Cats Honest Truth
by Ed Malin
It was December 20th. In the lobby of the shee-shee apartment building, a synthetic christmas tree shimmered.
“Happy Holidays, Jack,” said one of the residents, heading in from the cold.
“Same to you, Doctor Khan,” said the uniformed man sitting behind the desk. Jack sat very quietly, and wore a beret, sunglasses and a wispy beard, so most people thought that made him even quieter.
“Any packages for me?”
Jack held up a finger to excuse himself, checked in the side room.
But while Jack had ducked in the back, a group of carolers passed by on the street, planted themselves under the awning and in front of the open lobby door, opened their mouths, and let this song come out:
“Joy to the World, you must believe
The Christ the King has triumphed
A little tiny baby, he’s come to kill his enemies
He will kick Satan’s ass, and send him straight to hell
If you don’t be nice he’ll send you there as well.”
The carolers bowed, paused just long enough to suggest they were waiting for applause or tips, and then had mercy and departed.
Yet, during all of that fracas, Jack had been hyperfocusing in the back and Doctor Khan had been doing Wordle on his cell phone. Jack returned and replied to Doctor Khan that gosh darn it he was out of luck in the package department.
“It’s OK, I don’t celebrate christmas.”
“Religious observance is not required here. God’s honest truth.” Jack nodded, remembering that a week ago, a patient had sent the good doctor multiple boxes containing premium single malt scotch.
“It’s not for Islamic reasons, don’t get me wrong. Mind you, before I came here from Rawalpindi, I remember people would gather in the square and all salute the soldiers. That’s how we celebrated holidays. It left me with the tendency to not do what everyone else was doing.”
During this extemporizing, Doctor Khan had wandered over to the synth-tree. It was neither oak nor pine, yet remarkably it was sturdy enough to support dozens of selected ornaments.
“More and more every year,” chortled Jack, as Doctor Khan fingered a plastic wheelchair which was hanging by a hook from one of the wintergreen branches. “We get them donated from local charities. See, that wheelchair comes to us from the Special Olympics.”
“No kidding,” nodded Doctor Khan.
“Whereas that crutch there is courtesy of the Standing Strong With Wounded Veterans Foundation.”
“As a physician, I find this somewhat depressing.”
“What, should these diverse groups be invisible?” mused Jack.
“Oh no, I work with all sorts of injured and differently abled people every day. It seems some people want them to be visible just around christmas and then go away.”
Jack slapped the counter. “From your mouth to God’s ear.”
Khan stared at Jack (surname unknown). “I know you’re trying to be pleasant with all this idiomatic chit-chat.
“Oh heavens, no.”
“Listen, why do we ask if someone wants to know the god’s honest truth? What kind of truth does god consider truth, huh? How would we know?”
“I never thought about it.”
“We should call it the people’s honest truth. Because it matters to people. Pending any sign of interest from god.”
Jack sighed. “Everything you said sounds a tad Communist.”
“And that is why I have a hard time talking to native Americans. By which I mean you yourself were born here.”
Jack nodded. “I figured it out from context.”
“Isn’t what’s true, at root, an agreement between humans?”
“Well then, that explains how folks can sing those carols and keep a straight face.”
“Another troubling thing which, through hyperfocusing, I try my best to ignore.”
“But, Doctor Khan, given how feeble human reason is, what if there were another level of truth circulating in our world?”
“You mean, the truth of a higher species? But remember, truth is by mutual consensus. Who else could there be?”
Jack steamed his sunglasses a moment. “How about the cats honest truth?”
Doctor Khan smiled, guffawed, and shook when he laughed like a bowl full of jelly. “I have seen nothing in all my years of practicing medicine to suggest that cats could ever agree on anything.”
“Even if that truth were hiding in plain sight?” persisted Jack.
Doctor Khan smiled, thanked Jack for his novel views, and made excuses about having to go to sleep and get up in the morning. With that, he called the elevator and left the lobby.
Jack, all alone with himself, whistled a happy tune. This was the cue that caused the beret to fly off and all the meowing to begin. From out of the uniform crawled one cat, then a second, then a third. They lounged on the counter and commenced smoking a pack of Gauloises.