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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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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.

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Presenting a story which has some ups and downs but which ends well.

Chapter 1: Woe is She
Venomous Vet

That fateful Saturday started out perfectly, with a hearty breakfast and a post-meal nap. For a little while the house was delightfully peaceful: Buddy was gone. The caretaker had snatched him off his throne while he was sleeping, deposited him in the Big Gray Box (BGB) before he could finish his vehement protest, and walked out the door trying desperately to maintain a firm hold on BGB. Bear had no idea where they went; she simply knew that Buddy was not eating her food, drinking her water, or taking over her favorite napping spot. Even better, he wasn’t lying in wait to pounce on her. There was no felicity in the world superior to this. These were perfect dozing conditions.

And then it happened. Bear’s nap was cut short by the sound of the front door opening again, and she looked up in time to see the caretaker bringing back a Buddy-filled BGB. When its door opened, Buddy came charging out like a speared rhinoceros. But that was only the beginning of Bear’s calamity. The caretaker’s next move was to shove Bear’s furry frame into the BGB, latch the cage door securely, and walk out the front door. After an interminable 10-minute car ride, Bear was sitting on a cold metal table being prodded, pilfered, plundered, pillaged, and poked while the caretaker watched, offering no help whatsoever. Another visit to the metal table two days later had the caretaker taking part in the poking ceremony, which was to be repeated every morning and every night for several months.

But the quick jab of an insulin needle twice daily was of little consequence when compared to the major dietary changes that would now be imposed:

  • No more gravy (inconceivable!)
  • No more meat-flavored cornmeal-laden bits that crunched like bones (impossible!)
  • No more tasty treats (unconscionable!)
  • No corn flakes or wheat biscuits (actually, not a problem at all)

Life as Bear knew it was over. But she wasn’t going out alone. Since there was little chance of keeping them on a separate diet, she would be taking Buddy down with her. There was, at least, some small comfort in that.

Chapter 2: Woe is He
Grains Have Left the Building

Buddy’s visit to the vet had been fairly normal, which is to say he flipped out during the car ride and banged his nose against the cage door, tried to escape when being weighed, fidgeted during the physical exam, barely noticed the rabies shot because he was so distracted by the contents of the vet’s pocket, and violently objected to being returned to the confines of BGB. So when he returned home and switched places with Bear, he relished the hour of solitude in his own personal man-cave. Having shaken off the dust from his recent outing, he convinced himself that all his troubles were over.

Whereas, forthwith, to wit, his troubles were only beginning for his well-known hatred of all healthy food would now be strained to its very limits.

When the caretaker returned with Bear, she brought a cardboard box filled with canned food. That could have been such a monumental event, but this was Special Food for cats who are either afflicted with “the diabetus” already or who just need to lose a bit of weight—say, for example, if a certain white and black cat weighed 14 pounds and should really weigh 12 pounds, according to the vet.

At the next meal time the caretaker opened one of the cans to reveal a substance that was both meaty and smelly, two of the cats’ favorite food descriptions. She then scooped out a little of brown mush onto two plates, set the plates on the floor, and both cats cautiously licked the surface of it a couple of times, as though sampling the most expensive beluga in the world.

Then they each chowed down.

Then Buddy threw up.

Thankfully, the caretaker had already formulated Plan B.

Chapter 3: Woe is We
Gravy, We Hardly Knew Ye

So we come to the concluding chapter in our saga of revenge, illness, diet, suffering, and barf. The loss of gravy was eventually borne with amazing alacrity, but not until the caretaker located a type of healthy food that Buddy could tolerate and that would also alleviate Bear’s condition. The caretaker has learned to administer insulin shots so well that Bear rarely squirms or flinches now. And in the past few months, Bear has gone for regular check-ups that usually end with the caretaker being told to reduce the insulin dosage.

Best of all, the caretaker located a grain-free dry food that crunches well enough to satisfy even the bone-hungriest cat. Bear has regained her shiny coat, her bright eyes, and a guarded sense of playfulness. In fact, only tonight when the caretaker was walking down the hallway holding a sweater fresh out of the washing machine, Bear began to pretend that it was the Great Cardigan of Doom. She jumped from her spot in the hallway and ran aimlessly into the bedroom before darting out again to face the dreaded beast head on. Happily, both of them survived the encounter, as did the caretaker.

And so, gentle readers, even if we have come to the ending of all things, we are still pleased to report that the denizens of Stratford Palace are doing fine.

