Chapter 5: Always by your side

In which our hero and heroine spend a lazy Sunday together and harebrained schemes take form.

"So, exactly why would your cat be an alien?" Bodil looks at Kurt with an unreadable expression, probably because she herself doesn't know whether he is joking or finally has become fully unraveled.

"You would not believe me if I told you."

"It is very certain that I won't believe you if you don't tell me."

"Would you believe me if I told you that Prince ... PawPrince is also a boy?"

"Makes sense to me."

"What? It does? How could that possibly make sense?"

"My mother used to say that a cat is always a boy until it gets kittens. Perhaps this is just because she grew up in a time when it was considered embarrassing to check on a cat's private parts, apart from the fact that they would shed your hide to small pieces if you tried. But PawPrince certainly doesn't have any kittens, and he is kinda hyper and aggressive and stuff. So I think it makes perfect sense."

"No, I don't mean a boy cat. I mean a human boy."

"You're right. I don't believe you. What's the punchline?"

"There is no punchline."

There is a brief silence while Bodil watches him for any clue to the supposed joke, until it finally dawns on her that he might be serious.

"Kurt... there is no way PawPrince could be human. Humans are much larger, for starters. OK, a baby might be about the same size. But babies don't run around the house. Babies don't have fur. Babies don't have claws, thank goodness. Babies don't use the litter box, sadly. Babies don't have tails. Babies don't meow. There is, in short, no possible way he could be human, just like there is no possible way we could be cats."

"That's why I knew you wouldn't believe me."

"Well, you were right. Kurt, I know you love the furball like your own son, but..."

"That's not it. I woke up in the morning and he was really human. Or at least he had a human body, and could talk. We ate breakfast together, although he ate cat food and he really sucked at eating with a spoon, and we talked together and I think he was jealous of you because I gave you too much attention. I was trying to teach him how to read, but then you showed up and... No way! That must be it!"

"And then you woke up and it was all a dream?"

"No. I just realized now. Somehow you have the power to transform him back into cat again! I have no idea how, but that's got to be it!"

Bodil moves into an exaggerated superhero stance: "Yes! I finally have the power! Now and forever, I am the... CAT TRANSFORMER!"

"No, seriously! That's the only explanation that makes sense. Somehow he is changed back into cat form whenever you show up."

"I don't think 'makes sense' is the expression we are looking for... I would rather not see that expression used in the same breath as transforming cats, and 10 out of 9 English teachers would agree with me."

"You still don't believe me, do you?"

"Of course not! What you propose would break several laws of thermodynamics, and quite possibly the fourth wall as well. Where would the mass come from for human body, and where would it go when he transformed back?"

"I have no idea! I just know what I saw. But you think I'm crazy, don't you? That's why I shouldn't have said it in the first place."

That makes Bodil quite serious all of a sudden. "That's not the right word at all. By all accounts you are perfectly normal except for this one hallucination. I think it is nature's way of dealing with your overwhelming sense of loneliness."


"I mean, if people go without food for days, they will start to smell food that isn't there, and they will dream about food every night. And if you remember from church history, some of those saints who lived out in the desert, they reported being tempted by demons taking the shape of naked women. So it makes sense that your subconscious would feed you images of a naked boy."

"I really don't see why that would make sense at all."

"Humans are not porcupines, you know. We are social creatures, not meant to live alone. Also, there are certain... biological urges, which I understand are particularly strong in young males. There are some things cats just can't do. So I think it makes perfect sense."

"That's not what I meant..."

"But don't worry! You are not going to be locked up in a padded cell, not if I can stop it! And I think we can. We just have to work with the flow, so to speak. Remember how, if you fall into a river, you should always swim with the current, never against it, and not straight to the side either? By going with the current, you expend the least energy, while you gradually make your way toward the river bank. That's what we will do!"

"I have not fallen into a river, to the best of my knowledge, just a waterslide. And I'm not going there again in the near future."

"I am speaking metaphorically, of course! Rather than fighting against the raging forces of your subconscious, we have to work with them until such a time that you can climb up on safer ground further downstream."

"It is not my subconscious! I saw it with my own eyes!"

"Those don't count. Remember the witch hunts in the 17th century? People really saw with their own eyes their friends and neighbors riding on broomsticks, milking milk and blood from knives, using the evil eye on people and animals. They saw demons with their own eyes. And yet all of it was in their mind. You cannot trust your eyes. The human brain is simply not made to work under such conditions."

"Then we have a problem."

"But not one we cannot solve. And I intend to solve it. First off, since I seem able to implode your Prince Charming by my mere presence, I am going to check in on you every day from now on until we are sure you are OK. I may not be as good as a boy, for you I mean, but I'm still a real human. And we will have to work on ways for you to get to know real boys."

"I really think whatever harebrained scheme you are cooking up is going to backfire spectacularly, as usual."

"Well, think about this then: What do you prefer, my harebrained scheme or a padded cell and your butt studded with tranquilizer needles like a porcupine?"

It may be blackmail, but it is pretty effective blackmail. He is well aware that no one else is going to believe in him more than she does, and most are likely to be less willing to help and more willing to ship him off to the Saragossa sea of human wreckage.

"Fine. But don't shed your skin if I come up with a photo of Prince in human form."

