Saint John — Gazing out his window across the alley at the crumbling brick wall of the opposite building, uptown Saint John resident Mark Cloutier shakes his pale face sadly as he laments the increasingly intolerant and extremist views subtly expressed by his two tabby cats, Ginger and Penelope.
“It’s like they was once just little kittens that I got from my dealer, right?” Cloutier’s tongue struggles and stumbles over the mostly monosyllabic words. “Now they’re just like little racist terrorists.”
When asked what evidence he has of such extremist beliefs, Cloutier twitches and quickly changes the subject. “Government’s in the walls, watching.” He scratches lightly on the ancient yellowing wallpaper in his tiny, cold apartment, like a lazy cat pawing to be let outside. Then he stops as a look of recognition washes over his face, perhaps realizing for a fleeting moment the near-incoherence of his speech, and thus, his thoughts. He gives one final scratch, almost nostalgic, at the government-infected wall before turning to look back at the cats.
“Just look at them,” he says as they stare languidly at him. “Like furry snakes. Once an idea gets in their little brains how can I show them they’re wrong? Pelepone is the ring-leader. Watch this. I’ll show them the Bible and they hiss and yowl like little Muslims.”
From a desk drawer, amid a collection of pill bottles, crumpled tin-foil and a bag of weed, Cloutier produces a copy of The Holy Bible. He presents it to the cats, who do not respond.
“Look cats,” he hisses. “You hate this book!”
When the cats continue to do nothing he says, “Well they’re not doing it now, but they usually do. Little suicide cats. Look, Penelope flicked her tail! That means she’s annoyed. Their ears are like little double-turbans. What was that?” He looks around frantically for the source of a nonexistent sound, then fidgets with the rotting window sill.
“It’s all economics — like, money,” he explains. “People can have any beliefs but they don’t get radicalized less they’re desperate.”
He pulls out his bag of weed and with trembling hands begins to roll a joint mixed with tobacco collected from old cigarette butts.