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According to that eminently reliable source, Wikipedia, “‘Noblesse oblige’ is generally used to imply that with wealth, power, and prestige come responsibilities.” It has come to the caretaker’s attention that in her absence, household responsibilities were heavy and great upon the noble head of the reigning monarch of Stratford Palace, namely, His Royal Highness Merlin “Buddy” Blacktail, Emperor of the Front Lawn and Protector of the Storm Door.

The substitute caretaker has admitted of her own accord that she required a great deal of supervision in her chores, most notably that difficult but honorable task known as “Scooping.” This kindly young woman’s technique was so obviously inferior in King Buddy’s eyes that he remained near at hand during the entire process, supervising and offering instruction when necessary, which is to say, quite often. As a result, he was so exhausted this morning that he could not make the long journey to the back of the house to ascend his throne after breakfast, so he constructed a lesser throne between the cushion and the back of the sofa. Unfortunately, he encountered a fair amount of difficulty finding a comfortable pose, as will be evident in the following photos:

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In which I first strike my "Walk Like an Egyptian" pose

In which I first strike my “Walk Like an Egyptian” pose

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In which I throw back my head and thus throw caution to the wind

In which I throw back my head and thus throw caution to the wind

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In which I begin to search for a better situation

In which I begin to search for a more suitable situation

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In which I sink more deeply into the abyss

In which I sink more deeply into the abyss. Confound you, Gravity!

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In which I contemplate the meaning of Life

In which I contemplate the meaning of Life, as it relates to ceiling fans

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In which I stop to cleanse my face

In which I stop to cleanse my face in a brilliant act of non sequitur

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In which I resign myself to the inability of the faux leopard skin to uphold my person

In which I resign myself to the inability of the faux leopard skin to uphold my person

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In which I fall asleep pretending the front window is a portal to the lamp post in Narnia

In which I fall asleep pretending the front window is a portal to the lamp post in Narnia

And there in Narnia, with the great Lion Aslan, who is the most noble Cat of all, our pie-bald sovereign passes a serene morning. May we all know such blissful company, sleeping or waking!

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Coup de Cat

Gentle readers, the cats would first like to apologize for the caretaker’s neglect of you. The entire month of March passed by without a single word from Stratford Palace. The caretaker would mumble excuses about work and church and laundry and needing to attend to sick friends, but the cats have no patience with her trifling ways. Their deep desire is to shout “Off with her head!” except that the caretaker is still the only member of the household with opposable thumbs. And so their anger seethes.

The topsy-turviness of the palace has been expressed in a variety of ways. One is that the caretaker swiftly cleaned the house last Saturday and rearranged the furniture so that Bear’s throne is no longer directly under the large Cat TV. It offers a mere sliver of the former glory which it previously overlooked. Being mightily displeased with this turn of events, yet unable to make her displeasure known through words of grievance, Bear devised the ultimate passive aggressive countermeasure: she stole Buddy’s throne.

Yes, gentle reader, we are speaking of the throne that sits high on a shelf. The throne to which Bear had never been willing to ascend, as she normally eschews all forms of physical exertion (unless hearty eating counts). The throne that has been Buddy’s special spot in the mornings for months. That throne.

As the caretaker had no camera in hand, there is no photo of this monumental event, so it shall remain in the realm of Big Foot and the Loch Ness Monster. But lack of evidence does not negate the tragedy on which the caretaker stumbled last Thursday morning as she prepared to leave for work. As is her custom, she conducted a nose count before leaving for work, and she was concerned not to find Bear in any of her usual spots. But nothing could have prepared the caretaker for the two sights that met her eyes:

  1. Bear curled up comfortably in the throne
  2. Buddy hunched over the throne, staring at her like a very furry, very confused vulture.

Catching the caretaker in the corner of his eye as she entered the door, Buddy looked up with the most pleading face he could muster. No words were required; his message was obvious. He wanted the imposter evicted. He wanted the usurper ejected.