"I won't, unless he is exceptionally well equipped."

"I didn't know you cared about that..."

"It was a joke, Kurt. A joke. I was being facetious, a privilege I can afford because I don't expect you to ever photograph your dream boy."

"He is not my dream boy, he is my cat."

"Catboy, then."

"That makes me imagine a cute underage boy with cat ears,cat tail and big anime eyes."

"The underage part is only a visual effect. They are legal, albeit just barely, and they know it."

"At least they don't transform from severely underage to sexy adult through a colorful sequence of spinning around and showing lots of skin and pantsu."

All the talk about catboys and transformation sequences makes them both hungry for anime, so Kurt hooks up the PC to the TV and draws the curtain, and the two of them share the sofa and illegally downloaded episodes of Powerpuff Girls Z. The self-ironic nature of the series makes it acceptable to watch the endless parade of cliches, stereotypes and stunningly bad science. Meanwhile they munch the entire large side of apple pie, which frankly had deserved a better fate, such as whipped cream and copious praise. Of course, the cream would probably not have fared well with PawPrince on Kurt's lap; he is already sniffing the pie as is.

Kurt can't help but steal a glance at Bodil as she is watching the TV. As usual, she is "sitting" in the sofa as if haphazardly thrown there and stuck to the cheap fake leather like overcooked pasta sticking to any random surface. He has no idea how she manages to be comfortable with it. Admittedly she will change position from time to time, but they are all weird, unlike his tendency toward classroom sitting in front of the telly. And so... un-self-conscious she is, if that is even a word. It is the best he can think of. As if her body just happens, not as if it is a statement to the world. She really is different. A snatch of a song crosses his mind:

You're walking a different direction from most people I've met.

You're giving me signs of affection I don't usually get.

I don't want you to pledge your future

-the future's not yours to give.

Just stand there a little longer and let me watch while you live...

"What? Have I spilled crumbs? I'll get the vacuum afterwards..."

"No, no! No need to."

"Good then, since nature abhors a vacuum..." She grins at her own wit.

"And so does a cat" he counters. Which is certainly true. You'd think the poor PawPrince had ended one of his earlier lives being eaten by a vacuum cleaner.

"It's a shame my catboy-deflating superpower doesn't come with its own transformation sequence" she muses.

"You just can't let that go, can you?"

"What? It's my only superpower!"

"If you're so interested in superpowers, you should play City of Heroes!"

"Nah, those kind of games are for boys."

"Actually there are a good number of girls there."

"Kurt, Kurt! Just because something has boobs in a game doesn't mean it has boobs in real life. It's probably a ploy to get free loot from horny teen boys. Not that it would work with you, obviously."

"No, seriously. You hear it from their conversations, how they casually refer to their hubbies or boyfriends. Besides, they are more likely than the males to have to go afk because the baby is making a fuss."
"I'd do all that for fat loot."

"There isn't even loot in the game! Well, there are enhancements, but they are pretty generic and anyone can afford them."

"What's the point of a game without loot?"

"Setting bullies on fire. Is there any greater pleasure in life?"

"Hmm, perhaps setting horny teen boys on fire."

"I hope you are not referring to my humble self."

"Well, obviously not in my case."

That's not nearly as obvious to him as to her, though. Even though he knows now that she is a girl who likes girls, she is still a girl. But as always, he hides what he is feeling. That's what he has always done, and it has served him well so far.

"Can we take a break? I'm getting awfully sleepy from sitting still so long."
"Yes, it must be very unusual for you."

She grabs both of the pillows and curls up in the sofa. Kurt is not sure whether to feel relieved that she doesn't put her head in his lap or worried because she very nearly puts her feet and backside there. At least backsides don't have eyes. That's one of their more appealing traits, really. Given a suitable angle, you can watch them for hours without them watching you back. This happened once during a longish train ride, less than a year ago. Apart from blinking now and then, he managed to watch the same rear for something like 4 hours continually. It counts as a personal record, but it is probably not fit for Guinness Book of Records. Also, it was an awesome rear by almost any way you measure them, and he had nothing better to do.

"Wake me if the cat begins to talk" she mumbles.

"You just can't let it go, can you?"

"Hee hee."

Kurt finds a good textbook and busies himself with that. Even PawPrince gets tired of trying to tickle Kurt's nose with his tail, and runs off to fight the relentless onslaught of the squeaky toy. Gradually the letters start to change into squiggly tadpoles and swim away. Kurt briefly closes his eyes to clear them.

"We have to stop doing this." Someone shoves him away.

"What?" He blinks sleep from his eyes. Oh, he fell asleep again!

"It seems we two can't sleep at the same time without you using some part of me as a pillow. If I didn't know better by now, I'd say you did it on purpose!"

"I didn't mean to! Really! I just fell asleep while reading..."

"I know, I know. But we should be glad no one else was watching."

"This time."

"Well, it's the repetition that is suspicious. But I'm sure this will blow over when you get your own boyfriend."

"What? Why in the world would I want a boyfriend?"

"Isn't that obvious? To save your cat from doing double duty as one."

"In that case, wouldn't it be better to get PawPrince a catfriend?"

"I know this is hard for you to accept yet. But don't worry, I'll think of something!"

"That's why I worry!"