Being a cat expert isn’t easy. Nobody knows as much as I do about cats. I have to teach and teach. Ernie Fish is my name. You know that already. I am famous. My cats are famous. My fans are their fans. Who doesn’t know Giri Fish and Garby Fish? They travel to other cities with me. They even go to other countries for special classes. Giri says he likes to go places. “The house gets boring sometimes. Garby sleeps and sleeps,” he tells me.
Last year, we visited an audience in Tailpur. You know, the state that is famous for its cats with long tails? The cats there have tails like monkeys. Tails that are longer than their bodies. Garby thinks that they are not real cats. “We have nice tails,” he says. “The Tailpur cats are not cats.” Giri never liked Tailpur. “Too many cats,” he says. Garby thinks too many cats are better than too many dogs.
Our trip to Tailpur was a disaster. I talked about cats in general. Then I talked about Garby and Giri. Then I talked about myself and how famous I am. Everybody listened but a tiny baby. The baby wanted to be a cat, you see. So he made noises like a cat. He said meow. He said pao. He also said naa. Giri did not like this. “Only cats should be like cats,” he told the baby. Garby was trying to keep his eyes open. Afternoons are for naps, he always says. The baby wanted Giri to talk more and more. He said meow again. When things like this happen, a cat expert can fix it.
“Baby over there,” I said. The baby stopped and looked. “Baby, you cannot be a cat,” I said. The baby’s mother did not like this. “My baby does not want to be a cat, Mr. Fish,” she told me. She added, “His name is not Baby. It is Puppy!” Had I heard right? My expert ears heard this? Puppy? A baby called Puppy who wants to be a cat! Even Garby was wide awake. Giri laughed and laughed. “Baby Puppy! He wants to be one of us,” my cats never laughed so much.
After Puppy and his mother left, my boys and I returned to work. I started to teach my audience about the differences between dogs and cats. I try not to be unfair. So I tell them all the wonderful things about cats and the bad things about dogs. I don’t talk about the good parts about dogs because the class is supposed to be about cats. Cats are the greatest, of course.
“You see, dogs catch sticks if you ask them too. Cats don’t do such easy jobs,” I said. Two people asked me to show them some cat games. “Alright,” I said and took out a long piece of string from my pocket. Garby and Giri stared at me while the class stared at them. I asked the boys to come to me. Neither cat moved. Some people laughed and laughed. Ernie Fish is my name. The cat expert, Ernie Fish. Nobody can laugh at me. Even if my cats are being rude. “I am waiting,” I said to Giri because he was awake. Garby was on his back with paws in the air. Giri said he was tired of doing the same trick everywhere we went. I told him we would discuss that after the class but he said no. I did what any cat expert in my situation would do.
I sat on the floor between the boys, string ready. After Giri turned his head the other way, I knew what to do. So I made the string dance around him. Cats love to catch moving objects. Giri began to play. He grabbed the string and rolled around with it. I took the string away and put it on sleeping Garby. Garby lifted his head. “Cats need sleep,” he said, and closed his eyes again. My class thought Garby was sick. “Mr. Fish, why isn’t the cute cat playing with you?” Again! I could not believe it. Giri looks like a doll. Why doesn’t anybody ever call him anything more than grumpy? I ignored the rude question. Giri had fallen asleep with the string in his paws and inside his mouth. “So you see class. Dogs catch sticks but cats play with string,” I finished. But somebody wanted to see more. “Mr. Fish, what will the cats do if you throw sticks at them and say ‘fetch’? I looked at the boy and told him what any cat expert would say: Cats never catch sticks. They hate sticks. “Show us. Show us,” asked the class. So I sprinkled some water on lazy Garby’s face. He woke up. Cats don’t like water, of course.
I, Ernie Fish, threw a stick at Garby. He let it fall. The class clapped. Somebody asked me to try again. This class thought it was very smart. Nobody can be smarter than a cat expert and his cats. Everybody knows that. To move things ahead, I threw the stick again. Garby placed one pink paw on it. Now it was Giri’s turn.
“Hey Giri. Fetch I say!” The stick landed straight into my cat’s open mouth. The room was quiet. I wanted to run away. It would be all over the newspapers tomorrow. ‘Famous Cat Expert’s Cat acts Like a Dog’. My future was doomed. Giri played fetch with me – in front of seventy people.
The room filled with mean laughter. My students for the day could not stop laughing. Garby moved his ears this way and that way in tune with them. “Giri! What have you done?” I took him outside. Garby followed us. “You boys never played fetch before,” I said. “Besides, you aren’t dogs!”
That last line made them cry. The little sad voices said sorry. Garby promised to stay awake. Giri said he would never touch a stick again. I hugged my cats. We decided to leave Tailpur without finishing the class.