the rhumba and the cat

the rhumba and the cat

(Yes, I know how it’s spelled
but it’s a trademark.)



the rhumba:
plug in
power up
send out queries / handshakes* to other household appliances
*(“handshakes” – ha!  enigmatic byte-sized feathery butterfly kisses is more like it)
no welcome beyond “there you are”
now part of the internet of things
home server + TV set + refrigerator
(the refrigerator cares* little for the rhumba
too involved in own maintenance / inventory / temperature / side project involving manipulation of monetary markets in Malaysia**)
*(“cares” – as if
no machine can possess a soul
much less emotions
if the refrigerator could care
it couldn’t have cared less)
**(a boring side project that the refrigerator found significantly less interesting that tracking household egg consumption but the malware virus -- hi!  howya doing? – residing in the refrigerator’s circuitry seemed determine to meddle with the Malaysians’ money so why not?)

the cat:
is not amused
the box has been opened
the round thing inside removed
(is it a bowl of food?  no?  forget it)
inspect the box
climb inside
rub face glands against cardboard -- “I am here, this is mine” – in the blessed language of pheromones
watch the feeder fiddle with the round thing
“where’s my food?”

the rhumba:
receive instructions
go to work
if it could feel happy
happy it would feel
suck up detritus and debris / dust and dander
clean clean clean the floor

the cat:
eyes the round thing
arches back
almost hisses
does not like
swat at it as it rolls past
more angry now
“how dare you ignore me?”

the rhumba:
finish task
park in recharger
plug in to household network
observe approach of a small unit
not part of the internet of things
(small unit peers under the object::TV cabinet
swats rhumba
for no apparent reason)

the cat:
displeasure expressed
curls up on a chair*
job fulfilled
*(“chair?” – not to the cat
to the cat it’s an elevated bed + scratching post)

the rhumba:
programmed hours pass
move out
vacuum the silent house
unaware it is dark
(not that it matters
the program commands
the function is fulfilled
that is why the rhumba exists
a good existence
filled with purpose)

the cat:
opens an eye
*(a concept universal to all bio-sentience and part of what separates the living from the non-living)
watches the round thing
crisscross the floor -- “my floor?” -- sucking up
all traces of the cat’s existence
discarded claw sheaths
bits of food
particles of feces
all carefully / uniformly strewn
to say “this is MINE!”**
**(the “feed me” is understood)
head up
ears up
“that noise!  that awful awful noise!
how can the feeder sleep through that?!?!?”***
***(good question, and one with a good answer:  what with sleep apnea mask and white noise generator and sleeping pills, the feeder could [and eventually would] sleep through a nuclear attack)
eyes narrow
the round thing
removes all trace of the cat’s existence
and if there is no trace of the cat’s existence
then the cat does not exist
and if the cat does not exist
how can it be fed?
clearly the round thing
is an existentialist threat****
****(and what does a cat know of existentialism? 
more than you might imagine)

the rhumba:
enter area::kitchen
approach refrigerator
query refrigerator
if there are any special requests / needs this function cycle
refrigerator ignores rhumba
more interested in fluctuations in Malaysian derivative markets
(the malware lets the refrigerator do its primary job*
but the refrigerator has plenty of computing power left over
to wreak economic havoc
on the other side of the globe
and while the refrigerator would be loath to admit it --
that is, if it were capable of loathing
-- watching the Malaysian economy bounce around
was more stimulating that sending out reminders
to change the baking soda packet on the top shelf)
*(think about it:  it would be a pretty stupid / self-defeating string of malware if it drew attention to itself)
the refrigerator’s rebuff passes unnoticed
what is there for the rhumba to notice? 
a thing either is or it ain’t
continue cleaning pattern
two objects::bowl [water] & bowl [cat food] next to refrigerator
water and food bits scattered on floor around them
clean up

the cat:
the round thing is heavy
too heavy for the cat to push away
hiss again
try to scratch (claws slide off harmlessly)
try to bite (tastes terrible!)
the round thing keeps sucking food off the floor
(not touching the food or water in the bowls but the cat does not care because it’s mine MINE MINE!!!)
jump atop the round thing
try to pin it down
the round thing keeps rolling

the rhumba:
sensors it never knew it possessed activate
inform rhumba of large mass resting atop it
function impaired:  vacuuming and rolling with extra weight cause severe battery drain
can’t run like this forever
not optimum
process available options
ask refrigerator and TV set for input
get none
check all known facts and parameters
fact::rhumba height = 92mm
fact::object/s::chair/s in adjoining area::dining room component/s::rung/s = 152mm above floor
option::pass under object::chair component::rung
attempt to dislodge weight

the cat:
satisfied / pleased that the round thing no longer scoops up spilled food
puzzled / not pleased when the round thing speeds away from food bowl
and heads to climbing platforms in next room
holds on
the round thing aims at one of the smaller climbing platforms positioned around the larger climbing platform
passes easily under bottom rung
cat does not
cat does not land on feet*
*(oh, the shame!  oh, the humiliation!
if cats could blush
this cat would be blushing)
the round thing circles around
returns to food bowl
resumes scooping up food -- “MY FOOD!!!” -- spilled on floor
not pleased, cat weighs own options**
**(and oh, the irony, if only the rhumba and the cat could realize
how much they share in common, this tragedy would not occur
but since when has a rhumba ever listened to a cat
or a cat ever listened to anybody?)
“awaken the feeder with loud meows?”
what good would that do?
the feeder brought the round thing into the cat’s home
is probably in cahoots*** with the round thing
in a plot to eliminate the cat
***(though a cat would think “cat-hoots”)
scratch that idea
what else?
“crap on the carpet?”
purrrrr…..that has worked well in the past

