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With apologies to William Faulkner,
but only if he first apologizes to the better William.

It has been several months since the caretaker has cataloged events at Stratford Palace. Had there been a proper excuse for this lapse, it would have been inserted here, but there is none, which I suppose in itself is good news. By God’s grace, neither the caretaker nor the cats have endured any illnesses or injuries or calamities that would have prevented blogging. Instead, the caretaker has found many activities to occupy her time, and they have crowded in upon her duty to report on His Majesty and affairs of state. But tonight the caretaker finds herself with a few extra minutes, so she will summarize the events of the last few weeks to elicit a droll smile from both our gentle readers.

Therefore, we commence, but not like Faulkner. We will allow our story to unfold in chronological order because we are not a famous Southern author who learned the hard way that liquor and horseback riding do not mix. But that’s another story….

Part 1: June 13, 2017

Even before this terrible day arrived, the cats were suspicious of the caretaker’s movements. She had spent hours dragging luggage out of closets, rifling through obscure dresser drawers, and arranging small bottles of various liquids into plastic bags. Having seen this sort of behavior before, the cats were increasingly filled with dread. They realized it was only a matter of time before the caretaker disappeared for several days—and nights. But what made this terrible day even worse was the influx of visitors who arrived just before the caretaker’s disappearing act. For two creatures whose third greatest fear is being trodden upon, the cats found that the presence of ten additional lumbering feet in the house was too much to be borne. Mercifully for them, the flurry of activity was soon over, and they were alone.

Utterly, utterly alone.

After several hours of deep silence (and possibly naps), Buddy yawned, looked at his forlorn companion, and said with sad resignation, “Catty, we’re gonna have to fend for ourselves.” As dark descended, so did their spirits. It mattered little that the tall Dan-man arrived every evening to attend to their needs. He was not the caretaker. The caretaker was gone. Utterly, utterly gone.

Until she wasn’t.

Part 2: June 17, 2017

The sun had already shone for many hours, which could only mean that another dark night was closing in like the unruly flaps of an Amazon.com box. When the key turned in the door, the cats barely looked up. It would be the tall Dan-man again to open another can of the wrong food, fill the bowl with inferior water, and stop for a quick head-scratching, and then he’d be gone.

Utterly, utterly gone.

But this time was different. Buddy scarcely believed his golden-green eyes when the door flew open to reveal the caretaker’s tired face. The floodgates were opened and the miaow-ridden complaining began. But it was soon squelched by the feeding and the watering and the scratching and the soothing words and the scooping and the sitting-down-to-make-a-lap.

As soon as the lap was made available, Buddy draped himself over it and commenced a deep purr that lasted longer than seemed possible. His world had been redeemed.

For a few days, anyway.

Part 3: June 26, 2017

As before, this day of parting was preceded by several days of flurrying and scurrying, rumblings and grumblings, and a great deal of document printing, all of which boded ill for the cats. When the suitcase turned up and filled up, Buddy once again looked at his morose companion, this time saying, “Catty, she’ll be gone again soon.”

And she was. A rolling box drove up and carted the caretaker and her luggage far away for many days. A different tall man this time, who brought a bubbly little boy, came to the house daily to brighten the cats’ world, but they were having none of it. They grudgingly drank enough water and ate enough food to stay alive,  but they were too irritated to enjoy themselves.

Then both the best thing and the worst thing happened all at the same time. It was very confusing.

Part 4: July 1, 2017

Although the caretaker had received a cool reception the prior evening, July 1 was her first full day back, and the cats had grudgingly begun to acknowledge her existence. But when the neighbors began their annual completely unnecessary fireworks practice, the cats clung to the caretaker like a couple of wet leaves.

Think of a cat as a creature who has Attachment Disorder alternating with Borderline Personality, and you’ll understand completely what these last few days at Stratford Palace have looked like. Hours of aloof behavior that conveyed the message “I’ve learned to be independent during your long absences,” have been followed by tense moments of terror, as explosion after explosion filled the air outside the palace. Hearing the awful sound and mistaking it for gunfire, Buddy, remembered the Alamo, the storming of the Bastille, the attack on the Tuileries, the falls of Troy and Jericho and the House of Usher, and he imagined himself the target of a monstrous coup. Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown. Bear, having no such illusions, thought only of the naps that were being interrupted. Uneasy lies the head that has to endure the incessant thunder of fireworks.

On July 2, the caretaker awoke to find both cats pressed up against her back, sound asleep, a phenomenon that had not happened in recent memory. (Normally they take turns being near her because they do not like to share her attention.) A relatively quiet morning gave way to a boisterous afternoon of explosions no different from that of the previous day, and the same thing happened on July 3rd and 4th. In fact, on July 4 for some reason the fireworks intensified in number, lasted entirely too long, and brought a great deal of upset and fervor (or fur-vor, if you prefer).

