by Sarah Albrecht
Until a few weeks ago we ascribed our tubby gray tabby Marley’s many oddities to quirks in physiology and personality. The half-length, fat tail that spins like a propeller we thought must have been due to an accident during his kitten days as a stray. The growl that precedes pouncing on our other cat we thought…strange. The fascination with water we thought must be due to either stupidity for not knowing cats hate water or to sheer contrariness.
Then our kindergartener brought home a small science reader about manx cats. Manx cats? Never heard of ‘em, I thought, and opened the book. Manx cats, it turned out, have no tail or sometimes short tails. They growl. They like water. They…sounded like Marley.
Marley is a manx.
I like him better now that I understand his quirks better. I’ve experienced that with people, too—an aha moment about culture or family or religion that broadens the perspective on why someone does what they do.
How about in writing? I like my characters better, know them better, if I know why they act the way they do instead of just that they do act certain ways. And I think we as readers relate to characters better, too, if we learn at some point—figuratively--that Marley is Marley in part because he is a manx.