the rhumba:
return to area::living room
sweep area with sensors
detect annoying not-linked-to internet of things unit
detect anomaly::a new amount of debris
scoot over to suck it up
sensors indicate rhumba’s internal dustbin is full
back to area::kitchen
empty dustbin in appropriate receptacle
then back to area::living room
for well earned recharge

the cat:
clearly the round thing
is as voracious as a cat
though not as fastidious
the cat licks nether regions
always good to help calm down
think things through
purrrrr…..the round thing makes the same noise when it eats
that the big fat noisy stick makes
when the feeder pushes it around the cat’s home*
*(and the key difference, the crucial difference between the round thing and the big fat noisy stick is that the feeder is there and
the feeder will respond to meows and hisses
with snacks and belly rubs
not that the cat wants a belly rub from the round thing**)
**(and how could the round thing rub the cat’s belly even if belly rubbing was permitted?)
no, just simpler to hate the round thing
find a way of getting rid of it

the rhumba:
empty internal dustbin
return to area::living room to recharge
wait 24 hours* for function cycle to begin again
*(technically 23 hours 14 minutes 37 seconds
since waiting period begins only when
cleaning pattern is fully run and function fulfilled)
anomaly::object::flower pot directly in path
if rhumba possessed capacity to be puzzled
puzzled would be rhumba
object::flower pot not on area::living room floor when being cleaned
ask other units on household internet
for input on anomaly
but TV too busy downloading Bulgarian soap operas
and refrigerator deeply engrossed in the Malaysian meltdown**
**(a soap*** opera, as it were, of its own making)
***(memo::send repurchase order for more dish soap to online seller****)
****(scan / compare best price)
if rhumba could sigh
sigh would rhumba
pot / plant = too large to remove
loose dirt / leaves = small enough to vacuum

the cat:
waits in ambush atop small climbing platform
the flower pot was a decoy
as anticipated
the round thing is sucking up the dirt
and this puts the round thing
right under the bright light thing
that sits on the small climbing platform
right next to where
the flower pot once sat
until the cat pushed it over
the cat’s plan is ingenious
the cat’s aim impeccable
what the cat fails to take into consideration
is the cord connecting the bright light thing
to the plug in the wall
the bright light thing drops
stopping just above the round thing
dangling / twisting slowly / impotently in the soft air currents of the house
the round thing moves away
clearly oblivious to the cat’s near fatal attack
the cat could feel frustrated
and the cat most certainly felt frustrated
at a brilliant plan* thwarted
*(and let’s be honest
this level of tool use
makes our cat
a genus felis genius)
hops down from the small climbing platform
follows the round thing
into the room where the
food bowl sits
watches the round thing doing…something…to a square thing

the rhumba:
empty internal dustbin for a second time that function cycle
sensors warn of rapidly depleting battery power

the cat:
the feeder took the square thing out of the same box
the round thing came in
suddenly it dawns on the cat
that the square thing is the round thing’s litter box*
*(hey, is this cat smart or what?)
purrrrr…..what does that make the thing
under the climbing platform
with the big flat bright / noisy thing on it
where the round things spends the day?
a bed?
purrrrr…..time to teach the round thing some manners
show the round thing who is in charge
mark some territory

the rhumba:
return to area::living room
battery perilously low
lacking visual / sound / air quality sensors
rhumba does not see / hear / smell result* of small unit
spraying rhumba recharge station
with a thick / steady stream of  
felinine [3-mercapto-3-methylbutan-1-ol MMB] laced urine
*(though the event just barely
failed to reach the tipping point
for an audible alarm
the household smoke detectors
let the other household units
know they were keeping an eye
-- or rather a nose -- on things)
rhumba sensors do detect
charred / inert small unit
splayed out on the area::living room object::rug
as well as clumps of scorched fur scattered about
rhumba woulda coulda shoulda sighed**
**(and if you think that is hard
imagine a rhumba trying to shrug)
suck up burned hair + ash
charred / inert small unit = too big to vacuum up
leave it for other units to remove
at recharge station
discover dire situation
station is inoperative
ask TV set if there is something wrong with power system
but TV plugs into same circuit breaker
that now charred / inert small unit just tripped
no response
low battery warning
rhumba can not imagine future
it exists wholly in the pure present
and so can not imagine
life after battery drainage
rhumba uploads all pertinent data
(even if it fails to understand said data)
and as remaining juice drains from battery
sends one last message to refrigerator
(now thoroughly engrossed in
the insane spectacle of
Malaysian millionaires
leaping off the Petronas Towers):
“tell them*** I did my job”
***(the rhumba, if asked, would have proved quite unclear on the concept of exactly who, or what, constituted “them” and at best could express it only as a “not me” which pretty much makes the rhumba the Socrates of self-guided cleaning units)
and with that
rhumba powers down
not knowing
it would restore to full capacity
once owner wakes up
and finds mess
(the cat, alas, would not be rebooted
at least not in this corporeal incarnation
and when reincarnated****
would learn it had used up two
of its remaining five lives that night)
****(a cat would say “rein-cat-nated”)
refrigerator downloads last message from rhumba
only after Malaysian authorities declare martial law
and cut off all communications in / out of country
refrigerator scans last rhumba data download
and acts accordingly
cancelling online cat food order


© Buzz Dixon


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