Volume 20 Issue 7 | June 29 - July 5, 2007

The Penny Post

The cat and Bill Gates

By Andrei Codrescu

I promised a friend in Romania that I’d write a book about a cat. I even told her the title: “Bill Gates’ Cat.” My friend is an editor at a publishing house and she said that if I wrote “Bill Gates’ Cat” she’d publish it. There are a few problems: I’m not sure what language to write it in, I don’t know if Bill and Melinda Gates have a cat, and the worst problem of all, I don’t have a cat at the moment. None of these problems are insurmountable.

I can throw a coin: heads English, tails Romanian. If it comes up heads I’d have the definite advantage of using Microsoftware words in the original and I could also directly quote people from Seattle. Also, it’s easier to talk about cats in English because all my cats until now were American. I can only remember Howdy, Pepsi and Tipitina, but there were a few others and they all had solid American names. I even wrote poems about all of them (mostly after they died), so I already have them enshrined in the language and I wouldn’t have to reach for my phraseolator. Also, I like the word “pussy” because it has such a nice double meaning, I wouldn’t even have to reach for it. In Romanian the word for cat is “pisica” and when you call a pisica you say: “pissou, pissou,” not “kitty kitty.” “Pissou pissou” is obliquely naughty, just like “kitty kitty,” but “pisica” is down the ladder euphemistically from “pussy.” If you’re a street punk in Bucharest you might accost a woman by saying, “Hey, whatcha doing pisica?,” and you might either get slapped or, in rare cases, the person under appellation might say, “meow,” which is the same in both languages.

If the coin comes up tails I’d have to move to Romania for a year, get a cat, name it Haidouk (Outlaw) and study it intently in the context of a culture that is excessively fond of pets. Cats are only second to dogs in the affections of Romanians and they are very affectionate people. Some cats in that Carpathian republic have their own pillows, embroidered by crafty peasants. The literary people are crazy about literary cats and I know poets who’ve gone to Russia voluntarily to visit the place where the cat in Bulgakov’s “Master and Margarita” did its mischief. Other members of the native intelligentsia cannot read or study without a cat poised on their shoulders.

Whether Bill and Melinda Gates have a cat is less of a problem because I could invent a cat for them, a virtual cat that would be no different than the thousands of virtual animals that they already possess in their image bank. I’m willing to bet, however, that amid all that virtuality, the Gateses feel the need for a real feline and have one named Windows or something. This cat, which is not programmed to purr constantly, would probably think and talk and criticize the Gateses, contradicting their opinions, second-guessing them, and talking back as if they weren’t billionaires. This cat could become the mouthpiece for all my luddite opinions and would, eventually, become the C.E.O. of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, in charge of distributing fortunes to its protégés.

The worst problem is that I don’t have a cat, but please don’t mail me one. I haven’t decided whether I’m going to write the book or not.

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