But mostly he wanted his dignity back.

Trying not to laugh, the caretaker went to the living room and fetched the matching throne. She set it on the cot by the other window and began to extol its virtues in soft, soothing tones. And then she walked away, in great hope that the coup would soon be over.

Mercifully, the struggle for the throne was short-lived, and peace was restored in the kingdom. Bear doesn’t like heights, so when the caretaker provided multiple thrones closer to floor level, as well as a strategic repositioning of her original throne, she relinquished Buddy’s spot. Her point made, she settled back into her preferred location, this time much closer to Cat TV.

The next morning after breakfast, a grateful king snuggled into his favorite dozing spot, with no competition from Bear. Once again, it was good to be the king. Especially at nap time.

 

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Thrones Will Fall

As our gentle readers will recall, it is Buddy’s habit every morning to wake the caretaker before daylight, to allow her to feed him a hearty breakfast, and then to take his place in or near the window throne in his state room. (pictured below)

Buddy's Throne

Buddy’s Throne

Almost every morning when the caretaker leaves the house, Bear is sound asleep in her smaller throne in the sitting room, and Buddy is watching over his kingdom from his throne. The ability to find the cats in these habitual haunts is useful for the caretaker, as she always counts heads before leaving the house. Since the cats are creatures of habit, she can be also.

And that is exactly why she did a double-take one morning last week when she began the head count in the sitting room. The first hint that a major problem existed was her finding Buddy in Bear’s throne. Granted, he often confiscates that seat in the afternoons when watching for the caretaker to return in the large rolling box, but until that day he had never needed that spot in the morning. Thoroughly confused, the caretaker quickly searched for Bear, who was most displeased at being displaced. She had found another bed on the back of the caretaker’s chair, but her face was filled with clouds and thunder. She was not amused.

Since this turn of events was so odd, the caretaker decided to look in the state room and see if anything was amiss. It was indeed. In this case, amiss was as good as a mile, for Buddy’s throne might as well have been a mile away. Instead of being perched confidently on the wooden chest where it belongs, the throne lay upside-down and two feet below its normal location on the wooden table that stands between the chest and the bed.

If our gentle readers will refer once again to the photo above, they will notice that the throne is in a precarious position at the corner of the chest. Because of this tendency for the throne to list to the right, the caretaker adjusts the throne on a regular basis to prevent mishaps. But she had apparently been remiss in her duties last week, causing Buddy to be dethroned and setting the entire household in high dudgeon.

The reason for the throne’s demise remains a mystery, but the caretaker is willing to conjecture that it was a casualty of Buddy’s hatred for the cat that has recently begun to roam the palace grounds. Pantera is a coal-black cat, sleek and shockingly large. He is also the stuff of legends, and a better nemesis than Buddy has ever found.

Whether the throne reached its ignoble destination because Buddy rolled over in his sleep or because he was scrambling to lunge through the window at the villain du jour, the result was the same. The throne was in the dog house, and Buddy refused to return to it for three days. That is apparently the minimum amount of time required to assuage the king’s wrath against a traitor.

Thus, gentle reader, it behooves us all not to incur the king’s wrath. That throne is lucky it is still alive.

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The caretaker would now like to share a few entries from the journal of Buddy the Scientist, just in case the homes of any of our gentle readers are infested with laundry beasts. Buddy’s solution may not be the one you would choose, but don’t say he didn’t warn you.

11/12/2012, 0900: The caretaker has just begun to engage in that most hateful of activities that we cats know as “pelt sorting,” but which she insists upon calling “laundry.” These euphemisms are getting out of hand. For example, what I call “sheer torture” she calls “grooming.” Worst of all, Bear has succumbed to Stockholm Syndrome and now actually begs to be “groomed.” Never fear, faithful reader. We, the royal “we,” shall not fall prey to that trap. Nor shall we let “laundry” get the better of us. We are entirely too cunning for that.