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Pavlov’s Cats

Recently we wrote of the senseless waste of tuna juice. The cats put this occurrence on the same level as that of a thunderstorm: such events make them very nervous, and they wander aimlessly about the house until the matter is resolved. Not much in this world can cause Bear to lose sleep, but thunderstorms and tuna waste will do just that. As a result, the cats remain on high alert for the possibility of a repeat spillage.

Upon recovering from the initial shock, the cats began to compare notes so that they might develop early warning signals to prevent tuna waste. Here is the data they have gathered thus far:

  1. Most tuna sightings (smellings?) occur in the morning. Therefore, at least one cat should remain in the kitchen while the smell of coffee is in the air. If the caretaker should reach for the can opener, the sentry must raise an alarm.

    Of course, this signal is not foolproof; other foods are sold in cans, and there’s always the possibility the cats will get their tender hopes dashed by a can of garbanzo beans.

  2. Tuna is usually accompanied by boiled eggs, which also have a distinctive odor. Therefore, as soon as either cat hears the gentle cracking of egg shells or gets a whiff of boiled egg, the other must be alerted.

    Unfortunately, this signal is also not infallible, as proven by recent events. One morning the caretaker decided to experiment with an egg-and-ham concoction. When she finished, she turned around to find both cats staring at her in intense anticipation. But no tuna, no juice.

  3. Should the genuine article be verified, whether by sight or by scent, both cats must rush to the middle of the kitchen, meowing in sweet harmony. Each will lose out if they turn against each other at this point.

    Better still, if they can strategically place themselves underfoot, the caretaker just might drop the whole can and spill not only its vital elixir but also its meaty ambrosia. They are still working on this maneuver.

Meanwhile, Buddy and Bear must content themselves with so-called cat food. Neither the stale crunch of dry pellets, nor the boring flavors and bland gravies of canned food can ever live up to the glory of Thunnini. Skipjack, albacore, blue- or yellowfin, the cats do not discriminate. They are all loved equally.

When properly prepared, that is.

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911

This morning the caretaker decided that a super-charged high-protein breakfast of tuna salad was exactly what she needed to prepare for her meeting-filled day. For an introvert, the prospect of spending three straight workdays in the company of six to eight people talking endlessly about a difficult project was as welcome as a vegetarian gun-control advocate in Texas. So the caretaker needed all the help she could get, as her next actions demonstrated.

She padded over to the pantry and removed the next-to-last can of tuna. She then retrieved a boiled egg from the container in the refrigerator. Thus armed, she returned to the sink, peeled the egg and put it into a bowl, and opened the can of tuna. So far, so good.

Had she been in her right mind, her next step would have been to hold the lid against the can contents and carefully drain the tuna water into a bowl for the cats.

Her actual next step, however, was to hold the lid against the can contents and allow the precious liquid to spill down the drain while the glorious scent of tuna filled the kitchen with the promise of delight.

Oh, the humanity.

For a few blissful seconds, the drowsy caretaker remained unaware of the problem that loomed behind her. But loom it did. Just as the thought crossed her brain that she should be pouring the elixir into a bowl rather than into the drawn, the sound of a perturbed MIAOURW assaulted her ears. She slowly turned, only to be lost in a sea of accusing eyes (well, there were only four, but at the time it felt like a sea). Cut off from all communications devices, the caretaker could not make a phone call, send a text, take a photo, or update her Facebook status.

She was stuck. Trapped. Cornered.

NPA

No Photo Available

She then that even if she could dial 911 for assistance, she would be accused of being a copycat (as it were). So she did the only sensible thing. She edged slowly toward the pantry, removed the last can of tuna, opened it, and drained half of its liquid into each of two clean bowls.

Having deposited the bowls in front of the two furry faces, the wary caretaker backed away slowly and did not breathe deeply until she was out of harm’s way. Suddenly her meeting-filled day did not sound nearly so ominous.

It’s all a matter of perspective, gentle readers.

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“Marooooou!”

“Buddy, hush!”

“Mromfph.”

“I said HUSH! I’m trying to sleep!”

“Mrou?”

Stage Manager: Only a few short months ago, Buddy would not have dreamed of jumping onto the caretaker’s bed in the morning. But desperate times call for desperate measures: Buddy is convinced that if the caretaker does not get out of bed *right now* the world as he knows it will end. He’s not sure why, but he thinks he read it somewhere.

“Umph. Ouch. You’re heavy, Butterbean.  And do you really have to play ‘Great Wall of China’ today?”

Stage Manager: “Great Wall of China” is Buddy’s favorite morning game. You see, the caretaker sleeps on her side, and Buddy loves to walk from her ankles to her shoulder and sometimes back again. Cats have amazing imaginations. Internet scripts require a LOT of explanation.

