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Crystal Salt
  • Writer's pictureCristina Deutsch

Like Every Human Being, I Have My Muses

Just to start writing the present text, I had to destroy half the house... On one hand, the problem is clearly related to the “physical books” – here always intervene who knows what secret laws of Murphy's which stipulate that you will never find that book you need on time. I haven’t checked it, but I bet that there is such a law. I was looking, very logically, on the day before Easter, for Camille Flammarion's volume, Urania, because I am going to talk about the muses. That was probably the second reason: the muses, being extremely capricious in their own way, will definitely give you a hard time when you do something like this. The volume itself is of no use to me, especially since it's also in Hungarian – therefore, despite the two years spent learning this language, I don't think I could handle even the dictionary... But it's that book that I was hardly allowed to touch as a child – and yet I did, secretly, because it fascinated me to such an extent that I could swear on my heart that it seemed to me the most beautiful thing on the face of the earth. It's an 1896 edition, published in Budapest, and the cover, which was originally dressed in blue velvet, shows the muse Urania pulling after her (in a celestial flight, I suppose) a sleeping youth. The volume is full of engravings, images that helped me, at that age, to “rewrite” almost everything I thought the mysterious book should have contained.

But now that I have found it, I am sure that the muses are having fun at my expense, from somewhere above. Maybe they even compete to see who can be moodier. It's no wonder that every time I invite them to play in a text I always run into such technical problems – there are not really nine of them, there are only four of them, but they have a habit of mixing with each other. Three are in the other world, one, also called the “bearded muse”, is in good condition and strong, thank you for asking.

The number 1 muse is Alfa, a blonde boxer, who practically took me under her doggy wing from the time I was born until I was 12 years old. By the way, when she left, I also dedicated her a poem entitled I lost you, oh my beloved! which (although I still have it, because that's how I am, a hoarder...) I prefer not to reproduce it here. Please, given that I was not even 12 years old, I guess I could find the right excuses... From her I learned, among other things, that your attempts to run away from home are in vain, no matter what you do, you will be found in the end... Also, that (at least in theory) a big dog is better than a small dog – besides the fact that you can use him or her as a horse if you want, it also has a much better ability to swallow quickly any food is put on your plate and you don't feel like eating it... In a way you are not only your parents' whacko child, but also a boxer’s puppy – therefore you have to act like one.

The advantage is that no matter how stupid you act, no matter how big may be your mistakes, no one will dare to grab you from under the table if the “cover”-boxer is put in. She definitely is more than entitled, she found you after you sneaked out of the house when everyone was asleep and went to the park just to fall asleep, in your turn, in a metal boat... Besides, I learned from her how one may gnaw a bone... I don't know how my folks had lost sight of me, but they froze instantly: me, sitting next to Alfa, the bone taken away from her muzzle and I was gnawing at it with an indescribable appetite (I suspect that, having only two teeth at that time, anyway without much success...). Alfa was sitting on her butt, next to me, looking at her human puppy with total comprehension. It was probably one of the few times when I behaved as a normal puppy should behave...

The number 2 muse is called Luna and she comes into your life when you are 28 years old, you have just lost your mother and your future husband tells you that “We have a puppy”. You imagine something small, the size of your palm, but when you get to the airport and get in the car you wake up with something that looks like a crazy goat. She licks you all over your face and then nestles in your lap and stays there. This muse has a beard and brown eyes, and her tail is like a carrot. You're allowed to sit at the computer and work as much as you want – muses are generally very tolerant of this aspect – but only if you let them sleep with their heads on your slippers. Luna, at least in the early part of her life, was also a sort of literary critic – she sat by, with her ears perked up and her eyes on me. The ears were a kind of parabolic antennas, they caught everything. She was particularly interested in all I read to her, especially as I bribed her with various tasty things. She never ate books, she preferred shoes. From her, I learned one essential thing: if someone annoys you, even a little bit, bite him.

At some point, when Luna was about five years old, another kind of muse entered the scene. Well, more some sort of “he-muse”. And this one had direct access to the computer, to the notebooks, and to the books, because his physique was right for climbing all over. By profession, Miciu-Piciu actively participated in every cultural event, he only jumps on the computer keyboard when he thought the job is done, that you've worked enough and it's time to play. He liked to smell the written pages, and if something didn't suit him, he would raise his tail and solve the aesthetic problem with what I called “eau du chat”. Cat lovers know what I mean... Tom-cats parents even more... He didn't destroy books either (although he could reach them), the only fantasy he satisfied was clawing at a volume of Mayakovski. But it was a hardback, so I guess the temptation was just too much...

