My favorite deduction, in a year of especially imaginative deductions (should I be tempting the I.R.S. to audit me in this fashion?), is $34.95 for a rubber alarm clock. I have the receipt: it was purchased on November 11, 2008, at Muji, the Japanese designer store with a branch in the new New York Times building. I am writing it off as a home-office expense—every office needs a clock, right?—but I actually bought it with Norbert in mind.
Norbert is my alarm clock. When he wants his breakfast, he shoves things off the dresser and any other surface with loose detachable items perched on it (desk, bookcase, refrigerator, kitchen counter). But the clock is his first, best target. Those cheap plastic alarm clocks can hit the floor and spill their battery-guts only so many times before they give it up for good. I have finally learned to pull out the top dresser drawer before going to bed at night, so anything that Norbert pushes off will land safely on a pile of socks.
Sometimes I forget to give the cat-sitter instructions on how to Norbert-proof the house. The cleaning lady has yet to figure out why I keep the bedroom phone on the floor with a pillow over it. It is an antique model—a touch-tone office phone dating from the nineteen-eighties. It no longer rings, which would make it an ideal bedroom phone, if Norbert didn’t torture it.
Norbert made a Herculean effort the other week to budge a small wide-woven basket that I keep makeup and moisturizers and a few souvenir rocks in. It had been shoved deep into a corner under a shelf. I must have been in an especially heavy sleep, because I did not hear those rocks hit the floor, but that is where they were when I woke up in the morning.
When all else fails, Norbert will leap from the dresser to the top of a Chinese lacquer secretary desk, a recent acquisition that had belonged to my mother. I keep framed pictures, including one of Norbert, on the shelves behind glass doors, which rattle alarmingly when a fifteen-pound cat lands on top. He never stays up there long ... comes the moment when he hurls himself down onto the bed and I give up.
I read a great piece in the Times today about Philippe Petit, the tightrope walker, who has an office at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. He has a practice wire strung up in a building on the cathedral grounds. One of his jobs at the cathedral is to change the light bulbs in the high chandeliers. I wonder if he needs a cat.