“Rocco, dinner is ready.”
I wonder how long it lasted, that incident in the morning. I feel like it was just a few minutes, and also hours, for it set the path I have to follow. At any rate, it was heavy and long hours for him. He was sound asleep, and then awaken by cheerful, loud voice of Kii.
It was eight in the evening. Usually, Rocco meows at Kii’s call wherever he is. But today it is different. Rocco had been determined to do something.
He went downstairs slowly. He hears Daddy talking.
He’s back. He feels that he gets tense a little. He hears Mommy talking now. Then, he hears Kii talking excitedly. Rocco went downstairs on two feet with one hand on the handrail. As he had expected, Kii shouted in surprise.
“Look! Rocco is walking on two feet! He looks like a prairie dog. Oh, he doesn’t have ears! Rocco, what happened to your ears? Your head is roundish. Mommy, Rocco looks like a hamburger!”
Kii, who was rattling on, suddenly fainted for the first time in her life.
Downstairs, Rocco said in a serious look, “Daddy, Mommy, Kii, hello.”
“Eek!” Kii fell backwards with a shriek.
At the same time, Mommy dropped a plate.
“Rocco is talking!” murmured Daddy in utter amazement.
“Why? What’s the matter with you? What happened to you, Rocco?”
Rocco didn’t know where to begin, but anyway he made every possible effort to tell them what happened this morning. He told them that he will walk on two feet from then on, that a beautiful lady who descended from the outer space told him his destiny, that he was given the gift of talking human languages. In fact, cats across the world understand what people talk, even though they cannot speak.
“Is it true?”
Rocco nodded apologetically.
“Then, why do you sometimes ignore us or don’t come when you were called?”
“Well, that’s because…” he hesitated to say, but decided to tell everything.
“We cats are told by our mothers not to show people sign of understanding what they say.”
“What? But why?”
“Because we would then be treated like dogs. Humans like to control everything.
We don’t want to be taken out for a walk early in the morning with a leash on our neck. We don’t want to do tricks like “sit down, “ or “shake hands” each time before meal. We’d like to sleep when we want to, and it’s nonsense that we won’t be fed unless we do tricks. We also like to play. If somebody throws a ball at us, we will play with it skillfully, but if he throws it as far as he can and tell us to go and get it, we think why we have to.
“People often complain that cats don’t do tricks, but why do we have to? In the world of animals, nobody thinks that a lion is the king of beasts.
It’s humans. It’s humans who put lions into small cages and expose them to public view.
“Long ago, our ancestors decided…it’s hard to say, I hope you won’t be offended. May I be frank with you?”
Still befuddled, Daddy nodded.
“We decided to get along with conceited humans keeping a certain distance. But it worked and we, cats, and people are getting along very well. Since we are in good terms, I was chosen to convey some message to humans and to this end given the gift of speaking.”
“Oh, I’m so proud of you, Rocco. You were chosen as a representative of animals.”
Mommy told him with tears in her voice. She was moved by his story and her eyes were tearful.
“No, no, it’s nothing to be proud of” Rocco shook his head. “It is just that we’d like humans to reflect once in a while that this planet is not for humans alone. If I say such a thing, I’ll be criticized what a cheeky cat I am. But even now, human society is filled with unhappy people, there are conflicts everywhere, and environment is being destructed more and more. If we don’t stand up now and do something, we’ll be in a terrible situation. People care only about their own country. They don’t know what to do and there is no clue to solving problems. Nonetheless, I’ll be told that it’s nothing to do with mere cats.
“Humans can fight as they like, but once bombs were dropped, cattle and pets also die. News never tells how many animals died in the war, but it is not only humans who feel sad when their children died or children had to separate from their parents. I think cats also have right to say something.”
“Rocco, wait a moment.”
Daddy interrupted him in a serious look that he had never shown before. “That incident, a beautiful lady descended from the outer space and entrusted you many things, it happened just this morning, did you say?”
“Yes, that’s right.”
“Why, let’s see, even though you came to understand human language and become able to speak, how did you learn so many things in detail and in such a short time? Your argument is very well-organized and it’s far beyond the level of a child. How do you explain it? The Lady told you anything about it?”
Daddy was surprised to see Rocco began to speak, but he also couldn’t believe what he talked about.
Rocco doesn’t understand why for himself, either. For some reason, every fragment of memories since he was brought to this house by Daddy when he was three months old is now well-organized into files inside his brain. When I was a baby, doing nothing but meowing, Kii used to change newspapers in the toilet, telling me to pee there.
Every word written on those newspapers is filed in my brain so as to retrieve anytime.
Daddy subscribes many newspapers including those of overseas, and so I have every kind of information filed in my brain. Back then, of course, I was just lying on the newspaper, tearing them, sniffing them, or licking them.”
