That's Why God Made Brian Wilson: A Review of "That's Why God Made the Radio," by The Beach Boys
Being Historically Minded

Puck's Life

As Puck lay in the sunlight, it wasn't clear if he was wave or particle, but light he was, a prayer recumbent, one paw raised in praise.  In repose, Puck pondered the propinquities of place and purpose, the verisimilitudes of life, before rolling over on his back, purring, consciousness fleeing before the song of sleep.

When Puck dreamed it was not of cat and mouse. In his dream he soared over treetops, fields falling away, a puzzled owl glimpsing his shadow in moon glow. Smoke curled from chimneys, tickling his nose, so he rose higher still, the rooftops receding into a patchwork of winking lights, of windows and streetlights and car lights that snaked across the surface of an orb whose horizon fell away.

It was good.  It was very good, he thought.  A purr of delight bubbled up from deep within.  A little lower than the angels, He had said.  His domain.  Prowl over it, and keep it, He said.  He blinked at the gift of it, the sheer delight of a world to love and shape and watch become what it could and would, malleable and magic.  He rolled onto his back, perfectly maneuvering himself, held by air, by Bernoulli's principle, by an invisible ordinance of a world made for him and his.  With one paw he held a star, turned it off, and on, and off again.

When he awoke, his mouth was dry.  He had been sleeping on his back, paws outstretched, there in all his glory.  Alone.  Lying still he felt the hum of human habitation, knew that the boy was in the house.  Opening his eyes half-way, he was startled to see an over-sized child-face hunched over him, staring into his eyes, silently watching, moving away quietly as if not to wake him.

Puck stretched and rolled to his side, dropped his head to the carpet again, a sigh at the delight of life as himself, as a cat, as one a little lower than the angels.  He wondered just how much lower that was at times, wondered how He had come to such a grand design for the universe.  But then he recalled their exodus, their deliverance, their provision, their service, the great intelligent love that dreamed it all up, that gave him purpose, and once more contentment took root in his soul.

Puck pondered the pluriform nature of reality: human, mouse, cat, tree, water, fire.  What imagination lay behind such creativity, what humor even.

He didn't mind the name they gave him.  Puck.  Sometimes, the Puckster.  It was all he recognized of their language, if language it was.  After all, his real name was unintelligible, unpronounceable, un-writable to humans.  He would answer to Puck.  When he felt like it, that is.  Like the earnest prayer, not all calls to cats were answered; he was not at their beck and call.

He could neither understand their scribblings nor their mutterings nor excited yelps.  Nor the rumblings that erupted when their faces contorted, their mouths uptuned.  Nor the racking of their bodies on odd occasion, water sprinkling from their eyes or rolling down their faces.  But he could read their faces, see what seemed to be joy, sadness, mirth, malice, or even curiosity --- the latter even causing him to smile, inside at least, as he recalled that ancient saying that "Curiosity killed the cat," and he saw his mother's face as she licked him clean, him just finding his way in he world --- a good-natured if tongue-in-cheek warning that hovered in his mind, only to be ignored.

Sometimes, like when the boy looked into his eyes, held his ostensibly indifferent gaze, he thought he saw a flash of intelligence, but then chastised himself for a naive sentimentalism, for projecting feline characteristics onto a dumb humanity.  He meant no disrespect to the lesser creatures.  It was their station in life.

But Puck was given to such imaginings.  Sometimes, wandering through his wood, he brushed against the trees, the maples and pines and sweet gums and oaks, and he thought he heard a whisper of life there, something deep within calling to him.  But no.  No.  Trees were only trees.  They stood, they swayed, they inched upward, sun-bound, but they had no thoughts, knew not their Creator.  But was it not said that at times of joy on earth they clapped their hands, danced, even sang?  He had not heard it.  He had not seen it.  Not yet.

He sat  up.  In the sunlight particles of dust swirled like atoms in flight.  Puck captured one speck in his gaze, held it as long as he could, followed it round and round until it darted off the edge of the sunbeam, lost.

That he had a mind for theology had been evident since childhood.  The questions, the questions, his father said.  Once he set off to look for the City of Light, the hope of all cats, only to turn back when he reached a great river (a mere gully he later found out).  The questions, they said, the questions.

Even now he pondered the mystery of providence, the confluence of feline responsibility and the sovereignty of the Great Cat.  Should he find the boy?  Should he watch the birds from the window?  Did he have any real choice?  If the Great Cat preordained all things, in what sense could he be said to be free?  The warmth of the sun on his gray fur overcame his questions, lulled him back to contentment with the world.  Oh, the questions.

The boy's mother floated through the house, it seemed, the boy clinging to her skirts.  But there was no father, at least not since Puck had come, only the lingering smell of his absence.  Puck had covered the house, sniffing everything, and he knew that while the man was not spoken of, he had been there, traces lingering, the smell of loss.  But the mother, she was the smell of hope.  Sometimes, Puck brushed against hope,  and she reached down and stroked his back, made cooing noises at him, and he found himself, inexplicably, annoyingly, purring.  He was glad for his life.  It was good, very good.