Like The Last Words Of A House Cat (Lord’s Story)

A stylized portrait of Lord, a lilac-colored Scottish Fold with orange eyes who lived between 2010 and 2023.

[This is a transcript for Alex Sheremet’s video essay about Lord, a Scottish Fold cat who recently passed.]

After Lord had made his decision, he wished to see the world a little. One might as well, he thought. Ever since the arrival of Cookie, he felt agitated, if only with himself. Lord had never been a jealous cat, but watching King—his older brother—groom Cookie, and chase her, and beat her up, he suddenly missed the rough of King’s tongue. He missed the sound of Dad cleaning loosened hair. He missed how Mom would separate them, for he never took this as a punishment. After all, Lord loved to think, and right now, the season was pensive. Yes, summer was ongoing, but the longest day was long behind, and each sunrise felt a little colder. It would soon be Grandmother’s birthday. Had it really been that long? A cat uses up its days so quickly, though there is still so much to do. Lord understood he would not have time to start anything new, but why, he wondered, is everyone obsessed only with beginnings? His mind was of one project—one map—and he intended to complete it.

No time is the right time to leave home. Once Lord accepted this, his definition of home enlarged a little. His map, which marked out a garden, or a tree, now had fences to contend with. He was too old to jump past them, but wise enough to know that all fences doggedly followed lead to termination. Outside, leaves greened the sun and blew its light westward. Bricks assembled seemingly overnight. He would test himself against them, but concluded this was too close to his own domain. Lord needed to go further. He needed to smell strange dirt. To fend off the black snake. To squeeze through things—but what? A rose bush picked on him. Hot gravel insinuated. Not much of a city cat, a neighbor’s shout spooked him into the street, while the sound of engines spooked him out of it. And then there was the struggle with Dad—the comfort of Dad. Seeing Dad’s face, Lord’s instinct was to run to it. He nudged a paw forward and stopped. No—the instinct for happiness was unlike the instinct for knowledge. Dad had always seemed all-knowing, but Lord sensed an opportunity to learn things not even Dad could know. His heart pacing, Lord turned not from Dad, but towards his task.

Lord was not used to the wilds, yet the more time they spent within him, the more he understood. Ants arbored in the grass as well as he did. Mice ate what they could find, then Lord would find them. Now that something big was looking for Lord, he felt decisions more acutely. He learned earthworms hid not from humility, but pride. He learned not every flower was a friend and that this was for the better. He learned instinct was as much honed as it was inborn—that a lifetime of trying was more than the minutia of birth. Yes, Lord had his papers and a distant principality, but out here, nobody cared. He would have to be the sum of his senses, the orbit of his attainments. He promised that when the time came, he would keep as quiet as the hunt. Last words, he knew, were best reserved for those who never did much speaking. After all, what should he say? He appreciated the flickering shade. He appreciated the taste of early morning. He appreciated the laziness of bed—at which point images of Dad clawed back. Words are demands, yet appreciation is for the tired. Lord was tired but he would go, regardless, for there was always more to learn. It would be a long trip. But even as he was leaving, he couldn’t wait to come back and to tell everyone of everything they had missed.

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More from Alex Sheremet: White Guilt, White Fragility: Why Robin DiAngelo Doesn’t Understand Race, Russian Bard, Soviet Poet: Inverting A Century Of TraditionLibertarian-American: Alex Winter’s “Deep Web” (2015)