My name is Sebastian. I am the feline in residence for this household and, however few our number, or perhaps because of that, it is a comfortable, well-ordered, thoroughly pleasant place to live.
It is a large enough home to have a staircase that provides multiple diversions: I can canter up and down for exercise, display my grace by tightrope walking on the two level areas of the balustrade, reach down and tap the heads of unsuspecting persons who have paused on their way upstairs, and sometimes peer through the balustrade’s supports to inspect guests whose visit-worthiness has not yet been determined.
Our home is graced with an abundance of windows, both up and downstairs, that provide views that suit my changing interests. A tree touches one of the upstairs windows where I can hunch down, teeth chattering, and plot attack on an errant bird or squirrel. From another window, I can watch the foolish yatterings of the neighbor’s dog and from yet another I can see into a room of the neighbor’s house and study the humans’ silly behaviors. The front of the house offers various views of the neighborhood’s routine and a clear look at the driveway where our car appears each evening at the appointed time. There’s a rug in front of the fireplace for winter’s naps or posings and a shady spot in the dining room that catches a soothing breeze in spring and fall. There are numerous hideaways where I can retreat when I want to be alone or occasionally pout. My childhood toys still reside in a spare room. From time to time, one of them is found in another area of our home. I presume the housekeeper moves them as I am far too sophisticated for such things.
Forgive my rudeness. Before I commence relating this most unusual saga, I should more completely introduce myself so you can better comprehend the story that is to unfold.
I am seven years old and, therefore, a gentleman of some maturity and experience, but with years to go before dotage sets in. My heritage is blessedly diverse and has culminated, modesty aside, in a genteel appearance befitting my station. My white coat with blue-grey accents is glossy and elegantly long. My coloring, I have been told, is a perfect frame for my dark green eyes that narrow dramatically to express displeasure or widen to feign innocence. If pressed, I would have to confess that I am appropriately handsome without the flashy bravado of some purebred associates of mine who, although their lineage would fill a notebook, have absolutely no common sense or real ability to bond with their human compatriots.
To the contrary, I have a quite satisfactory relationship with my human. My Lady and I live alone in perfect symbiosis. She feeds me well, a balanced diet with delightful treats spaced at surprisingly irregular intervals. Her spontaneity can be charming.
She strokes me with great tenderness and has nearly feline intuition about how to massage my back and scratch my head and chin. She is a quiet woman with a mellow, musical voice that alternately comforts and amuses me – almost always exactly when needed. She laughs and sometimes sings as she moves through the house, and she frequently talks to me. I comprehend more than she would expect. She combs my hair, but not obsessively, and refrains from inviting over too many shrill-voiced or large, heavy-footed people.
Most certainly, I uphold my share of the partnership. There, of course, is my grace and beauty to enjoy on a daily basis. On the practical side, I allow very little of my mealtime crunchies to litter the kitchen floor. I am impeccable in my daily grooming and in my most personal, need I say more, habits. I warm her lap when she’s sitting and the place where her lap would be when we both curl up at night to sleep. When she spreads out papers to work, I assist by sitting on those that I deem are in most need of her attention and by re-filing others that require sorting. She doesn’t always express her gratitude properly. To prevent my Lady from becoming over-tired, I remind her of dinnertime by springing to the top of her computer where I sit with my tail swishing to and fro across the screen. If forced to be more direct, I step into her lap, firmly place my forefeet on her chest and butt my forehead into her chin. She always responds by laughing, kissing my head, and snuggling me until I depart for the kitchen with subliminal instructions for her to follow. It usually works.
I have been with the Lady in our home for all of my life. More exactly, since my late infancy. I think there was another place before. At times when I’m nearly dozing in her lap, I find myself kneading the arm draped across me and a faint recollection taunts my memory, but it’s not important to recall. My Lady and I provide each other with everything that we require. Our lives are perfect. At least they were. Then one day last spring everything changed.
Yowzir!!! First, I thought I’d stay in that hard cage forever. Then the man in the white coat took me out, got me all wet and then poked all over me, you know, and stuck a couple of sharp things in me, you know. And then another human put me in this kinda small dark box and it went bumpity-bump for a long time and now this! This great big place. It’s a house and I’m here and nobody’s chasing me away. And the nice Lady – oh, she’s the one that smelled good and put me in the little box – she’s just sitting there smiling at me. So I guess she knows I’m here and she doesn’t care. So if I just sit here real quiet, you know, maybe she won’t run me off. I’ll just be real quiet. And still, too. Yeah, quiet and still.
Sebastian: Oh, my Gawd. It’s small. And scruffy. And it smells bad. And it’s in my house. Oh, dear me. I think it’s a young feline. In my home. Shoo. No, I won’t go “shoo.” The behavior is beneath me. The little thing is surely diseased, anyway. My Lady probably doesn’t know that it’s here. She’ll get rid of it when she sees it. And disinfect. I must get as far away as possible until the thing’s been booted out.
