Conversation with a feline character

“I don’t understand,” says Hephaestus, snuggling his large orange body onto my belly. “Am I the protagonist?”

“No, honey. You’re not. The protagonist is Rosie McMahon, your human.”

“Am I the antagonist?”

“I’m not sure there is one. The murderer, I guess. But no, you’re not the murderer.”

“I am in every scene, though?” He turns and rubs my arm with the side of his head.

“Um, no.”

“What is my role here?” His eyes open wide. “My motivation?”

“You’re going method on me now? You’re a cat. A big orange tabby cat. You go for walks on a lead. You knock things off flat counters at the police station. You sit near Rosie as she writes her memoirs.”

“Do I find the killer?” The tip of his tail is starting to twitch.

“I don’t know yet.”

“But you know who the killer is, right?”

“Um, no. I haven’t written that part yet.”

“Excuse me,” he says, sitting up on my thighs to look me squarely in the face. “Don’t writers know who the killer is before they start?”

I sigh. “Some do. I don’t. I have to write my way to that part.”

“Maybe I could be one of those red things.”

“A red herring?”

“Yes, a red herring. I’m red.”

“You are. Well, orange, anyway. I suppose you could be part of a detractor of some kind. I should go back and write you better.” I tap my pencil against my lower lip.

He licks his paw and cleans his eyebrow. ”There is no need. I am perfect as I am.”

As I continue typing, he becomes increasingly nervous. “Are you writing about me yet?”

“I’m on Chapter 4. I’ve written about you several times already.”

“Do I get to do interesting things? Swim in the ocean, find a gang of rats you’ve been looking for, meet the pope, get kidnapped?”

“No. But you do get to help Rosie, and add commentary.”

“I get to talk?”

“Well, no.” The tail swished faster.

“You know what I think?” Hephaestus’s voice purrs with disdain. “You just want me for decoration, a bit of color. The token cute animal in the cozy mystery. That’s not what my contract says.”

“You wrote your contract, honey. I never signed it, though I appreciated the thought.”

He began cleaning his paws, making sure that each long claw nail was fully visible as he did.

“If I don’t like the manuscript, I could just shred it.”

“All right.” I sigh and lean back. “I’ll tell you what. I’ll go back and give you more scenes, and more action. And I’ll figure out how to have you be part of a red herring, or engage in a daring rescue. Do you like Lou?”

“Yes, I like Lou very much. He pretends not the like cats. That’s why I sit in his lap.”

“Then I’ll make sure it involves Lou. Maybe one of you could rescue the other.”

“No undignified up-a-tree scenes, though?”

“I promise. Nothing undignified.”

Hephaestus puts his nose up against mine and blinks slowly.

“Very well, then.” And he curls up next to my hip and goes to sleep, snoring as usual.