11/12/2012, 0920: During the laundry portion of the week, we are accustomed to the caretaker’s wandering to and fro with armloads of pelts, subjecting them to water torture and then to the heat chamber. But today she has added an unusual level of horror, apparently reserved for only a few of the pelts. It involves a special torture table and a dreadful monster that she keeps concealed in a closet. It is smaller than me, but it has a hard shell that is impossible to crack, and so we have not yet been able to defeat it. We suspect its only vulnerability may lie in its long, thin tail because the caretaker is always careful to prevent us from chewing on it. How is a scientist supposed to make accurate inferences if not allowed to gather data?

11/12/2012, 0930: As we are able, we sneak up to sniff the monster, but the caretaker keeps pushing us back and warning us that we could “get hurt” if we continue. (We take special note of that thinly veiled threat.) One of the times we got close to it, we found it to be emanating an oppressive wave of heat, and our heart sank within us. Is it not enough that these pelts have been through two levels of torture? Must they also be singled out for scorching? There is no end to the treachery of this woman, who is so bold as to serve us HER choice of food on HER schedule. If the Geneva Convention doesn’t cover these fell deeds, it should be amended. (It may, of course, continue to omit the tormenting of bugs and rodents from the list of unacceptable activities. We are quite satisfied that these acts are sports, not crimes.)

11/12/2012, 0933: She has now been scorching one particular pelt for 3 minutes, moving it about methodically so that every square inch is subjected to the searing heat. During this process, we have observed that the beast is an obedient accomplice in these endeavors. It seems to have no mind of its own, and very little sense. For that reason, we first thought it might be a dog, but then we remembered that it smells nothing like those dreadful creatures. Too bad, really. We always enjoy an opportunity to teach a dog his place in the world.

11/12/2012, 0935: A new observation finds us astonished on many different levels. The monster must have caught sight of our royal person, for it began to hiss violently. With this new data, we are ready to name the creature. Its hard exoskeleton, its long tail, its ability to emit heat, and its hideous hissing can only mean one thing: it is a throwback from the era of dragons and dinosaurs, so we have dubbed it “Hissorapter.” Our sincere hope is that it cannot spit out poison. If so, we must flee this place immediately and abandon our observations. As serious as we are about our scientific work, we have no desire to sacrifice our royal person for the sake of a few facts. The pursuit of science ends where the endangerment of life begins. Especially our life.

11/12/2012, 0955: The caretaker’s taste for torture must be waning, for she has hung up the last pelt and set the hissorapter on the floor, with the explanation that she is concerned we would have “accidentally” knocked it off the table. Ha! If such a thing were to happen, it would be no accident, we can assure you. But as it is, we are left staring at the beast, hoping it does not turn on us. But then we realize that it has no legs. The treacherous caretaker has obviously lamed it so that it cannot escape. But we must not pity it, given its willingness to cooperate with the caretaker’s schemes. No matter what the circumstance, it is our responsibility to fight evil, for besides being a scientist, we are also a king. With such weighty matters on our shoulders, is it any wonder that we sleep so much? Just being who we are is exhausting. We would invite you to try it sometimes, but you would collapse under the weight of responsibility. You are, after all, only hooman.

11/12/2012, 1010: The monster’s heat has now abated, so we have done the only honorable thing. With one swift stroke of the paw we toppled it, spilling its contents. But those contents reveal the last bit of data we need for our scientific assessment. If that animal had a proper heart, it would be oozing blood, but it spills only water. Thus we may now walk away, confident in the knowledge that we have destroyed the very source of evil itself. And in that act, we have learned the caretaker’s euphemism for the beast, for the she is now spouting forth its name as she scolds us and sets it upright: “Buddy, WHY did you knock over my iron?!?!?”

There it is, faithful reader. As is only fitting, its name is a four-letter word: IRON, meaning “evil hissing beast that emits heat for the purpose of torturing pelts.” Such evil can only be conquered through the sheer force of scientific endeavor. That, combined with a strategic slap of the paw.

