Pard and the Poets (Annals of Pard: IV)
by Ursula K. Le Guin
Six poets came to my house yesterday afternoon for the monthly meeting of our poetry group. There should have been eight of us in all, but alas Jeannette couldn’t come. She definitely should have been there, because her Ruby Roo is a very bad young cat, like Pard. All the poets own cats, or dogs, or horses, or kids, or grandkids, and they’re all experienced in youth and badness; but Ruby Roo takes the cake. So, anyhow, they all dumped their coats (it was rainy) on the windowseat, and we sat in a circle of chairs around the fireplace and had some tea, and then started to read and discuss our poems. (The assignment had been to write a somonka, which is two tankas, in two voices, a call and a response.) Pard had greeted everybody as they came in, a bit shyly but with some excitement and a strong desire to sniff their shoes thoroughly. By now, he was circling around the edges of the group, occasionally darting through it with his tail up in the air and recurved over his back. (Barbara observed “That cat has a handle.”) Once he climbed the back of my chair and patted my head a little, but mostly he did not demand attention. We were deep in a discussion of where the somonka under scrutiny didn’t quite work and how to fix it, when Molly said in a smothered voice “Excuse me but —” pointing to the heap of coats over on the windowseat. It was heaving strangely. It writhed. A coat sleeve began to twitch as if an unseen arm were entering it. Pard, who likes very much to get into things — boxes, cupboards, bags, garments — was trying coats on. As he got farther in, the sleeve humped up and wriggled wildly. Finally, deep inside the cuff, appeared a pink nose and one slightly desperate green-yellow eye. It was too tight for him to get on out of in that direction or to turn around and get back out of in the other. Caroline finally took pity on him and helped him extract himself — the rest of us were incapable of movement, collapsed in our chairs, paralysed with laughter. It was pretty loud. Pard departed at once from the scene of this uncouth simian behavior. He went upstairs to the attic and sat on Charles’s lap. Quiet, dignified male bonding. Then he helped Charles with his jigsaw puzzle, something he is fonder of doing than Charles is of his doing it. The poets, downstairs, recovered slowly, and went back to their somonkas.
3 December 2012