chess2I sit in the corner of the kitchen, watching from the shadows. Margaret is cooking at the stove, her back to me, humming the tune she always hums while preparing the family dinner. She might be tone-deaf, for it sounds like she’s making very odd purring noises. Out of the corner I creep, coming up behind her just as she steps back. She runs into me, yelps in surprise. A scolding frown is on her face, but it softens when she looks into my eyes. She reaches out to touch me, but I move out of reach of her affectionate embrace, which makes her smile.

“You can’t be in here right now,” Margaret says. When she reaches for me a second time, I let her; and she turns me toward the kitchen door, giving me a little push. “Out you go. Dinner will be in a while.”

I could still sit in the kitchen and make conversation with Margaret and dazzle her with my superior intellect. She wouldn’t mind—but no. I did that on Saturday.

I wander through the dining room. Carved dining chairs with jacquard upholstery are all pushed in at a table set with china place settings in a stylish pattern. The room is warm and cozy, inviting, and I could sit at the table and gaze out the window for hours on end—but no. That’s what I did yesterday.

So I bypass the elegant table with its vase of silk carnations and brocade tablecloth, and go through the French doors to the sitting room.

There’s Arch, sitting in a wingback chair by the fireplace, a book in his lap and funny little half-moon spectacles creeping down toward the end of his nose. Arch doesn’t like to be bothered when he’s reading, so I try to be quiet. I could lay down with a pillow in front of the fire and nap—but no. That’s what I did on Sunday.

Arch glances up, gives me a warning glare as if to say “Don’t even think about being a nuisance!” The thing is, with Arch, your very existence is a nuisance to him if he’s reading. So I straighten my spine and walk haughtily away, telling him without insolent words that I will not deign to waste my time bothering him. Arch is on a branch much farther down from me in the intellectual tree; no sense wasting my superior intellect on the likes of him.

Back through the French doors and past the table. The lure of the window and mindless nature-watching is a warm possibility, but I keep walking, sneak past Margaret and pass through the kitchen and into the family room before she’s even aware I was there.

Gretchen and Jeremiah—called Jem for short—are playing a video game. I edge up beside Jem’s chair, and he sees me from the corner of his eye.

“Not now, Cap, I’m in the middle of a battle!”

Jem takes his Socom seriously. I know not to bother him, but apparently watching him play from beside his chair constitutes bothering him. Gretchen shooes me away without even looking at me; I’m not her favorite, you see, so she only speaks to me when absolutely necessary. I could sit and watch them play, following the battle with relatively little interest but liking the constant action. I could give brilliant strategies of hunting and conquering the enemy—but no. I did that last Wednesday.

There’s nothing for me in this room. And so I move toward the back of the house, where the bedrooms are. Annalisa always has time for me, and she knows how smart I am. While she is young yet, she is the only one who has any hope of ever matching my superior intellect.

I push open the door to her bedroom, and find her fast asleep on her bed. She’s only seven, and usually takes a nap before dinner. I could lie down beside her, a safe distance away so as not to disturb her—

Quietly I creep up onto the bed, and stretch out beside her, near enough to feel her warmth. Shadows lengthen in the room, edging us toward dinner and family bonding time.

We sleep.

When I awaken, I’m first aware of the tantalizing scent of dinner, nearly ready. And then I realize that Annalisa has rolled over in her sleep and snaked her arms around me, and that I’m extraordinarily cozy and satisfied to lie there in her warmth and affection.

Superior intellect aside, this 1,427th day of my captivity is quite agreeable.

I begin to purr, and for the time being, I don’t even mind that they named me Captain Fuzzball.

©2007 Sharon Gerlach

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