“In those days, you were always eating newspapers, whenever I took my eyes off you. I was always laughing at you, saying you were not a goat” said Kii. Suddenly in a small voice, she added “I didn’t expect you to become such a great cat.”
It looks like Kii recovered from the shock. Relieved to see her recovered, Rocco continued.
“Remember? I used to love the old cane chair in the living room. I now can retrieve everything that I’ve overheard there, what Daddy, Mommy, and Kii said, or every bit of news broadcast from TV, as if I heard it just now. And then, well, for instance, music, too.” Rocco lightly jumped over the sofa and started to play Daddy’s guitar which was on the side of wardrobe.
“Isn’t it Chuck Berry!? Great! It’s Johnny B. Good.”
“A cat is playing the blues. And he is good. He might as well be Chuck Berry himself!” Daddy was dumbfounded. Kii and Mommy are very excited with this sudden concert. Daddy was listening to the blues, especially Chuck Berry, for recently he was looking back on his student days. And Rocco must have learned it.
Well, something grave must be going on. Daddy murmured in his mind. He felt cold air around his neck and began trembling, and couldn’t hold it back. He breathed deeply and said in a serious look, which he shows only at work.
“OK. That’s enough, Rocco. Stop playing now. Our neighbors will be annoyed.
“Oh, no.” “No, no!” Mommy and Kii wanted to listen more.
“At any rate, let’s call it enough for today. And I want you to listen to me for a while. We had a very strange experience now for about an hour.
It is hard to understand, but I think it is a certainty. Yes, it is not undeniable. Nobody will believe it, but it happened right in front of us.”
Daddy, who usually speaks in reasoned phrases, cannot speak properly today.
“So, we have to consider the matter carefully. First of all, are you with me, you cannot tell anybody about it! Rocco must be facing something huge. If so, this is our issue, too, and we have to support Rocco as a family. Well, I cannot imagine what will happen in the future. It’s just amazing that Rocco all of a sudden began to carry such advanced capabilities. At any rate, I’ll tell you again, don’t tell anybody, OK? Especially, you, Kii. Well, you two go to bed now. Good night.”
Then, Daddy took Rocco into his study. The door was locked and then the silence reigned in the rest of the house. Around three hours later, the door opened quietly. Rocco came out of the study. He didn’t look tired, rather he had a bright look on his face.
Rocco turned around and bowed toward the back of the study where Daddy was, and then closed the door quietly. It was his first time holding the knob, and he felt nice cool feeling on his pad.
The brass knob of beautiful round shape is carved proudly in an ornate initial of J. Daddy acquired it, a part of a series which an antique merchant in London commissioned to make when George IV, King of the United Kingdom, died in 1952.
How beautiful it is!
Rocco gazed it with admiration.
He hadn’t noticed it at all till then, but he now knew that his house is very elegant and well thought out till the details. When Rocco was brought to this house, it was in the middle of a major reform. It was a very old Western-style house.
Their plan was to make elaborate reform for interior without changing much for exterior. A number of craftsmen were working inside the house. Inside a basket on the dining table, Rocco was feeling sick and uneasy, in an unfamiliar atmosphere, smells of energetic men, paints, lacquer, and wood. He meowed a lot seeking for help. When Mommy was going to move him to a quiet room upstairs, Daddy told her to leave me there. Mommy said, “But he is scared.” Daddy responded her decisively, “He has to get used to people, sound, and smell as soon as possible. Otherwise, he cannot live in this town. I don’t want him to be a cowardly cat.” Rocco felt as if he was in the middle of a construction site all day long.
“Amazing!” Taking a closer look at the wall, Rocco gave a cry of admiration. He used to play with Kii and crashed against it. It had looked just a coarse white wall to Rocco. Now, looking at it anew, he knew that it has a very nice atmosphere. He could see powerful, yet careful brushwork soaring to the ceiling as if an abstract expression. It is a very modern wall of craftsmanship. It is one kind of plaster, but this is plaster??? Japanese plaster looks good for Oriental-style houses, but this plaster is much better for Western-style houses.
On the northern wall, there is Rocco’s favorite fireplace. He stayed there for the entire winter last year. Daddy didn’t want to ruin the atmosphere of plaster, and asked to use marble alabaster of Egypt and put reddish brown mahogany in between plaster and alabaster.
The contractor earnestly recommended Italian carrara, but Daddy stuck to alabaster. As it turned out that the white tone of alabaster is very elegant and well matched. On the fireplace, there is a small clock of an arabesque design in gold, which Mommy was handed down from her grandfather.
“Oh!” Rocco cried briefly. It is four o’clock in the morning. He felt like going by the window to the east. He is very curious. But he is completely different from himself yesterday. He was reborn.
A glossy handrail of a Chinese quince design stretches to upstairs in a beautiful gentle curve. Rocco, not used to walk on two feet, began walking slowly with his hand on the handrail. He took the first step into the new world.
“Rocco, dinner is ready.”