George Orwell ran inside his red plastic wheel. The metal bits had not been oiled in quite some time, so it squeaked loudly as his little paws pushed the wheel round and round and round. He enjoyed running in circles.
Margaret Catcher, a rather obese orange and brown tabby, rubbed up against Orwell’s cage. “Good afternoon, George.”
“Afternoon,” Orwell replied. He breathed heavily and the word came out as a rush of air. He almost turned the word into one syllable instead of two. He slowed down so that he might speak more clearly. He enjoyed Margaret’s company. He knew this was odd, with him being a gerbil – a rodent not too much different than a rat, really – and she being a cat and all, but still, they tended to get along rather marvelously. He had known her from the time she was a wide-eyed and innocent kitten. He remembered when they first met. She had not been much larger than himself at the time, after all.
Margaret stretched out her front paws. Pearly white claws extracted and retracted as she stretched. She had never been declawed. She had learned to scratch her post instead of the furniture at a young age. She rather liked her claws and was not too keen on the idea of losing them in the event that she ever had to defend herself or was forced to catch her own food. The lady who owned her was a silly, delirious old thing, a wannabe writer who lived most of her life inside dusty old books, and Margaret worried the poor old bag of bones could fall over dead at any time at the slightest provocation due to her numerous nervous conditions, and then where would she be if she did not even have her claws? This was a dreadful thought, more than enough to motivate Margaret to scratch the post instead of the sofa.
“Why do you run?” Margaret asked.
“Because I like it, of course,” Orwell replied. His breathing was steadier now as he had slowed down to a steady jog. The squeak of the wheel quieted some but remained audible. It released a metronomic screech, screech, screech, as it went round and round in an endless slow circle.
“But why? You’re not really going anywhere, are you?”
“Perhaps not,” George admitted thoughtfully. “I guess it’s not the destination that matters, however. They say it’s the getting there – wherever there is – that matters, but really, I don’t think that matters too much if you get there in the end. Once you get there, the journey stops and there’s nowhere to run. And if it is the getting there that matters, than why should I worry if I never get there? What’s the point of even having a destination if getting there is the good part? Perhaps we’d all be better off if we forgo destinations altogether and just enjoyed our rides? Besides, I’ve seen some of the destinations of my brethren. I’ve heard stories, you know: crushed under rockers; starved to death; no offense, but some I hear have been eaten by cats; embraced too rigorously by small, well-meaning children with strong, chubby hands; and then don’t get me started on what I’ve heard some adult humans do with us … where they, uhm, put us.” Orwell stopped running and shuddered visibly. “Yes, there are worse things in life.”
Margaret had grown bored during Orwell’s diatribe, no matter how brief it might have been, and began licking her paws. His speech had not once mentioned her or cats at all. It was all about himself and gerbils. This was quite a boring speech for a cat to have to endure, obviously. Once he stopped talking she looked up at him and decided she needed to say something, just to remain polite. George was her friend, after all, even if he only talked about himself and his kind. “I suppose so.”
And that was that. Margaret Thatcher walked away to rub up against the legs of the old lady sitting in her reading chair. She had not moved in quite a long time, and Margaret rather hoped that the old bag was still alive. Not that Margaret was worried about her owner’s well-being, mind you, but because Margaret was a fat, hungry cat and hoped the old woman might open a nice tin of tuna for her to eat.
George looked at the cat as she walked away and was grateful to have a friend, no matter how self-obsessed she might be. She was still his friend, and that was quite good enough. The entirety of his life was rather good enough, he decided, and he began running again. The inadequately oiled metal parts of the little wheel screamed as it worked itself round and round and round while going nowhere.