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Talk to Your Cat Day

Author Shelley Fraser Mickle
Air Date 1/22/2001

Talk to Your Cat Day Transcript

Today, Shelley Fraser Mickle is remembering an intriguing conversation – with a cat. 

Probably nobody in America knows as much about us as our garbage men and our cats. After all, the things we throw away and the things we say to cats reveal more about us than our income tax statements and birth certificates. The thing about cats is, we all know they don’t give a hoot about what we tell them, and they will definitely never pass it on. Which reminds me of the cat owned by my piano teacher, Mrs. Caldwell. His name was Beethoven, and he sat at the top of the piano during my lessons. He seemed to get a thrill out of the vibrations that the plunked piano keys sent him. He lay up there with his head hanging partway down, his whiskers as long as whisk broom straws, his head a mass of whipped cream fur. He was as fat as a stuffed couch pillow, and he never opened his eyes more than halfway. 

I liked Beethoven in spite of what he knew about me. Because while I suffered through the Bumble Bee Song and The Spinning Wheel and worked myself up to a watered-down version of a Mozart minuet,  Mrs. Caldwell said things to Beethoven like, “Look how Shelley forgot to practice this week.” And then, “Beethoven, don’t you think Shelley could do better on this if she really tried?”

I don’t think Beethoven liked  Mrs. Caldwell, either. Whenever she picked up my hand and made me arch my palm and plunk the keys in the proper manner, he would reach down with his paw and try to catch her hand that was joined with mine. Once when I was butchering a Strauss waltz and  Mrs. Caldwell was giving me the business about that, Beethoven reached over the philodendron plant that was parked beside him and ate a whole life. Mrs. Caldwell jumped up, screaming about how that plant was poison, and while she fished the leaf out of Beethoven’s mouth, I finished the Strauss waltz and the sound of it evaporated. 

After two years of lessons, I told Mrs. Caldwell I was giving up the piano. “Oh, but darling!” she asked, “Why?” I didn’t go into a real long explanation. I just told her the truth. “Ask Beethoven,” I said.

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