Asoka Caught In The Shadow Of A Virginia Woolf Moment

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Asoka, slightly slouched on the sofa, while the A Hard Day?s Night album provides the soundtrack to his reading, and does a respectable job of distracting him.

The cats. Hermes relaxes in his wicker basket. Shelley, who was listening on the sofa with Asoka while Bruce Springsteen was playing, is now over by the fireplace, watching the flames lick back and forth as the wood pellets tinkle and sprinkle? into their consuming embrace, attentive and focused on the games they play amongst themselves. A few minutes later, he commences kneading the cloth he sits on.

So today Asoka is working through the next in the sequence, the third Beatles album. He bought all The Beatles albums two years ago, for a very eccentric reason. First, he bought the specially designed Box Of Vision, and second only, the albums to fill it! This Box of Vision (they don?t seem to make them anymore) is a luxury presentation case built to house the complete album collection of selected contemporary music artists. He first heard of the Bob Dylan box, shot the cash out as soon as it came alive, and sucked it into his world. But on the website, he saw The Beatles one too… and it intrigued him.

Okay, he could not claim to be a life-long fan. All he ever had for decades were the two greatest hits double albums. The red one and the blue one. Yet, The Beatles had been the soundtrack of his childhood. He was going round singing ??She loves you. Yeah, yeah, yeah? at the age of three or four. And as he plays through all their albums now, Asoka frequently discovers, with a pleasure laced with mild astonishment, that though the title may be unfamiliar, the song itself is familiar once it starts to play.

Hermes raises himself, stretches, and arches his back beautifully with a slight body tremble and shimmer of fur. He settles himself in a 180 degree reversal, back to Asoka. Now he literally does face the music. He?s become a one-cat Beatles appreciation society.

Asoka?s mind wanders off, as so often, and he feels compelled to check out what is on the Box of Vision website right now, having just written of it. Yet, as he brings up the Firefox browser, he finds himself reading an article about how teenagers have all but abandoned Facebook, and next he discovers himself on Youtube checking out a couple of film trailers ? one about a new Planet of the Apes film and the other yet another life of Jesus film (groan!) ? and then onto a few minutes of a documentary by the 95 year old Christian evangelist Dr. Billy Graham (a former hero of Asoka, back when he was a evangelical fanatic back in the 1970?s, but not for a long time) before returning to continue this very writing, only to see his original reason for wandering off, namely the box of vision site, remains undone! So he returns there momentarily, only to find that the website displays a shameful technical error.

Such is our modern life. And people really believe that multi-tasking is a good thing?! Perhaps our entire mode of life these days is one big ?technical error?!

Meanwhile, Shelley has returned to Asoka?s right, and lies on his side, listening to the music and studying Asoka intently every now and again. At this moment, he gazes off abstractly into space, his mind intent on the music. Of the two cats, it is Shelley who loves to hear music and, shortly after the album starts playing, often comes from the other side of the flat to join Asoka on the sofa.

What is going through their minds? Asoka contemplates his cat children, as he has done so many times before with this very thought in mind; trying to imagine what it is like to be them. We share the same world, the same physical space and time. And yet we live in different worlds. What do they know of our human thoughts and conceptions? What do we even remotely know of theirs?

So now, the album finishes and Asoka asks Shelley, ?Did you like it? That was a Beatles album. I thought it was quite good. I?ve bought them so I had better listen to them, one by one. That?s the first time I?ve heard that one.?

Shelly remains unmoved, in an abstract meditation known only to him; eyes turning to slits ever so slight. ?What might be drowsiness settles over him. A few minutes later, his face turns unseen back to gaze at Asoka who, when he finally notices it, asks himself once again, what could Shelley be thinking as he sees my face? What does he make of me? Or is he just in that same kind of dream we ourselves get into as we stare off into space, across a sheer blue sky or a city skyline of countless buildings forming one contiguous whole ?our eyes taking in an inconceivable vastness of myriad details, all in one?

So, Asoka strokes Shelley, a little bit harder than perhaps he had intended, causing Shelley to follow the hand with his teeth momentarily, although they never make contact. ?No, I?m just going to get something to eat?. At this point, Shelley jumps down and runs off, making Asoka think he has upset him with the stroking. But no! Shelley is heading to that spot under the dining table where resides a slightly grubby, polystyrene tray (previously a chicken fillets supermarket container). This is what Asoka refers to as ?getting into position? because that?s where Shelley goes when he wants a snack from the kitchen. That?s his visual signal.

So, Asoka realizes with a measure of delight that Shelley did not jump down out of fear or alarm, but rather because he understood perfectly what Asoka was saying, namely getting something to eat, and decided that there was no reason why he should be excluded.

So, while Asoka prepares himself an apple pastry bought fresh from Lidl supermarket, he also fetches three of those little kibble things that we in this house prefer to call ?crunchies,? since that is a far better description of what becomes of them, though truth to tell, Shelley merely swallows his whole so that there is no sound at all. It?s really Hermes who christened them, though with some of his teeth going sore and painful of late, the crunching has diminished considerably. Later this week, he will visit the vet for tooth extraction and so hopefully the sound will soon be fully restored.

Shelley duly receives his three, and Asoka turns to find that Hermes has left the basket and is sitting just a few feet away under the arch, watching for his. Both boys duly satisfied (actually, they are NEVER satisfied ? let?s be frank), Asoka returns to the sofa, puts on a Dylan CD from the new Another Self Portrait box-set, and gets back to typing. Shelley duly appears, primarily to check the apple pastry Asoka is munching down, but when he decides that it is not appropriate for him after all, promptly morphs back into listening mode. This time, he sits upright with his front legs (Asoka calls them arms) tucked under his body, head facing the far walls from where the music streams.

Dylan 1969, the Self Portrait album and miscellaneous outtakes of fascinating variety. This is the ?country music? voice, more or less; not the smooth mellow one of Nashville Skyline, but the one that followed. Asoka recalls how he?d received and first played this box-set last summer, and his mother, an incidental listener while cooking the lunch and later sitting out on the balcony afterwards to take in the sun, immediately disliked it totally. Strange. He?d reckoned on her really liking it since it was so close to Dylan?s Country album, which she definitely did like. But no, not at all, it would seem.

So, now Asoka sees that Hermes has returned to the same basket, facing Asoka and Shelley once more, though his eyes are closed, but not in sleep ? more like light dozing. Meanwhile, Shelley lays his head down on his arms, eyes still open though flickering in and out of the twilight zone of slumber. The music plays on.

Asoka continues typing, but the sound of the keys, though audible to him, is largely muted by the music, but becomes the dominant force between tracks.

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