Olive and the Slippary Chair
Written in March 2004
Once upon a time there was a kitten. The kitten was a girl and her name was Olive. Olive was sweet and had soft, smooth fur. She was all black and had a white spot on her back. She was smart and she wasn’t very heavy. Her owner had an office in their house. Olive liked going in the office. The only problem was, she got nervous when people came in. Olive thought to herself, “I must start being brave.” One day, a man walked into the office. He had a cat with him. Olive meowed so loud you could hear her throughout the house. Olive’s owner picked her up and put her down next to his chair. Her owner started petting the cat. Olive jumped on the chair. She slipped on the chair. She thought it was like a slide. That’s it! If she was having fun she forgot about being scared. Olive lived happily ever after.
Isn’t Olive an adorable name for a cat? How ever did my child self come up with such a sweet, somber name? Well, because my family had (and still has!) a cat named Olive. And she wasn’t named after the grayed-green hue; we named her such because we loved eating black olives. (Note: We never once attempted to eat or bite said feline.)
And much like the Olive in this story, our kitty had charcoal gray fur with patches of white and light brown. She was special because from the litter she was born, she was the only female cat, the only one with gray fur, and the runt of the pack. Maybe it was because of this, but she was also quite feisty—she was good for a pet or two before she’d go in for a bite. (So our beloved Black Olive ended up trying to eat us.)
“Olive and the Slippary Chair” [sic] was written in 2004 by a younger version of myself. If time machines weren’t behind schedule (it’s 2020 and we still don’t have time machines?), then we could venture back 16 years and interview the author herself on the meaning behind this story, but because we don’t have time-traveling capabilities, we’ll just have to settle with the next best option, and that is older me, utilizing my best and most serious interpretation skills.
This story begins once upon a time with a kitten. We receive some characteristics of this kitten, such as her female nature, her sweetness, and the qualities of her fur, which is soft and black with a patch of white. This intelligent, lightweight feline regrettably has an owner, which I say “regrettably” because no cat enjoys being “owned.” Their defiant nature lands them somewhere in the realm of “begrudgingly deals with an assigned human.”
This owner has an office, which people occasionally visit, and which causes her anxiety. Ah, here we have it—the conflict of the story! Olive is afraid of her owner’s associates. She is aware of this personal flaw, and says to herself, “I must start being brave.” What an incredibly self-aware and motivated young cat.
But who is this “owner,” and what business transpires in this office? Why is his office at home and not at a—well, at an office? Is there some reason he has to deal privately at home rather than in a public building? Why would his business practices be so frightful and nerve-racking to Olive? Why do his guests strike fear into her tiny, wholesome little heart?
Until one day, when a man visits her owner’s office with a cat. This menacing visitor and his seemingly harmless cat (perhaps the cat was also threatening; the author does not specify) incite so much fear into Olive that her meow of terror echoes throughout the entire house. In response, Olive’s owner picks her up and sets her beside his chair. Maybe prior to this, she had been sprawled out on her owner’s desk, lying upon a pile of papers in a most entitled manner, when the visitor and the strange cat entered and launched her into a panic.
Olive is now on the floor beside her owner’s chair, in a more inconspicuous location of the office, on the ground, near the feet of tall humans. Her owner presumably stands up from his chair and goes to the foreign cat, entranced by the itty-bitty-cutey-wooty-ness of this new cat, whose fluffy cuteness can only be resisted by the coldest individuals. So, yes, I am imagining tall men in business suits swooning over a kitty.
While the owner is distracted with the new kitty, for some reason—maybe to gain higher ground, to lessen her vulnerability—Olive jumps onto her owner’s office chair, and she slides! Now, at first read, I thought this meant Olive slid upon the cushion; I’m not doubting the author’s intelligence, per se, but if there’s one thing I know about cats, claws, and leather office chairs, it’s that a cat sliding upon a cushion is not really something that happens—it’s more like “scratching up everything” happens. However, after further consideration, I think that the author truly intended that the chair as a whole slid. Because Olive clumsily slips when jumping upon the office chair, its wheels slide across the mat it’s on, the momentum of her jump and falter propelling the chair in the opposite direction. Now, I may be a rocket scientist, but this is just simple physics.
This delights her to such an extent that she momentarily forgets her fear and relishes in the entertainment of the slippery chair; then, her epiphany occurs! If she pays all her attention to her enjoyment, then she forgets about her fear! This is such a revolutionary realization for Olive that she lives happily ever after with no further problems or complications because fun is the answer!
But I still don’t feel right about her owner’s business practices. Why would a man bring a cat to an interview? Did her owner frequently have men with cats visit? Is he a cat dealer? Someone who uses cats as currency and trades cats like stock? But if he was a cat dealer, he would probably have more than just a single cat in his home—he’d have to hold extras at his house, and have a safe filled with cats that were supposed to increase in value, and the author would have mentioned an important fact like that. So since Olive was probably an only cat, then there’s only one obvious answer for his profession: cat online dating sites.
It makes sense. A man who wants his portrait taken is going to dress in his best suit, and if it’s a cat online dating site, then he’s certainly going to need to bring his cat. Olive’s owner probably photographed the man and his cat, and then interviewed the gentleman so that he could help him draft the best possible profile for him and his sweet little Fluffer-face Sparkle Pants, then post it on SingleCatsSeeking.com, where other single people and their single cats could find their purrrrfect match. If a person and their cat were interested in you after reading your profile, they could click the “Stare at You and Walk Away” button if they wanted you to attempt to set up a date with them while they played hard-to-get, or if they were really into you, they could click the bold “Suddenly Begin to Wash my Private Parts while You’re in the Room Holding a Perfectly Normal Conversation with Someone Else” button. If a person posted something, rather than “like” their post, you could “Flick Your Tail” at their post.
Then, after a person finally went on a date with someone from the website, it was fine and dandy for the humans to be compatible, but for the true test, their cats had to get along. If the cats didn’t get along, the owners took it as a sign that they were not meant to be, and moved on to the next suitor and cat.
So obviously that’s what Olive’s owner does for work, and she is so afraid while clients visit because they bring their cats, and Olive has social anxiety because she has no idea what’s going on. As far as she can tell, her owner is interviewing potential new cats to replace her while the scary man is swapping his cat for Olive, thus relocating her to a new home. Olive doesn’t want to go; this is her home! What if the new owner doesn’t feed her whenever she demands it? What if there’s a dog in the house? What if they didn’t give her that grilled chicken gravy feast wet cat food that she so specifically likes and won’t eat a single bite of any other kind?? She’ll starve!!!
However, when Olive receives and unexpected ride on the office chair, she is temporarily blinded by the amusement of it, thus blessing her with a moment of epiphany: she forgets entirely about her worries whilst fun occurs! How glorious—and much better!
Then it goes into the “happily ever part” and we don’t need to go into that, because Olive probably just messed around and scratched up her owner’s chair for the rest of her days until he retired from the cat online dating field and moved onto the “squirrels in your neighborhood” app he and his old college frat brother launched together.
Ultimately, the lesson here seems to be that fun will outweigh fear, if we let it, and that fun can sometimes be really, really random, but still fun nonetheless, like sliding on a chair. No matter what scary cat people pop in and out of your life, find that ball of yarn, attack that scrap of paper, or slip across the floor on that office chair. Do it afraid.
If you’re wondering how my family’s cat Olive is doing these days, she is still living well. She’s got her own spot on the couch and spends her nights watching reality television with my parents.
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And if you’d like to join in on my Slanted Spines 2020 Book List, pick up a copy of Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens and watch out for my book review on it at the end of January!