With Miciu-Piciu by my side, writing became an unexpected adventure. I was no longer alone in front of the white page but had a critical and tireless presence analyzing my every word. I felt like I had my own personal editor, even if it was just a sharp-clawed tomcat. He certainly had an aesthetic sense, otherwise, he wouldn't have vomited on the articles I was writing for the Dictionary... Luna and Miciu complemented each other in an extremely strange way: when I brought Miciu-Piciu home, I held him hidden in the bedroom for about a week. We were both, my husband and I leaving home, closing the bedroom door... My father, who knew absolutely nothing about the presence of any cat whatsoever, commented that the neighbors are not quite right in the head, they have a lot of cats that keep meowing and meowing so loudly as if they were all in the house... Well, at least I was absolutely convinced that Luna, the moment she saw that poor little soul, was going to eat him straight up. When there, the first meeting between the two, was a kind of “the return of the prodigal son”. She smelled him, licked him, and took him straight to her crate. The tomcat became a more special type of puppy. Miciu was also full of filial love, everything he stole from the table he shared with the other thief. He couldn't even be scolded, let alone punished, no matter what he did – if you messed up with him you risked being stapled by the madwoman (well, literally you can say she was a mad bitch...). When Luna died, Miciu didn't eat for several days. He would come, look at us and keep looking, go to the door, and wait for Luna to come back.

After a year, the fourth muse entered the scene: Tano. The most bearded muse so far who, from the very beginning, was fascinated by what I was doing on the computer. Like Miciu, he is a male muse, not the regular type we all know. He would come when he was a few months old and sit down just to watch me working. And he was looking, and he was looking, but so intense that I was no longer able to do anything. From time to time I think he took pity on me; he would go through the kitchen and bring me some potatoes (probably thinking I would be hungry) and a bottle of water. At one point he carried me a huge can of brandy. On another occasion, he came with a knife between his teeth. From time to time he would bring me toys; I would just leave what I was doing there so that we could deal with important things. I was writing some words, then I was throwing the ball for him to catch... Now he knows when I'm working, he comes quietly and sits in silence. He also set a work schedule for me, at 8 o'clock in the evening he shows up and, if I don't let everything go, he starts pulling my clothes. He doesn't gnaw books either, although, of all the muses, he is the biggest rodent of them all. Knows the difference between an advertising brochure and a book; he can tear apart the first one without problems, it's his right. One of the most pleasant moments for him (except when we watch interesting movies, which, in translation, means movies with horses - or at least with some sheep...) is when we sit and read together. He lies down next to me happily. Well, sometimes we watch cartoons together also... Unlike all the other muses, Tano is very interested in TV and tablet. And, unlike me, he also watches the news and, obviously, football (he actually gets excited).

Taken like this, together, these muses of mine have induced me a great dilemma: what am I in the end, a dog or a cat? Or maybe even a mouse - and, in this regard, it would also be worth mentioning Dănuț, the hamster I got for my birthday, I think when I turned 10. He liked nuts so much that if you wanted to create a big existential dilemma for him, you gave him four halves. Two of them he stuffed into the side pouches on his head (hamsters have a sort of pouch along their jaw where they can hide food). He put the third in his muzzle, and with the fourth half in his paws, he ran desperately through his jar to see where he could hide it. Then the reordering would begin: he would spit the nut out of his mouth, take out what he had dosed through the bags and try to manage somehow with the fourth piece. He is, anyway, always able to solve this problem: he eats one of the four pieces, after which he rearranges the rest.

So, it's no wonder I started to ask myself if I was a dog or a cat, or maybe even a mouse. How could I be sure when my muses are so different? That's probably why they've stayed by my side, regardless of whether they're with me or not in flesh and bones. Anyway, I think it's good not to be defined by a single animal. It makes sense to enjoy all the elements of myself, whether that means barking or purring. I mean, I wouldn't mind being a dog playing with a ball, or a cat scratching the couch.

And who knows, maybe my muses are, in turn, a mixture of several animals. Maybe Miciu had a bit of a puppy in him and my Tano sometimes acts like a hamster.

But labels matter less. Dog, cat, human the important thing is to be able to play with whom and how you want, always.

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