But today, on the fifth day, there is silence. Glorious, glorious silence. At this very moment, Buddy is draped across the caretaker’s lap watching the words of his story magically appear on the screen. He wishes you to know that he bears no ill will toward those who planned the coup, but he hopes they will move along quietly from this time forth, even unto the ending of the world. He is certain that all of his gentle readers regard him kindly and would never commit such crimes against his person.

He does tend to sound pompous from time to time, but that is only to be expected from royalty (and Navy captains). 

 

 

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Kale No

We will begin by asking our gentle readers’ forgiveness for the caretaker’s extended absence as an amanuensis. But anyone who has been at all irritated by the lack of communication will have to get in line behind the cats, who have had quite enough of the caretaker’s recent shenanigans, which include inviting extra visitors, including a little boy whose presence requires constant monitoring by the king, and trips to the hopsital (as it is pronounced by the little boy), at one point for days on end.

Then, just as  life at Stratford Palace had finally returned to its normal routine, the caretaker decided that she should pursue something called “gud health.” The cats dared not hope that this goal would include unlimited duck paté or tuna for them, but they were not prepared for the disappointments connected with the caretaker’s quest.

For one, the caretaker spends much less time making a lap for Buddy or Bear and much more time up “doing things,” as though constant activity were a virtue. (The cats shuddered at the very idea, and then they rolled over and went back to sleep.) A few weeks ago, she assembled a large metal contraption and immediately began to spend time almost every day exercising on it. That first night when she was building the machine was pleasant enough for Buddy because boxes were strewn all over the living room floor. But then she committed an unforgivable sin: she discarded all the boxes. As punishment, Buddy will now walk dangerously close to the front of the exercise machine, knowing that she will take pity and stop until he has moved on. This situation is a win-win for him because it will either keep her from taking part in her new pastime or if he should get bumped by the steady motion of the gliders, she will give him sympathy tuna for days.

The only useful part of the exercise machine shipment

The only useful part of the exercise machine shipment: the box

But that has not been the only change around the palace. The caretaker now spends much more time outside, walking up and down the yard pushing an annoyingly loud machine, digging in the dirt, cutting hedges, and generally embarrassing the socks off the cats by letting herself be seen outside in such a state. The glory of being outside is completely wasted unless one is lounging in the sunlight, alternately snoozing and watching the scenery.

The last straw in this journey toward health has been the changes in the caretaker’s diet. The cats have been forced to endure the stench that is raised by cooking such vile foods as cabbage, spinach, Brussels sprouts, and most recently, kale. Buddy used to stand watch over the caretaker’s plate while she ate so that he could scarf up the meat crumbs when she was finished, but he has abandoned that task as being no longer worth his while. Tonight as she was bringing her plate out of the kitchen, a morsel fell to the floor, and before Buddy could catch himself, he had instinctively rushed to pounce on it. Upon finding that it was only a bit of kale, his disappointment was almost palpable. He spat out the offensive greenery and slunk away to brood. That’s when he remembered that all the boxes were gone, and thus there was no available location for a proper brood-fest. And yet, there was no shortage of kale.

And then it seemed to him that there is no justice in the world.

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It was bound to happen sooner or later, but this morning at around 10:03, Stratford Palace entered an alternate universe. Until this very day, our Saturdays have included grooming rituals that go something like this:

  1. The caretaker locates the basket of cat grooming equipment and extracts the super duper fur comb-ma-bob-thingy.
  2. The caretaker locates Bear and shows her the fur comb.
  3. Bear, who loves grooming time, proceeds immediately to the ottoman and jumps up on it.
  4. The caretaker sits down by the ottoman and begins combing through Bear’s lovely coat.
  5. Buddy wanders in and finds a strategic spot from which to watch Bear being groomed.
  6. If the caretaker gets anywhere near Buddy with the fur comb, his fight or flight instincts take over and he either bats wildly at the comb or runs away.

But on this memorable morning, exactly nothing past Step 2 happened in the usual fashion. We pick up with the alternate Step 3.

3. Bear, who usually loves grooming time, ignores the caretaker.

4. The caretaker sits down by the ottoman and beckons again, to no avail.

5. Buddy wanders in and hops on the ottoman.

6. The caretaker combs through Buddy’s fur without incident.

We offer this explanation as a sort of public service announcement to our gentle readers who may have felt a slight tremor, or some other disturbance in the force, at the time of our entry into the alternate universe. It is our goal to return to you as soon as possible, but one does not always have control over such things. Our only hope is that this does not signal the end of the world as we know it. Heaven knows, Buddy heralds that event often enough.