Science always wins.

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The caretaker was shocked to notice that almost a month has elapsed since she last provided a true and proper account of the cats. As you might imagine, a great deal of gravy consumption has taken place during this period (as well as many less important activities), but the caretaker has been engaged in projects for mere hoomans and has had little time and no energy for her service as the cats’ historiographer. But now she has a bit of time to provide an accurate history of the main events of these past four weeks, and so we are happy to announce an episode in The Great Detectives series. Today we present an homage to that great modern duo of crime fighters, Goren and Creams. (This choice seemed only fitting, in that most of Buddy’s actions have at least a modicum of criminal intent.)

The episode begins with a scene from Stratford Palace, in the cats’ room. The camera pans across a small cot, whereon a small pillow, embroidered with the word MEOW, lies uncharacteristically askew.

What's Wrong with This Picture?

What’s wrong with this picture?

But the more astute of our gentle readers will recognize at once that something else is terribly, terribly wrong. Until recently, this humble cot had been the home of one Monsieur Tigre Etouffée, a stuffed tiger who is larger than both cats put together, but who is singularly unable to defend himself and thus is sometimes subjected to a thorough trouncing by Buddy. These encounters are normally confined to short periods of Tigre’s tail playing the part of a viper being caught up in Buddy’s death grip. This morning, however, Tigre had suffered a much worse fate, and justice must be served (with gravy, one may hope).

(Camera pans down to the floor)

Someone draw a chalk outline

Someone draw a chalk outline, please

On this otherwise serene morning, Tigre had met with an awful fate and was now not only stuffed but suffocated. Monsieur Etouffée lay in the floor, even more lifeless than usual, with apparently no witnesses available to question (which is a real shame because the caretaker was looking forward to playing the part of Goren and acting all quirky during the interrogation). Regardless of the lack of witnesses, the mystery would be solved soon (even though a running story line may be required to maintain audience interest). For with the caretaker playing the part of Goren, and Bear standing in for Creams, the field of suspects was reduced to exactly one. The only suspect was the usual suspect, Buddy, who lay in the window calmly surveying his kingdom’s front yard. He seemed unaware of the horrific scene that lay on the floor below, so it was time for Goren to step in and solve this crime.

The Guilty Innocent

Butter won’t melt in his mouth

The caretaker recalled that about ten minutes earlier Buddy had torn through the house like a rabid jackalope, angry because the world was not instantly bowing to his will. The sun wasn’t coming up at his demand, the front door remained firmly shut, and Bear wasn’t sharing breakfast. Having nowhere else to vent his rage, Buddy had apparently jumped onto the cot, wrestled the hapless Tigre to the floor, and then murdered him.

Démon terrible! Did you not know that Goren would come knocking at your door, ready to ask you tricky questions, throwing you off guard and making you reveal your crime! Well, Goren would have done thusly, had you stayed awake long enough to dodge the questions that were being flung in your direction. At least Creams was able to rescue the scene by providing a demure pose to let you know how much your crimes disgust her. And so we end our episode with the obligatory trenchant line: This may be a dog’s life, but it’s the cat who gets away with murder.

Creams looks demure

Creams looks demure and disgusted

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Rude Dawn

As has been mentioned before, not many nights go by without the caretaker’s being awakened at some point during the wee hours by Buddy the Bellicose. The caretaker has been researching this problem, and while her misery has found no comfort in the apparent legions of company dealing with similar rude awakenings, she has at least finally begun to understand the full nature of the problem.

You see, Buddy’s feline instincts tell him that the best hunting is to be done by the dawn’s early light. But his royal instincts tell him that it is beneath his dignity to do his own hunting. And his male instincts tell him that other activities are much more fun, and he must, above all, save his energy for what is fun. Besides, such menial tasks as storing up food and filling plates are obviously woman’s work. Therefore, he takes the only sensible course of action. He wakes the primary hunter/gatherer/predator in the house, the person who has proven herself responsible for keeping the food bowls filled. The lioness. The caretaker. And when he is sure she is out of bed and on the job, he jumps into his window seat and goes soundly back to sleep. So soundly, in fact, that he sometimes spills right out of the bed into the lovely, warm sunbeams.

