In my house there is a ritual called The Feeding. It is made up of many smaller sub-rituals, in which the eventual outcome is the giving of food to three four-legged supplicants.
Each sub-ritual must be given due attention.
The Silent Insistence
The ritual begins with supplicants displaying body language and expressions pregnant with a single semi-submissive meaning: "Food?" This is the Silent Insistence. Supplicants' bodies may also be positioned to intensify the insistence - for example, on the floor right where one is intending to go, especially at the entrance to the feeding place, or by and between one's feet. This is, therefore, a time of physical danger. Beware!
The Noisy Insistence
In which the supplicants begin to vocalise their yearnings in what can seem an aeon of urgent whining. This is a time to show determination and forbearance. At this time, one might say to the other one, "Have you fed the pets?" and the other one might say "No," and one might say "I'd better do it then." Often, the word "fed" or "feed" is spelt out rather than enunciated, the better to foil wagging supplicant ears.
One utters a certain potent phrase, inviting supplicants to draw close thereto and be nourished. The phrase is "Doggies!" The feline supplicant, being deaf, either sleeps on or, more common, continues to enact the Noisy Insistence.
The male canine supplicant runs off to find the female, for he knows that they are only and always fed together. Hence, he will not get his if she is not present to get hers. If the female is slow or reluctant to quit her sleep, the male vocalises his impatience.
All supplicants are now present in the kitchen, with the exception of the female supplicant, whose butt would not be caught dead on those cold tiles and who therefore seats herself on the dining area's carpet.
Food is laid down in the following order: feline, then canines. Canines are required to Sit, Down, and Wait before bowls are presented.
Canine supplicants' bowls drain as if by wizardry. The duration of one blink is as a fortnight of Sundays by comparison.
The Investigation of Alternatives
Male canine supplicant fails to grasp immediately that his belly has been filled, so he performs a reconnaissance of other bowls in the vicinity. One commands him "Connor, leave it!" and he leaves it.
Feline supplicant is still crouched over his food. Then The Forgetting occurs. He turns and backs away from a serving not discernibly affected by his encounter with it, and tiptoes away. One gains his attention and redirects him to the still-full bowl; he re-approaches the bowl with care, and is shaken to discover the presence of food there. He resumes feeding, but soon The Forgetting recurs, and he turns away. Again one must nudge him to the bowl and again he is visibly stunned that food is in it, as though by an act of unprecedented magic and not a thing that happens twice a day, every day of the year. One sighs.
While the long feline grazing continues, one must remain in a supervisory role lest an untouched portion of his dinner be found and ingested by a fellow supplicant. Whereupon one commands "Connor, leave it!" and he leaves it.
In time, the feline supplicant resists attempts to redirect him towards his bowl, and thus is evidently "fed". One covers and removes any remaining victuals, and departs the kitchen. One hears behind a scramble and a snuffling, and commands "Connor, leave it!" and he leaves it.
The Great Rest
Once "fed", all supplicants are gripped by a need to visit the Great Place of Relief also known as The World Outside. Then ensues the Great Rest that separates iterations of The Feeding. The Great Rest is not all that Great, indeed it is Fleeting. But one does get to do something else for a while, until the words are again spoken: "Have you F-E-D the pets?"
Photos of Connor and Phoebe by Erin McNulty
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