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 Id 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 shed publish it. There are a few problems: Im not sure what language to write it in, I dont know if Bill and Melinda Gates have a cat, and the worst problem of all, I dont 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 Id have the definite advantage of using Microsoftware words in the original and I could also directly quote people from Seattle. Also, its 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 wouldnt have to reach for my phraseolator. Also, I like the word pussy because it has such a nice double meaning, I wouldnt 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 youre 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 Id 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 whove gone to Russia voluntarily to visit the place where the cat in Bulgakovs 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. Im 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 werent 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 dont have a cat, but please dont mail me one. I havent decided whether Im going to write the book or not.