Regret in the Machine

Regret had been spending more and more time in his box, and at some point I became concerned, for a number of reasons. One was that he persisted in smoking, so there was the ever present risk of fire. The other, and I’m a little ashamed to admit it, is that I was afraid he might be using it as an alternate litter box. Ashamed because as much of a pain in my ass as that cat might be, he’s my friend. And friends shouldn’t assume that just because a friend is a cat he’s going to indiscriminately shit anywhere that looks vaguely like a litter box.

Which he actually doesn’t use anyway, unless the weather is really awful. He’s been depositing his spoor across the neighborhood, specifically on the back patios of my neighbors. He’s like a poop ninja. The neighborhood block has organized several roving watches over the years in an attempt to nail the perpetrator. There’s even been talking of trying to get DNA from the poop and having all the pets in a ten block radius tested. But as no one has been willing to pick up the bill for all that testing, Regret is safe for now.

So one night when he was out confounding the neighbors, I took a look into his box. I may have had a drink or two before doing so. Maybe it was three. In any case, I wasn’t particularly steady on my feet, and I tried to steady myself as I knelt down by reaching a hand out to the bottom of the box.

That didn’t work out well.

My hand kept going, and I found myself falling into the box, falling and falling for what felt like a very long time, then coming to on a cardboard floor in what seemed to be a vast cavern, though it was shrouded mostly in darkness. I stood up uncertainly, the cardboard beneath my feet seemed to sag slightly, and looked around as best I could.

The first thing I really saw was a strange, furry lump on the floor. It was Regret, face down and dead. His body was cold and his fur charged with a tinge of static as I picked him up.

I have to be honest, I have very mixed feelings about that cat. But I guess I must have felt something for him too, because I’ll be damned if I didn’t tear up a bit holding him.

Finally, still carrying him, I tried to explore further into the cavern, and came upon another furry lump on the floor. To my surprise, this was also the lifeless body of Regret. I put the other down and picked the new one up. It was just as cold and also zapped me a bit as I stroked the fur.

As I explored I found dozens of Regrets in a similar state. No walls though, the room seemed to extend for miles into the darkness.

Eventually though, after I began to think that this is where I’d spend the rest of my life, I saw a glimmer of light in the distance. I ran towards it, nearly tripping several times on lumps of Regret, until I found a wall, and a corridor extending away into increasing light. I walked down the corridor, a little cautious now that the light was better, and more uncertain about what I’d find. The mindless panic was slowly replaced by fear at what was waiting for me at the end of the light.

The corridor extended into a brightly lit, equally enormous room, this one full of life Regrets in lab coats bustling between enormous machines that glowed a sickly yellow and hummed like millions of angry bees. The air itself was charged with the same static I’d felt in the fur of the dead Regrets, alive with it, walking through it was like being submerged in a pool of unambitious electric eels.

The Regrets were busy, frantic almost, scrambling back and forth to tune the machines as their cries rose into the biting air.

When I couldn’t figure out what else to do, I waved one of them down. The Regret noticed me finally, approaching me with a kind but puzzled look.

“You can’t be down here, asshole. Don’t you know that?”

“Where is here? What’s the hell is going on?” I could feel myself slipping a bit, and noticed off in the distance, behind them, several of the Regrets were gathering around another lump on the floor, this one much too big to be a cat.

“Hold on,” Regret said, rummaging in his lab coat. “You can’t be down here. And you can’t see what’s over there. You’re… Unhinged enough, on a day to day basis.” He found what he was looking for, and pulled out a black cylinder. “Here is it.”

“What is that over there?” I asked, pushing my way past him. The Regrets were surrounding the lump, blocking it from me. The machine, temporarily free of the Regret’s tuning, rose up a cacophonous roar.

“Never mind, that, look here. This will blow your mind.”

I turned and saw that he was pointed the cylinder at me.

“Literally, assuming I’ve remembered to charge it.” He said, and there was a flash of light.

I awoke on my bed. Regret was sitting on the end, smoking and flicking the ashes onto the floor.

