Cormac McCarthy’s “The Cat in the Hat.”Posted: April 18, 2008
Here’s something I wrote a little while ago, I think the title is pretty self-explanatory, not unlike Charles Bukowski’s “Peanuts.” This is probably going to be more amusing if you’ve read “Blood Meridian.” But hey, if people like it, maybe I’ll follow it up with something like Chuck Palahniuk’s “Goodnight Moon.”
The sun did not shine. Shrouded in cold darkness, Heaven let forth her torrential wetness and all hopes for play suffered a drowning death. They sat in the house.
The boy sat with Sally. Wish we had somethin to do said the boy. I reckon it’s too wet to go out and too cold for playin ball.
Sally spat. Sally and the boy sat in the house and did nothing at all.
Something bumped the door. The boy and Sally jumped.
They looked. They saw him step in on the mat. His cheeks were ruddy and whiskered and his fur was black as death. He was naked save for his white gloves and his tower of a hat. The hat nodded back and forth furiously. They looked and they saw him. They saw the cat in the hat. He asked them why they sat there like that and he said that he knew it was wet and not sunny and he said that they could still have lots of good fun that was funny. I know some new tricks he said and he said he would show them. He said their mother would not mind.
Sally spat. The boy said nothing. Their mother was out of the house for the day.
A fish swam in a nearby bowl, wide-eyed and grimacing. Light caught his scales and shone like precious metal. He told Sally and the boy to make the cat go away and tell him that they do not want to play and that he should not be here and he reminded them that their mother was out.
The cat smiled at the fish. Dont be afraid. Fun and games are in man’s nature. The beasts of the earth roam in search of food and water and a means to spread their seed. But tricks are man’s. He does not always resist death, he toys with it. If my tricks are an affront to God then let him interfere and stay my hand.
The cat lifted the fish with an umbrella. The fish teetered precariously on its point.
Put me down goddammit! cried the fish. I dont wanna fall!
Everybody says that. The cat smiled and lifted the fish higher. He stood with one foot on a ball and held a book in his other hand and balanced a cup on his hat.
That is not all I can do.
Look! Look! he cried. He placed a cake on top of his hat next to the cup and grabbed another book in his hand and held up this fish higher and also a toy ship and milk in a dish and then he began to jump up and down on top of the ball.
That is not all. Oh no. That is not all.
Look! Look now! he said. It is fun to have fun but only for those who know how. He held up the cup and the milk and the cake and held up more books and the fish now balanced on a rake and he held up the toy ship and a little toy man and with his tail he held a red fan and he fanned with that fan while he jumped on the ball.
But that is not all, said the cat. That is not all.
The ball shot out from under the cat’s feet and he came down hard on his head. All his balanced things crashed around him, even the fish who landed in a pot with a wet smack. The fish cried out in pain, his scales stained a dark crimson where he had struck hard against the rim of the pot.
Did I like that? Hell no I dont! This aint a good game, the fish said coldly. Lookit what you did! Lookit the house! You sank the toy ship, sucked into that there cake. You shook up the house and you bent our new rake. You shouldnt be here when our mother aint. You git!
The cat smiled. I like it here. And my will is my own. I do not wish to go. So, now I will show you another game.
He walked out the door. Sally spat. The cat returned with a red wood box shut with a hook. He climbed on top and tipped his hat.
Boxes are wrought with possibility, the cat said. And the merit of the box is not in what is inside, but the mystery that it may contain. In this box there are two things. I will show them to you. They just want to have fun, like the rest of the huddled, bored masses.
Not in the house, said the fish.
The fish lay at the bottom of its bowl, holding the bloody stump of its former fin. He looked out the window and shook, saying, Look! Look! Your mother is almost home. What she gonna do if she finds him here? Do somethin fast! You, boy, git rid of these things. Do them in. You aint gettin another chance.
I’ll git them the boy said. He grabbed his pistol.
He leveled the pistol on the things as they ran settling the sight slightly leading their faces and fired. The first round took one thing in one eye and exploded out the other. Its momentum carried it another two steps before it realized it was dead and fell at the feet of its twin. The second spun, notching another arrow on the boy when a second round destroyed two of its fingers. It screamed out as the arrow flew slightly off target but still embedding itself into the boy’s leg. The thing’s eyes were wild and its stench enormous. It held an arrow like a spear and jumped at the boy. The boy fired a third round through the things head. Its blood and brains stained his mother’s new dress.
The boy limped to the cat and held his pistol to the cat’s face and said Now you do what I say. You take them things and pack them up and you go.
The cat smiled. You did not like our game. What a shame. He dragged the things by their hair and flung them back into the box with the hook. He left with the box.
Good, good, the fish gasped, still trying to contain the blood. But your mother is comin. She’s gonna see this mess. We cant clean this all.
Sally spat. The boy grimaced as the pain of the arrow settled in. The fish had spoken true. The floor and walls were stained deep with the blood and brains and bone and feces of the things.
Then the cat in the hat was back. He carried with him a pair of shotguns evenly weighted in each hand. Don’t be afraid, he said.
I aint afraid of you, the boy said.
The cat knocked the pistol from the boy’s hand with the butt of one shotgun. The other hand steadied on the fish bowl and fired. The bowl disintegrated in a cloud of glass and water and scales and blood. Both guns fired again and again and his reloading was as fluid as his shots. He shot the cake and the rake and the gown and the milk and the strings and the books and the dish and the fan and the cup and the ship. He shot Sally and she fell instantly. When he finally ran out of shells he said That is that.
The boy repeated I aint afraid of you. And the cat approached him, monstrously tall and naked save for his tower of a hat.
Mother approached her door and found a cat urinating against the wall. I wouldnt go in there if I were you he said.
Who are you?
I wouldnt go in.
The cat finished and left, dancing his way through the streets and screaming to the heavens that he would live forever. The mother put her hand on the doorknob and hesitated. What would you do?