“Prrrrrrrr.”  *nudges the caretaker’s face with his cold nose*

“Oh, you’re just too sweet. Or something. O.K. I’ll get up now and feed you.”

Stage Manager: The caretaker is a pathetic pushover, but she does have a point. If Buddy ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy. And so, led by Buddy doing his best Pied Piper impersonation, she shuffles into the kitchen, where they are joined by Madame Fishfrau, otherwise known as Bear.

“Yow. Yow! YOW! YOWWWWW!!!!!!”

“Bear! Do you see me, standing here trying my best to get your breakfast ready?”

“YoW. yow. Prrrrrrrr.”

Stage Manager: And then breaks forth the glorious sound Bear has been waiting for: Kxxxieeeey. Thupp. Clink! As the cat food can lid is removed, the kitchen fills with the perfume of oceanfish and shrimp in a light sauce (a.k.a. gravy). Bear can hardly contain her excitement. She marches up and down, brushing back and forth against the back of the caretaker’s legs, as though to provide energy in the form of static electricity.

“O.K., goof, you need to move so I can serve you. Here’s your plate.”

“Splurph, psluplrp, shplurfp. fffpt.”

“Bear, can you please tell me why someone who has no qualms about biting into my very large arm will not eat pieces of food that are more than a quarter-inch in diameter? Those perfectly good shrimp are going to waste. Never mind. Just enjoy your gravy.”

Stage Manager: But Bear answers not a word, now that her palate has been satisfied. She pads back to her warm blanket and settles in for the morning nap that always precedes second breakfast. The caretaker searches for Buddy, but he has repaired to his throne and is surveying the front lawn of the palace.

“Buddy, does anyone ever realize life while they live it? Every, every minute?”

Stage Manager: Buddy has no idea. He only knows that he realizes gravy every single minute he slurps it up from the breakfast dish. Every. Single. Minute. And then again as he grooms his face. He yawns and looks away. But since it is my job, I will provide the correct answer to the caretaker’s question: the saints and poets may have a bit more insight than most. Maybe. But probably not, now that I think about it.

“Sorry to wax nostalgic on you, old man. I have to get ready for work now.”

Stage Manager: Buddy softly mews his displeasure over being interrupted in his birdwatching pursuits. He turns toward the caretaker with that special look that can mean only one thing: “You really can’t help disappointing me, can you?” Yep, that’s our town all right.

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It is quite unusual for the caretaker to be at home in the middle of the week, but she is a bit under the weather today and did not go to work. Before our gentle readers become overly concerned, we will hasten to say that she is well enough to provide the cats their basic needs. Nonetheless, they have become aware of her advanced age and general frailty, and therefore have decided that if conditions deteriorate they will resort to Plan B. Unfortunately, they are keeping mum about the contents of said plan. The caretaker suspects it involves gnawing off her bad arm and hoping that when she has been absent from Facebook long enough someone will notice and come and see about her, but she doesn’t like to think of such things. So let us turn our thoughts to a happier topic: mayhem.

From the comfort of the caretaker’s easy chair in the living room, she has been treated to a morning of hijinx and a fair amount of low-jinx as well. While Bear has made every attempt to spend her time in peace and harmony, Buddy has obviously vowed to ensure that disorder reigns in the universe. The source of his current displeasure is Dapper Desperado, the strikingly handsome black-and-white cow cat who roams the palace lawn. As many windows as there are in Stratford Palace, Buddy always wishes for one window more, as he leads his puffy tail from room to room trying to find the perfect spot from which to perfectly hate the dappled Desperado.

One might, of course, go into deep philosophical musings regarding the fact that Buddy hates this creature who looks so very much like himself. Does that mean that what he really hates is himself? Perhaps he hates his mother. Or his father. Or his great-uncle Felix. Or is it all things black and white? Newspapers? Police cars? Zebras? Indeed, philosophy is much more interesting than Buddy ever dreamed possible.

But self loathing is the furthest thing from our dear king’s psyche. No, he merely and simply and finely and deeply hates Desperado because he is free to roam. He is everything that Buddy thinks he would like to be.

At least until dinner is plated up and served at Buddy’s feet. You don’t get that when you’re free. That’s right, Desperado. Tear up the lawns and scale the fences. Cross the streets until fun commences. You are not free to eat breakfast at three. You are not loved. You are not really free.

(With many apologies to Glenn Frey and Don Henley. Mostly Don. You are Buddy’s favorite singer.)

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