“Let’s never speak of this again,” he said, then leaped off and strutted out of the room.

Outside, morning light was streaming into the room. It felt like poison.

Regret in a box

Regret has taken to camping out in a box in my living room. The box, which until recently held the newest automated floor cleaner from the Turing corporation, is now full of fur, cigarette ashes, and a very alive cat, Schrodinger be damned.
As an aside, you’d think I would have learned my lesson about buying autonomous household accessories, but as a loyal Turing customer they gave me a steep discount, presumably on the assumption that I’d be so satisfied with the bugger that I’d order a fleet of the robotic vacuums for the office. Safe to say the performance of said vacuum cleaner has been less than stellar. After deciding, not entirely unreasonably, that Regret was the cause of all mess within the house, it tried aggressively to vacuum up any parts of Regret it could get to, primarily his tail. Regret retaliated by cruising the counter tops and knocking glasses, plates, and anything else he could get his treacherous paws onto in the path of the robot, which had to dutifully clean the disasters. Finally, the robot retreated under my bed and sulked, plotting revenge until its batteries ran down.

I’m reluctant to recharge it for fear that it came up with an actionable plan.

Meanwhile, as I said, Regret has taken up residence in the box, joking about conducting high energy physics experiments that will rend the very nature of time and space.
“Am I alive, am I dead, I’m a cat in an box! Schrodinger, suck my indeterminate state ass!”
Oddly, since he’s camped out in the box, our block has lost power three times and over the last few days I’ve noticed a black van with a small forest of angled antenna cruising slowly up and down our street, as if looking for something.

Regret doesn’t wear socks

Regret and I don’t always see eye to eye on things. Clothes for example. The joy of a talking cat is that you get to hear about it. All the other cats I’ve had in my life simply look dismayed when I chose my clothes.

A few months ago I needed socks, and me being me I just grabbed the first package I saw at the store and called it a day. Wasn’t until I opened them the next day that I saw that the toes of the socks where lettered L and R as pairs.

I checked the packaging. These weren’t children’s socks. They weren’t special socks for morons (or at least weren’t obviously packaged that way). So either the letters were ironic, or the manufacturer of the socks actually believed that their product was so finely machined that mattered which foot they were were worn on.

“You sure you didn’t get the moron brand?” said Regret, when I showed him.

I tried them out on either foot. Couldn’t tell the difference. Over the weeks that followed my behavior, indeed, my entire philosophy regarding the socks, changed markedly.

At first, I didn’t really give a fuck and just wore them as they came out of the drawer. Too Lefts? Who gives a fuck.

Then, it started to become a bit like tea leaves for the day. Left on the Left, Right on the Right and it was going to be a good day. Two Lefts. No good. Two Rights. Worse. Left sock on my right foot, right sock on my left, all hell was likely to break loose.

That has slowly morphed into me being very sure each morning that I get it right. Left on the Left. Right on the right. If I get out of sync with the laundry and can’t make them match, I just call in sick.

“They are moron socks,” said Regret this morning. “Only they aren’t just for morons, they turn you into one.”

Explain Trump

“Hold on,” said Regret the cat, flicking his cigarette in the toilet. He giggled, stopped himself again. “Hold on, wait,” he shook himself all over, then flicked my toothbrush into the toilet as well. “Ok. Now I’m ready.”
“Goddamn it,” I grabbed him by the scruff of the neck and tossed him gently into the hallway.
“Hold on,” he said, indulging in a little post toss grooming. “Wait, OK, I’m ready. Do it again.”
“Do what again?”
“Explain Trump to me. I can handle it this time.”

Regret has never tasted dog

Regret has never tasted dog

Regret has been after me to take him to China for the last week.

