Finding Plinius could be impossible at times. For days on end the only sign of his existence could be that his cat bowl was empty in the morning. At some point, mostly drawn by Phoebe’s calls in the evening, he would walk out of the shadows in the garden and return home to sleep in the margins for a couple of days or on his favorite chair in the kitchen. I was never certain of his return. In that way he was like my father, too. It was very likely he would come to pick us up for a weekend but never entirely. When I shared this observation with my mother once, she quoted from “The Hobbit”: It’s a dangerous step, the first step out of your own front door.” Implying, I guess, that no one really knows whether they are going to return at night. But the remark wasn’t all that helpful. Some people do make more of an effort than others to come back. My father had a challenging work schedule in a big law office in the city. I guess, I was somewhat harsh towards him. Still.
Walking into the kitchen that night I found Plinius right away. He was sitting in his favorite chair, looking up and squinting his eyes as if he had actually been waiting for me. A small reading light had been kept burning as every night in case we girls were to walk into the kitchen in search of something to drink. I walked over to Plinius and kneeled down in front of his chair. He yawned and turned his head to the side. “Plinius,” I whispered, putting my fingers in his fur. He felt real, shaggy softness, powdery cat fur smell with a hint of cat litter. I put my nose into his fur and inhaled. A real cat. When I looked up, Plinius had closed his eyes again. He wasn’t purring, mind you. But he let me be. Unusual. As I looked at him, my face close to his face, noticing a bit of mucus leaking from his dirty pink cat nose, the long whiskers, the white grandpa beard on his chin, there seemed to be, in his very presence, a message. It was like working on a math problem, knowing you just had to think right about and even more importantly look right, look in the right way, whatever that meant, at the equation and you would understand it. That was how math usually was for me, the answer to a problem was right there, in front of my eyes, on the paper, I just had to bring it into focus.
And that was what Plinius seemed to be to me that night in the kitchen, a living and breathing logarithm to express a specific, meaningful relationship between an unknown value and me, cat2me is the output from the function cat2 when the input is me. I looked at him really hard. Did Phoebe speak cat as well? Did she know what kind of a cat logarithm Plinius was? Plinius himself couldn’t be bothered to help me. cat2phoebe is the output from the function cat2 when the input is phoebe. Plinius sighed as if bored by my slow mind, moved a bit under my hands, and farted.