I know it was a cat. A big cat. Like a grown-up me. I could smell it and then I looked, you know, and it ran up the stairs. And I’m still sitting here being still. And the Lady’s still looking at me. And I gotta pee. What happens now?
Bilbo: I must have been a very good kitten sometime, ‘cause look where I am! Where I still am. There’s lots to eat here. And there’s stuff to play with. And this really nice Lady holds me and strokes me. Kinda like my mom cat did with her wonderful scratchy tongue. But I guess I got lost. I was chasing bugs one day, you know, and then I couldn’t find my family any more. I looked for a long time, but I just couldn’t find anybody. I like to stay where I can see this Lady so I won’t get lost again.
Yesterday I was looking around – not going far – but checking out where all the different smells were coming from. And I was peeking here and sneaking there. And then I was all alone in a room I hadn’t seen before and nobody was there but me and I got really scared, you know. Like I was going to be all alone again. So I cried for my mom cat. Like I did before. But she didn’t come for me then, either. And remembering that made me cry more. And then the Lady came. And she picked me up, you know, and held me close where I could feel her heart beat and then she carried me back to the room that has a fire in it. She sat down and put me in her lap and I fell asleep ‘cause I was so tired. Seems like being afraid and crying makes a guy pretty tired.
Oh! I have a name, too! A home. And a Lady. And a name. She looks right at me and says the words, so I’m sure it’s me. She calls me Bilbo Baggins. Bilbo. That’s me.
And there IS another cat here. A big cat. The Lady calls him Sebastian, but he won’t come play with me or take care of me like it seems a big cat should, you know. I’m just little and he’s not. Sometimes he runs through the room and then the Lady will call him and go follow him and talk to him some more. You know, feed him and stuff. I follow her for a little bit and peek, then I run away thinking maybe he’ll follow and want to play with me. But he doesn’t.
When the Lady’s gone, she puts me in a small room by myself. There’s a warm bed-thing just my size and something to eat and drink. And there’s a sand box that is sooooooo much fun. I do my business there, but digging is just so much more fun that sometimes I dig it all up and throw sand (sometimes the other stuff that’s in there, too) all over the floor. That way, I can make lots of little sand piles or just run and slide in it.
The big cat comes to the door sometimes and sniffs along the bottom where it doesn’t touch the floor, you know. Today I went over and sniffed back. I stuck my paw out underneath the door to his side. But he hissed at me. I don’t think he likes me.
Sebastian: I cannot know what to think. My Lady must be deranged. The thing is, beyond a doubt, a kitten. Unruly, unkempt, uncircumspect. And noisy. Not that it so much makes noise, though it does, but it causes noise to occur. It bumps into things. It tries to climb up things, then gets stuck and must yowl to be rescued. It also veritably thunders through the house making one wonder how so small a creature can create such a volume of noise.
The area around its toilet facility is littered with sand and occasionally other disgusting refuse from the box. And it doesn’t even know how to groom itself properly. I’ve seen (from a distance, of course) a remnant of dinner still in its whiskers, and when it attempts grooming a rear leg, it frequently falls over on its back and looks completely foolish. It is a disgrace to all of felinedom. Its orange coat seems to be improving some, but it does stick out here and there in odd chunks. Unkempt.
And not only does the Lady tolerate this mess and mussiness, she also seems to enjoy it. She laughs and she even holds the thing. Oh, yes, she has given it a name, Bilbo. That she has acknowledged its existence in such a permanent way is dreadful enough, but that she has given it such a whimsical, silly name is beyond belief. Even the housekeeper, Sarah, a long-time friend, tolerates this thing exceedingly well.
I, however, can barely eat. My naps are short and fitful. The dear Lady has been particularly accommodating and tries to coax me back to my normal routine, but I spend much of my time in seclusion. Well, sometimes I watch the goings-on from a distance, and twice I happened by the door to the room where it stays while she’s gone, but I’m hardly curious. It’s my house, and I’m greatly distressed.
Bilbo: Here is the great jungle cat proudly walking through his domain. The legs of the table and chairs make a great rainforest. Oh, good – the hall with the slide-y floor – the rain-slick rock path that leads to my lair. I’ll run and – wheeeeeeeeee!!! Oh, no!
Sebastian: Oh, yes, you minuscule miscreant! How dare you crash into me and set me atumble! Whatever were you thinking? How dare you!
Bilbo: I didn’t know. I was playing, you know. Didn’t know you were here or anywhere, you know. I wasn’t thinking anything.
Sebastian: Well, there’s an understatement if ever I heard one. Of course, you weren’t thinking. I doubt that you ever think. You only disrupt. And you’re so disagreeably disagreeable. Your behavior is without dignity or remorse. Out of my way!
Bilbo: Jeez, I’m sorry. But you’re talking to me!
Sebastian: I think not. I am only speaking in your general direction due to my extreme distress. I am now ending this unpleasant encounter.
Bilbo: Yeah, me too that thing you said. Slow down! Can I come, too? Where you going? Did I tell you about that spider I saw? I’m catching up!