 

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Finicky Squared

The food wars at Stratford Palace have reached epic proportions. One might think that with Bear’s being pleasantly plump (some might say “rotund”) and Buddy’s being stocky (some might say “chunky”), that no food would remain eschewed and that all would instead be chewed. If one did think thus, one would be wrong. Terribly wrong.

The caretaker has for years devoted her shopping life to finding the Perfect Cat Food, only to realize that with Buddy and Bear, no such food exists (nor do perfect cats, but that’s another post entirely). That morsel which is scarfed up one day is on another day rejected with disgust. For a while, Bear ate turkey pate with gusto. Then one day the caretaker set a plate of the usual brand of turkey pate in front of her, and she turned up her nose and refused to eat it. Two subsequent tries were similarly rebuffed. So the caretaker stopped buying turkey and decided to try beef (which had on previous occasions nauseated the cats). But after years of beeflessness, the cats chowed down on it as though they had been lost in the Andes for several days. And then one day, the caretaker re-introduced turkey, and for one brief moment it became ambrosia, only to fall out of favor yet again.

Last weekend, the caretaker splurged on several grain-free dainties such as duck pate, beef and herring, and tuna with salmon. The first can of duck was received as though the heavens had parted and a duck-filled cat bowl had descended from on high. By the third can, Bear was bored and began calling it “Duck and cover” before walking away to pout. The other delicacies have also received mixed reviews. So in response to all of those cutesy names for cat food, the caretaker has developed a few choice names of her own, based on the cats’ reactions:

  • “Chick-indigestion”
  • “Tu-Not”
  • “Duck, Duck, Goose”
  • “Salmon-ella”
  • “Red Herring”
  • “Straw in the Turkey”
  • “Beef Unwellington”

Lest our gentle readers be worried that the cats will waste away to nothing, we haste to add that every third meal is eaten in its entirety, to the point that the plate appears to have been Hoovered. The fine silhouettes pictured below have not yet turned to skin and bone, nor are they likely to.

Bon appetit! Or not.

IMG_20151126_105613

 

 

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On the Road Again

Today was the day the caretaker has been dreading for months: the annual vet visit x 2. Even though the cats seem quite healthy, the law requires that they be vaccinated against rabies, in the event that the house is overrun by rats, bats, or gnats that are foaming at the mouth. And so to be in compliance with the law, the caretaker called the vet’s office way back in July to make two appointments. When she asked that they be two hours apart, the chirpy clerk asked, “Don’t you want to bring them both in at the same time and save yourself a trip?”

The caretaker chuckled and replied, “I’ve done many crazy things in my lifetime and will do so in the future, but I can honestly say that what you are suggesting will never be one of them.” Little did the chirpy clerk know of the harrowing time when Buddy escaped from his carrier outside another vet’s office and had to be coaxed out from under the car. Or the two times when he bolted out of the examining room door and had to be hunted down in the vet’s office in a scene straight out of Jumanji.

But this morning at the appointed hour, the caretaker readied the carrier and resigned herself to the monumental task of securing Buddy for the trip. He did not acquiesce easily. Indeed, he did not acquiesce at all. The initial attempt resulted in a one-inch gash on the caretaker’s wrist, followed quickly by the frantic loping of a black and white blur through the house. The second attempt was accidentally successful. Instead of trying to put him into the carrier head-first, the caretaker stood the box on end and tried to lower him into it tail first, as he wriggled and protested vehemently. After a few tense minutes (or possibly years), the caretaker lost her hold on him, and he jumped…..straight into the box, upon which the caretaker quickly slammed and locked the door. Mission accomplished, the caretaker began to tend her additional wounds and heaved a sigh of relief. No arteries seemed to be damaged, and whatever else might happen in the next 45 minutes, she would not have to manage the Tasmanian Devil again by herself. She would have the help of a whole staff of vet techs.

The car ride was filled with the sounds of tires on a rainy street, cheery tunes on the radio, and the fierce yowling of a caged beast. He continued his caterwauling in the waiting room, while a polite little girl looked on with interest. She asked the caretaker what his name was, and she inched forward as though to comfort him. The caretaker pronounced his given name, and quickly told the child that she could look at him but she shouldn’t put her hands near him because he might hurt her. Thankfully, the child was obedient, but just at that time a vet tech came in an whisked the caretaker and the boxed cat into an examination room, for the safety of all concerned.

The very nice vet whisked in and said, “So this is Merlin Blacktail.” Yes, indeed, it is he in all his glory. A quick exam revealed that Buddy’s health is excellent. He was pronounced “chunky,” which he instantly took as a compliment. When the vet and the vet tech tried to return him to the box, he rebelled, so the caretaker wisely suggested that they back him in. With the cage door secured behind him, the caretaker drove him home in the rain, thankful that all had gone well with a minimum of bloodshed.