“They eat dog there?” It started when he ambushed me in the hallway after work a week ago, before I’d even kicked off my shoes. He’s almost like a normal cat in many ways. He’ll hide there, in the hallway behind the curtains, with only his twitching tail exposed. If he wasn’t smoking all the damn time he’d maybe pull off the ambush now and then.
As it is, the only frightening about his ambushes is the very real possibility that he’ll set the curtains on fire.
“They eat dogs? Why wasn’t I told about this?”
“There are many, many things you don’t know about.”
“What kinds of things? Never mind. Let’s stay focused,” he said, drawing on his cigarette again. He blew out a perfect smoke ring that hovered in the air between us a few seconds. We both watched as it dissolved.
“Dogs,” I said, heading for my bedroom.
“EATING dogs,” he said, following me into my my bathroom and flicking the expired cigarette into the sink, which he knows pisses me off.
“We aren’t going to China.” I said, trying to get out in front of him.
“Can’t we just go to Chinese restaurant?”
“No. They can’t serve it in the states. It isn’t humane.”
“Your definition of that word is different than mine. Have you ever meet a dog? They don’t factor into humane.”
“Any yet,” I said, “there it is.”
“We need to go to China.”
“The entire idea is ridiculous.”
“You mean to tell me,” he said, “You mean to tell me that given the chance, you wouldn’t eat the flesh of your enemy? That if someone killed that marketing VP, the one one you’re always complaining about, if they killed him, cooked him up, and brought some in for lunch one day, that you wouldn’t eat it? You wouldn’t even try a bite? A nibble?”
“That’s where you and I are different,” he said, batting my toothbrush off the counter.
“You’re a fucking talking cat,” I say. “That’s where you and I are different.”
“And until you’re willing to eat your enemies, until then you’ll never amount to anything. Look at you, look at this place. It’s Friday night and you’re talking to your cat.”
I picked him up by the scruff of the neck and threw him out of the bathroom.

We spent the rest of the night playing cards. At around 4 in morning he paused, raking the cards towards him, and looked at the clock.
“Somewhere in China, a restaurant serving dog is opening.”
“Fuck off and go fish.”

Regret and the Ladies

Regret the cat doesn’t spend a lot of time thinking about the ladies. He’s fixed, after all. There’s no way out of an animal rescue shelter with your balls.
“Doesn’t bug me, generally,” he says, working on his third cigarette. “I do wonder, sometimes, what they do with them all. Is there a warehouse somewhere, like that one in Raiders of the Lost Arc, is there a secret warehouse filled with millions of cat testis?”

About Regret the Cat

I named him that after I’d had him a few weeks. It wasn’t his first name.

His first name was Smokey, which while being a stupid name for a cat (even a black one) turned out to be remarkably prescient, for reasons I’ll explain.

I’d rescued him. Not sure what from, in retrospect. I’d gotten him from an ex-girlfriend who’d in turn rescued him from one of her friends who’d hung herself months before. She, my ex, had been a bit of a cat person and was starting to attract them in ever increasing numbers. There’s a special sort of gravity that those sorts build over the years; the little furry bastards just start falling into orbit around them and before you know it they’ve got 7 cats and it’s a full time job.

And they never bear to part with the little monsters. “They’re like my children,” she’d say when I tried to shuffle them out of her bedroom.
“That why they’d shouldn’t watch,” I’d say.

So, yeah, it was a little weird when she insisted I take Smokey. The others were her children. This guy she couldn’t get rid of fast enough, and once she did, she stopped taking my calls.

So, we got along well enough, the cat and I. And we still do, I guess. But I had to change this name. It was about 3 weeks after I got him. He was sitting on the couch, just watching me with bored distain, like cats do, when he coughed up a hairball onto the floor. We both looked at it a second as it oozed into the carpet, then he said, “Would it kill you to run down to the corner grocery and get me some smokes? Been off the stuff for 3 weeks now. It’s giving me hairballs.”

In retrospect, I suppose it’s strange that I never thought I was losing my mind. Lots of thoughts did occur to me at that moment, but none of them questioned what seemed to be fundamental reality of my cat talking to me.

“We’re changing your name,” I said, finally.

“To what?”

“What’s your brand?” I asked, getting up and looking for my wallet.

“Прима. But I’ll take anything that isn’t Menthol.”

“Great. Your new name is Regret.”

“Sure. Whatever. Doesn’t really matter, right? I won’t come if you call.”