Michelle Lang­stone

Ac­tor Michelle Lang­stone and her cat, Frances

Weekend Herald - Canvas - - CONTENTS - As told to Beck Eleven.

We had cats from be­fore I was born. Mum brought a cat into her mar­riage and Dad was an an­i­mal per­son any­way. He un­equiv­o­cally loved ev­ery sin­gle an­i­mal in ex­is­tence and that’s where I get it from.

Cats were the first thing I used to draw at school in the primers. Other kids would be draw­ing stick peo­ple and houses. I added cats ev­ery­where. Re­ally big ones, loom­ing out of the win­dows of my painted houses.

The first cat I got all of my own was Zooey. He was a Bri­tish short­hair named after Zooey Glass from Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger. When he died it just broke me but I got Frances three weeks later. I know that seems like a short time, but I couldn’t make sense of my­self with­out a cat around.

I saw a pic­ture of her and I was so sure about get­ting her that I took our cat cage and I was like, “Hi, I’m here for my cat.” And the woman said, “Oh you think you’re tak­ing her?” And I said, “I’m pretty sure I am, yes.”

Now Frances is my shadow. You know how peo­ple talk about cats be­ing like a witch’s fa­mil­iar? Even though I clearly am not a witch — well, I hope that’s clear — I feel like she is my fa­mil­iar some­how.

Her face is con­stantly ag­i­tated and to­tally hor­ri­fied and I’m like, “You are ac­tu­ally an out­ward ex­pres­sion of my in­ner tur­moil, Frances.”

She was timid at first. Ac­tu­ally, I couldn’t pick her up and hold her in my arms for prob­a­bly two years. She was play­ful but she wasn’t a smooch. She’d be un­der the bed but then at night you’d hear her com­ing, thud, thud, thud, and she’d be on my bed with her round lit­tle head on the pil­low.

The in­ter­est­ing thing is that the longer I’ve had her, seven years now, she’s just be­come friend­lier and friend­lier. She’s all over ev­ery­body like a rash and she climbs in peo­ple’s laps and sleeps in my arms at night.

She’s re­ally nuggety. A a good solid unit with hi­lar­i­ous fa­cial ex­pres­sions and so un­gainly she makes me laugh all the time. I’m also re­ally calmed by her. She’s very soft, like a teddy.

Frances has a real pen­chant for fluffy blue things. There’s a rug and a plush blue throw on Mum’s bed that she likes. And then there is my robe. I call it the Robe of Ec­stasy. Any time I put it on, or any time any­one puts a fluffy blue thing on, Frances emerges with great en­ergy and jumps on you and kneads you and purrs un­til she falls asleep, face-plant­ing in it. Cats can’t see colour so I don’t know why, but it has to be blue and plush for the knead­ing and purring to start.

When cats are so per­sis­tently un­avail­able, when they make them­selves avail­able to you it’s like the sun com­ing out from be­hind the clouds and you feel re­ally special and priv­i­leged. You can see why Egyp­tians were like, “These are gods.”

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