I feel I should now reveal my connection to the cat I shall call Haruki’s cat, and something of the circumstances that led me to visit Japan. Although I cannot go so far as to describe what happened to me in Japan I believe the reader will be able to sense, from what I write here, something of that experience: enough, at least, to feel the kind of wonder I refer to in equating cat + wonder. With that done … surely that is all that needs to be done?
It was late October and I was relaxing on my sofa contemplating, of all things, peppercorns. The peppercorn grinder I had recently bought seemed immune to reason when it came to actually adding the peppercorns, and I had just succeeded in spilling a good deal of them all over my kitchen floor. Outraged I had thrown the peppercorn grinder to the very end of my garden and slumped down on the sofa, thinking about the mess on my kitchen floor. At that moment my telephone rang.
I hesitated, sighed, and picked the receiver up. I did not feel in any way inclined to a speak with anyone but for some reason I decided to answer.
There was a moment’s silence, and then a man’s voice – a soft, foreign voice, Japanese, perhaps: ‘ Peppercorns are indeed a plague when they scatter.’
I nearly dropped the receiver.
‘What? Who is this?’ I glanced at the window, imagining I was somehow being watched – nobody. A camera? I had heard of such things. A camera hidden in a book?
The voice replied. ‘No, there is no camera. There are no eyes on you, only my mind. In my mind’s eye I can see you, although that kind of sight, I would say, is a very different type of sight from the one you have in mind. I am speaking with you telepathically.’
‘I asked, who are you?’
‘I am a Japanese cat.’
‘Don’t be stupid. I’m going to put the phone down.’
‘Please, don’t do that.’
‘This is madness.’
‘Perhaps telepathy is a form of madness, yes; but I am certainly a cat.’
‘Don’t be ridiculous.’
The voice, and I shall call it a voice for now, paused. I heard a rustle. ‘You heard that sound?’ asked the voice.
‘Yes you did.’ The voice sounded kind, something in me felt unable to disagree, especially when I had so clearly heard the rustle, like a foot being placed on dried leaves.
‘Perhaps I did.’
‘Indeed,’ answered the voice. ‘And these are in fact dried leaves I am lying on, speaking to you. I merely turned around.’
‘This is ridiculous. A cat cannot use a telephone. I know cats: a cat couldn’t dial a number, or hold a receiver. A cat’s paws forbid these things.’
‘An ordinary cat, perhaps. But I am Haruki’s cat. I speak into a receiver attached to my collar, that I activate with my breath. I breathe twice, heavily, to turn the telephone on – and when I say telephone I am referring to nothing more than a very tiny grey box attached to my left forepaw. It is almost weightless. I often forget it is there. So I activate the phone with my breath and then whisper numbers, only in breath, no words, which are dialed. Do not ask me how they are dialed as that part is beyond me. Haruki arranged for the telephone when he discovered my powers of telepathy. Haruki knows and I do not.
I lay in silence, staring at the receiver in my hand; my mind returned briefly to the peppercorns, and then I spoke.
‘Who is Haruki?’
‘He writes books, very good ones. He runs. He cooks lovely food to which I am partial.’
‘You’re speaking in riddles. He’s a man, I take it?’
‘Yes, he’s a very special man, with a great understanding of things about which many men choose to remain ignorant. And of those who do not choose ignorance, very, very few are actually capable of comprehending the truth. He is one of those men. He has, for example, made it possible for me to speak to you.’
As the voice said this, something happened to me, like a tug, as if someone had taken me by the arm as I was walking along, a little lost, and set me on the right route. The effect in me was a softening; a believing. Whereas until that point I had been incredulous, so much so that my incredulity might have led, if it has continued, to the telephone in my hand joining my peppercorn grinder at the end of the garden. Instead I felt inclined to take the voice seriously.
I spoke slowly, the harshness gone from my voice. ‘If I accept what you are saying, I am still at a loss to understand why you would want to call me after I had spilled some peppercorns. Why would you want to speak to me?’
‘So I can invite you to Japan, where I live, with Haruki.’
Was I mesmerized? Was I under some kind of spell? Was I subject to some strange form of delusion? No, I was not. But I can say little more.
I went to Japan where I met this cat and Haruki. I have decided, however, never to reveal what emerged for me there unless to do so would benefit Haruki and his cat – whose name I learned, but swore never to repeat. Currently I do not see that it would.
From what I have written here, however, but to which I will not add, you may deduce that my ideas of a new aesthetic approach to the psychology of cats, and of what this reveals to us of ourselves, not least in relation to the science of telepathy, runs more than skin deep.
I shall proceed now to discuss my approach without reference to Haruki’s cat, although that cat’s little purring heart remains at the heart of this text.