Sebastian: Walk; don’t bound!
Bilbo: Crashing must not be so bad. Ever since I smacked into the big guy, he lets me follow him around. Hang out, you know. Well, he doesn’t exactly invite me, but he doesn’t chase me off, either. And I don’t have to stay in the little room any more when the Lady is gone, so I can explore and find more places to play. I don’t go too far by myself, though. I’m not scared, you know. It’s just more comfy when I can see the Lady, Sebastian or Sarah. I like to follow Sarah around when she’s here. She goes in every room and does stuff, so I go too. Sometimes when I help her, she pretends to get mad. She’s so funny. There she goes. Me too, Sarah.
Sebastian: I don’t know what’s become of my life. Serenity escapes me. Nowhere can I find the solitude that once was mine. Well, almost nowhere. There are a few very high places to which I can still escape that small, orange creature. Aside from those retreats, he’s everywhere. He does appear, however, to benefit from association with me. His grooming and behavior have improved somewhat. And it infrequently amuses me to watch his less-destructive antics. On the other hand, I wouldn’t be overly distressed if he became a kidnap victim. On the other hand, who would want him?
See, he’s doing it again. He’s following Sarah and she’s going out the back door to carry rugs for airing. She always has to push him back at the last minute to prevent his escaping into the back yard. We don’t go outside, of course. It’s getting far too chilly. And there’s dirt, bugs, wandering hooligan cats and the occasional dog. An altogether unpleasant experience, I expect. Having never placed more than two paws out the door, I may be making some assumptions, but a nice clean home is a far better place for dignified cats to reside.
Bilbo: I’m going after that crawly thing, yes I am. And I’ll pounce on it and kill the beast. Well, here’s a room I haven’t seen before. Yowzir! Turn up the heat. That wind is cold. And the floor feels scratchy, you know. The window must . . . oh, no. No windows. Who took our walls? Jeez, that’s the house back there and I’m here. And this is what I look at from the window, but I’m on this side. How’d I get here? Sarah! Sarah! I need to follow you back home. Are you over this way? I can’t find you. I don’t know how to get back in. And I’m alone again. And no one’s coming this time, either.
Sebastian: I’m glad he’s gone. I’m glad he’s gone. I’m glad he’s gone. He just slipped out the door without ever knowing he’d done it. Foolish thing. Careless. Mindless. That’s why I’m glad he’s gone. It’s not my fault for wanting it. Everyone will be glad he’s gone. It’s Sarah’s fault. She wasn’t watching out for him as she should. He’s certainly not my responsibility. Not at all.
Look at Sarah. The hearing acuity of humans leaves much to be desired. She’s returned inside and doesn’t even hear him calling to her. Far too preoccupied. I’ll just jump to the windowsill and enjoy the sun and the absence of his presence. Perhaps I’ll nap and no longer hear him.
Bilbo: It’s just like when I was a baby and got lost. Except I was warm then, you know. Let me think. There was a place in the house that let me out, so there should be a place to let me in. So I’ll go over this way. But it’s so big out here. Maybe I walked from that house and I need to go back over there.
Okay, everybody. I give up. Ollie, ollie, in free. Game’s over. Come get me now. I’m not scared or nothin’, but it’s getting kinda lonesome. And cold. I’d really like my Lady now, please.
Sebastian: Ahhh, a peaceful nap with no interruptions. How could that be? My mind was still fogged with sleep; it’s because the intruder is gone, of course. And my tranquility will be returned. Good riddance. But that’s odd. I don’t seem to see him in the back yard any more. He may truly be gone. While that’s not entirely bad, I don’t exactly wish him harm either.
That’s his cry. Bilbo. The other side of the house.
Yes, this window by the front door. His cry is so loud for one so small. I see him now. Just into the neighbor’s yard. Well done. He can just go mooch over there. Who is he calling for? How odd that I feel sad.
No! The dog. The neighbor’s dog. I think this is very bad. Sarah! If I knew how to yowl, I would. Crouch down, Bilbo. That’s right. Be very still. Don’t move.
Sarah! Open the door. Let me out. Let me out.
The dog’s moving toward him. Now stopping.
The Lady’s car! I hear it. She’s home. Look to the side yard! See them! I think I AM yowling. And here’s Sarah. Open the door!
And I’m flying past her ankles and I’m out! Across the yard. Past Bilbo. Saints preserve me. Five feet from the dog . . . who looks at first startled, but now growling.
You bully, you big, dumb, drooling beast. How dare you frighten helpless children! Take this! And I draw myself up spiking all my hair on end and emit the most ferocious, horrendously frightening, magnificently intimidating, ear-splitting hiss that any canine has ever heard.
Bilbo: He’s running! He’s gone. You saved me. And here’s the Lady scooping us both up in her arms. She still wants me! I’m not lost any more. Sebastian, there’s wet stuff coming from her eyes. What’s that mean?
Sebastian: It means that I’m a true hero, and that our family is going home. Just where we all belong.