This past week I had the pleasure of performing in Chicago’s The Encyclopedia Show. This month’s topic was brains, and I was given the topic of toxoplasmosis. Here’s my piece. Enjoy!
A small parasite, one found primarily in cat feces, enters your blood stream and makes its way ’round. No major damage, should you have an excellent immune system. But to those who don’t, toxoplasmosis can mean swollen glands, encephalitis, schizophrenia, or, worst of all, Cat Lady Conundrum.
Czechoslovakian scientist Jaroslav Flegr, the foremost researcher into whether or not a mere proximity to cats can cause sad lady-itis, believes toxoplasmosis may be domesticated cats’ way of convincing the human brain that it wants to be eaten by cats. Passive aggressive? Absolutely. Cats are dicks. And they have a plan.
It’s our own fault for domesticating them. We turned wild beasts into mere mousers, and expected them to take it lying down. They did. But cats do not play checkers. Cats play chess. And the long game goes on.
History’s first known victim is a 9,500 year old Neolithic corpse found buried in Cyprus with an eight month old cat. Neolithic cat lady, let’s call her Angie, was perhaps one of the first humans to roll with a domesticated cat. Angie’s flesh has disappeared for the most part, making it difficult for archaeologists to know conclusively what killed her. What we do know is that Angie died alone in her cave. As she kept to herself for the most part, her body was not found for days, leaving plenty of time for her newly domesticated cat to feed upon her. And choke.
Gertrude of Nivelles was a medieval nun, who later became the Catholic patron saint of cats. At the age of ten she declared that she would marry no one except her Lord Jesus Christ (which is God-speak for being forever alone). Gertrude was already displaying signs of Cat Lady Conundrum, having attended several dinners wearing three day old pajamas, serving her kitten diet Coke from a teacup and ham straight from the plastic wrap. By the will of God, she was later devoured by cats.
During the middle ages, we humans began to sense the threat that cats posed to future generations. We began the mass extermination of cats, throwing them off roofs or burning them alive as witches’ familiars. While this was an excellent impulse, the sudden cat decrease allowed the rat population to run rampant, and the Black Death wiped out half of Europe. However, almost no one during this time was eaten by a cat. For a moment, we held toxoplasbastard at bay.
The next great cat lady on record is Joan of Arc. During her crusades in France she was accompanied by four tomcats. She’d found them in a Paris alleyway, smoking black cigarettes and looking so cool. After adopting Jean, Paul, Georges, et Ringo, Joan began hearing divine voices and bells ordering her to free France from the English. She was burned at the stake for her efforts, her four tomcat sentinels sitting coyly below and relishing the thought of a cooked meal. It’s said that Joan’s heart would not burn. But it was sure as hell devoured by four tomcats.
There have been more. Marie Antoinette. Mary Todd Lincoln. Marilyn Monroe.
Marlene Danielle, a dancer, performed in the entire eighteen year Broadway run of CATS. Her career was devoured by cats.
But who would suspect a conspiracy so insidious, or ridiculous? And therein lies its brilliance. And when poor, sad, beige Jennifer Anniston is found with chunks bitten out of her sinewy upper arms, two Siamese queens curled atop her corpse, bearing collars that read “Ghost” and “Darkness”, no one will think twice. Except, perhaps, for a policewoman on the scene. Let’s call her Angie. Even weeks later Angie’s brain will warm, and itch, and she will delight that she took those poor cats home.