Buddy spilling out of bed

Buddy spilling out of bed

It all makes perfect sense now, doesn’t it?

Mind you, it isn’t just a simple matter of Buddy’s being hungry at that very moment of waking the caretaker; to behave in such a way would be short sighted. Besides, it would be entirely unnecessary to wake her if he only wanted the next meal, for she ensures that the dry food bowls are filled and the snack bowls topped off before she goes to bed.

No, in Buddy’s mind she cannot properly provide for the pride if she lazes about during the best hunting hours of the day, which are apparently somewhere between 0330 and 0515 military time. So the insistent yowling, the claws digging into skin, the carefully planned four-paws-landing-in-the-stomach-after-a-perfect-trajectory-from-the-floor-to-the-bed, and the skillfully placed cold nose in the eye are all small irritations designed for a greater purpose: the survival of the species. Or at least the survival of the very well-fed bi-color Domestic shorthair known as Buddy. Some would call him a cow cat, but at heart he is a lion.

A cat’s reach, after all, must exceed his grasp or what’s a caretaker for?

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Daily life at the palace is much like a liturgy, for it is both predictable and complex. Since the feeble-minded caretaker is unable to order her own path through its complexities, she is quite blessed to have two resident liturgists.

Buddy begins the order of the day by announcing the arrival of morning. Depending on the requirements of the day (which are known only to Buddy), his announcement consists of a running leap into the caretaker’s stomach or a loud “marrooouuuu!” delivered from the middle of the room. Sometimes he combines the two events, and yells in mid-jump. Regardless, the desired effect is achieved. The caretaker’s rises for the opening act of service required by the cats: breakfast. At this point, Bear takes up her station as the breakfast liturgist. Mewing out versicles that require no responses, she precedes the caretaker into the kitchen and then stops at the foot of the cabinet containing the cat food. When the caretaker arrives, Bear processes and recesses along the back of the caretaker’s ankles, singing the breakfast blessing. When the caretaker places the beloved dish in its place, Buddy hangs back, like a gentleman, allowing Bear to complete her meal before he moves forward to take his portion.

While Buddy eats, Bear leads the caretaker into the bathroom for the ablutions. Continuing as liturgist, Bear chooses her location from which to oversee the proceedings: sometimes from the fluffy toilet lid, sometimes from a pile of clothing on the floor, sometimes from behind a towel. If events do not transpire according to her liking, she gently reminds the caretaker of the proper order and method, and she continues to do so throughout the rest of the morning’s versicles and responses. As the caretaker stumbles through the final moments preceding the morning benediction, Buddy takes his place in the window, where the shafts of sunlight will lull him to sleep. Rising so early has sapped his strength, and he must needs rest so that he will be prepared for the evening liturgy.

Buddy Rests from Morning Duties

Buddy Rests from Morning Duties

Upon arriving home after work, the caretaker is met at the door by both liturgists, who lead her to the kitchen to prepare the evening meal. The order of events must be as follows: open the door, go to the kitchen, prepare the cats’ dinner.  If anything, ANYTHING, is done out of order at this point, the liturgists strongly protest. The next few events during Vespers may transpire as the caretaker wishes, but they must always be followed by her spending some time to adore each cat in turn. On very stressful days, Buddy returns for a second round of adoration, which leads the caretaker to believe he may sometimes confuse his position as liturgist with that of the One who is alone to be worshiped.

Then when Bear decides the day’s liturgy has ended, she leads the way to bed and waits for the caretaker to join after all the chores are finished. And so, gentle reader, Stratford Palace is once again draped in the blessed cloak of sleep (Deo gratias!), at least until Buddy abruptly sounds the call to Matins once again.

'night, Bear

‘night, Bear

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