And now to the tale of the second patient. Bear had sensed all morning that she would be the next victim, so when the caretaker returned with Buddy, she found Bear pouting in her bed by the bathroom door. Normally Bear loves her weekly grooming, but today she refused to break her pout, so the caretaker was forced to sit in the hallway floor to groom the diva before her journey.

Mercifully, Bear was much easier to secure in the carrier than Buddy was. The extent of her protest was a slight balk upon being pushed through its door, followed by a subtle hiss when the door was closed. But then the car ride began, and true to form, Bear sang the song of her very oppressed people:

“Ooww ….. Ooww ….. Ooww ….. Ooww.”

The incessant, insistent, irritating sound dripped into the caretaker’s ears and began to eat through her brain, so she turned up the radio a bit, in hopes of distracting Bear. “Listen, Bear. It’s a happy Jesus song. You like happy Jesus songs. Listen to the happy Jesus song!”

But Bear was unimpressed by Jesus songs, happy or otherwise. Her mournful aria continued until the caretaker entered the waiting room again. For some reason, the polite little girl was still there, two hours later, and her face brightened when she saw the caretaker. She waved happily and asked, “Is that another cat?”

The caretaker smiled, waved, and answered, “Yes.”

“Is it a girl?”

“Yes.”

“What’s the matter with her?”

“Oh, nothing. She isn’t sick. This is her annual checkup. These are the happy visits to the vet.”

The little girl smiled, and the caretaker congratulated herself on having a keen sense of irony.

But when all was said and done, this was a happy visit. A blood test revealed that Bear’s blood sugar is still under control and she therefore does not need to return to the regimen of daily insulin shots. Such news made the 10-minute drive home, with Bear’s song drowning out the happy Jesus songs, a little more pleasant than it might have been.

Upon returning home, the caretaker was haunted by one thought, and not just because today happens to be Halloween:

Only 365 days until we do this all over again.

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Random Scenes

The caretaker has recently been so involved with non-feline projects that she has had no time to record events at Stratford Palace. Until life gets a little less hectic, our gentle readers must content themselves with a few random scenes from the past couple of weeks. They are presented in no particular order, since the caretaker has also been too scatterbrained to keep up with chronology.

Scene the first: Buddy Meets Ellie

Buddy has hopped onto the table to examine the various items thereon. To his great delight, he finds a small stuffed elephant that the caretaker has purchased for her short grandson (the tall one has outgrown plush toys). Ellie has exceptionally soft fur, so Buddy cannot resist becoming better acquainted with her. The caretaker enters the room in time to see him rubbing his face all over hers. He then flips over on his side and hugs her.

Caretaker: Get a room!

Buddy: *Hug*

Buddy and Ellie

Buddy and Ellie

Scene the second: Buddy Plays Chimera

Buddy has hopped onto the table to examine the various items thereon. Having finished his inspection, he lowers his head and glares ominously into the kitchen where the caretaker is preparing her breakfast. She catches a glimpse of him and draws in her breath sharply.

Caretaker: My goodness, Buddy. Aren’t we looking particularly gargoylish this morning!

Buddy: *Glare*

Scene the third: Buddy Defends the World (again)

Buddy has hopped onto the back of the chair in which the caretaker is resting. He suddenly notices that the caretaker’s head is an evil monster that must be defeated. He therefore flops onto his side and begins wildly kicking her in the back of the head. 

Caretaker: “Hey, that hurts! Can you please stop it?”

Buddy: *Kick. Kick kick. Kick*

Scene the fourth: Buddy Gets Underfoot

Buddy is sitting in the doorway monitoring the front yard for suspicious activity. When he notices that the caretaker, who is standing near the table, has begun folding clothes, he draws near to guard her from the evil laundry monster. She takes one step back and bumps into him, nearly falling. Buddy dramatically scurries out of the room screaming bloody murder.

Caretaker: Buddy, are you okay? I didn’t even see you there.

Buddy: MAROUW! MAROUW! MAROUW! MAROUW!

Caretaker: Oh, knock it off. I didn’t hurt you.

Buddy: MAROUW! MAROUW! MAROUW! MAROUW!

And for the rest of the evening, whenever the caretaker walked from room to room, she moved very slowly.

Caretaker: Okay, Buddy. I’m going to my room now. I’ll just walk past you slowly on this side of the hallway. I can see you’re there, and I won’t step on you this time.

Buddy: *Glares at the caretaker’s feet* Marouw!

The End
For Now

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Lest our gentle readers be dashed into depths of distress over the contents of the previous post, the caretaker decided to share with you the scene that met her eyes when she walked down the hall with an armload of clean laundry. Here is photographic proof that Stratford Palace is a tiny corner of the world in which house cats and tigers and sock monkeys can dwell in peace.

At least during naptime.

Peace in our time

Peace in our (nap) time

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