, kept as neat as himself, right at the end of a short street that pointed straight at the Marina Green, giving him a view of the Bay, a block away.
We fell out, for several years. It was because of his cat.
He didn’t know much about cats, but he thought it was cute.
It was cute, as it pounced from hiding. In fact, he’d taught it a game. Dennis would walk from point A to point B in his apartment, as we all do, and the game was that the kitten would pounce from hiding and bite and scratch at Dennis’s ankles. Ha ha ha ha ha.
I actually didn’t like the game much. I’d gone over to Dennis’s to get his help in doing some Big Research for me regarding my plan to start an answering service. He did the Big Research for me, but in my ignorance, I put the numbers together all wrong and came to amazingly wrong answers. But when I started the answering service it worked out anyway, so perhaps my abysmal ignorance didn’t matter.
While Dennis and I discussed the Big Research, the kitten leapt and bit my ankles, which I didn’t enjoy all that much.
For one thing, the kitten was growing. Let us now pause in contemplation of the perfect words of Mr. Ogden Nash …
The trouble with a kitten is that
It soon becomes a cat.
Ogden hit his head right on a nail there.
A week later, when I’d returned to visit, after some coffee and conversation, I suddenly realized that the cat wasn’t around.
“Where’s kitty?” I asked.
“Oh, I got tired of him biting me,” he said.
“So where’s kitty?” I asked.
“I took him out and set him loose over at The Presidio,” he said. The Presidio was an vast and luxurious army base in a park-like setting in the northern corner of San Francisco. It contained miles and miles of woods and empty hills, criss-crossed with army roads. I was stupified by what Dennis had said.
He looked at me in puzzlement, and repeated his words. I was outraged.
“You know he’ll die?” I demanded.
“Why, no,” Dennis said, “He’ll catch mice and things.” I couldn’t believe he was so ignorant, so, so … stupid!
“No, he won’t catch mice and things!” I said. “He doesn’t know any of those things. He’ll first starve, and then wander into a road and get run over.” Dennis looked at me in puzzlement. He couldn’t understand my dismay.
“Are you sure?”
“I’m sorry,” he said. “I thought he’d be fine.”
“Why did you do that?” I pressed.
“I got tired of him biting my ankles,” he said, “and finally I’d just had enough of it.”
“But you taught him to do that!”
“Well, I didn’t mean any harm.”
I stood up, grabbed my coat, and left in a fury. I then refused to talk to Dennis for about three years.
Over time, slowly, I realized he had, in fact, meant no harm. Caused harm yes, but meant none. He was just ignorant. He didn’t know.
So are we all, all the time, ignorant of this, ignorant of that. With a motion of the wrist, we wreck an automobile, bring destruction, even death. With an unknowing word, we crash vast castles of dreams for others. With a silence, we fail in our love for another.
Dreaming and fragile, onward we stumble, dangerous dwarves on the Yellow Brick Road.