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Note: The caretaker regrets that there are no photos to illustrate the events described herein. But the reason for this omission will become painfully clear in the telling of the tale. . . .

During the spring and summer, the Palace population increases dramatically, due to the influx of various creatures who are coming out of hibernation looking for a temperate spot in which to raise their families and generally run amok. A few weeks ago the kitchen and bathroom were turned into Holiday Inns for tiny six-legged pests, which Buddy took to be his own personal Matchbox insects. No ants were harmed in these incidents, but many were undoubtedly shaken and confused after being batted across the floor repeatedly.

Now, when Bear sees a bug or bird, her first thought is “I AM PREDATOR,” so she immediately goes in for the kill. Buddy, on the other hand, is a man; therefore, his first thought is “TOY!” Depending on the object of his attention, he is either all play or mostly play with a bit of trepidation. Occasionally a lot of trepidation.

Tonight, for example, he was highly diverted by the sighting of a nondescript spider in the room in which the caretaker frequently subjects herself to water torture. He had followed her through the doorway, and after she sat down on the only chair in the room, he caught a glimpse of eight legs shuffling down the baseboard, headed straight for the caretaker. Buddy would like to take credit for valiantly intervening between the fell beast and the frail woman who opens the cat food cans, but he was really just curious to know why the nickel-sized creature was in such a dime-sized hurry. He began to paw and sniff at it, and as he did, it picked up speed. As all twelve legs closed in on the caretaker, she accelerated her progress, so to speak, and stood to attention. Buddy hardly noticed her dilemma as he alternately chased the spider and leapt into the air in terror when it fought back. He followed it down the right side of the bathroom “chair,” across the back wall, and then up the left side of the wall beside the now-vacated seat.

But then something happened that neither he nor the caretaker expected. The spider disappeared. One minute it was raising two clenched fists, and the next minute, it was gone. History. Finito. Vanished into thin air. Just like Houdini. Or David Copperfield (not the Dickens character).

Now, gentle readers, please consider this: The only thing worse than seeing a spider in one’s bathroom is NOT seeing a spider that one is quite sure remains in the bathroom. Somewhere.

It matters very little how itsy bitsy the spider may seem when it is visible, it looms Shelob-tall in the imagination once it ducks under the baseboard. In such cases, out of sight will most certainly never be out of mind.

It is Buddy’s considered opinion that Professor Tolkien wrote the Cirith Ungol passage of LOTR shortly after being trapped in the loo with a Spotted Wolf Spider. He cannot prove this theory, but nor can you disprove it. So just believe.

And be sure to shake out your shoes before you slide your toes into them.

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I Will Not Go Quietly

We have reached a turning point, one which the cats did not plan and are not accepting graciously. Over the past few weeks, the cats have noticed the caretaker removing a box here, a bag there, and sometimes even a few food items from the Cottage. They thought nothing of this strange behavior, as it did not impact their lives, and if the caretaker were not eccentric, she would have no personality at all. She had told them that she was mooving, but they just looked at each other and rolled their eyes. It was obvious to them that if she was walking, she was mooving. But last night, the unthinkable happened. The caretaker packed a suitcase and then, gentle readers, SHE PACKED BEAR. And she would have packed Buddy too, had he not been so strong and stubborn.

Here’s a true account of how the caretaker lost her mind on a Saturday evening at approximately 7:46 CDT. She walked slowly over to the storage area in the living room and opened one of those foldable pet carriers that one minute fits in a pocket and the next minute magically opens up large enough to hold a pony. Bear, in a move of unusual curiosity, waddled into the darkness of the carrier (which was lined with her Purr Pad), and suddenly found herself zipped up and whisked away to the big rolling box. Startled beyond measure, she began her usual plaintive cry: “Oww….. Oww….. Oww….” At that sound, even Buddy’s brave heart began to melt, and he tried very hard to get out of the porch so that he could free his captured friend. They may fight like cats and, well, cats, but let a common enemy attack, and they are together forever.

The caretaker’s next move was to swoop up Buddy and attempt to shove him into the other pet carrier, the one he cannot break. But with the sound of Bear’s misery piercing to his very core, Buddy was not about to let himself be captured. He felt their best chance of survival was for one of them to remain free. After multiple vain attempts, the caretaker gave up trying to stuff Buddy into the pet carrier. She ushered him back into the house and decided that his move would have to be postponed; he would have to stay in the Cottage for one more night.

For that is the upshot, gentle readers. Life in the Seafoam Cottage is coming to an end. What Buddy does not realize is that he is sovereign of Stratford Palace. As soon as the caretaker can find a way to lure him into the pet carrier, he will join Bear in their new home, with new spaces to explore and new outdoor cats to hate.

Bear has already begun to enjoy her new home, but she was utterly annoyed at first and continued to express her disapproval long after arriving at the Palace. Her feelings can be boiled down to that single syllable repeated over and over, from room to room, and to a peculiar physical symptom: the entire time she was angry, the backs of her ears glowed beet red and were hot to the touch. But once she realized she had plenty of food and water and snacks and a litter box and a caretaker, Bear settled in and even began to seem content. Her finest moment of the evening was a hunting expedition. Upon hearing Bear’s lips smacking in a room that was not equipped with a food bowl, the caretaker looked down in time to see Bear munching on a crane fly. Bear looked up and briefly attempted to look innocent, but it’s hard to deny one’s murderous deed when there are wings and long legs hanging from one’s lower lip.

The caretaker is visiting Buddy today in hopes of capturing him to bring to the Palace. Stay tuned for Buddy’s accession to his throne at Stratford Palace.

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Only Acting

There is a fundamental oddness about Buddy that will always transcend normal feline behavior. If Bear follows the expected pattern of a cat who enjoys eating and sleeping and then eating some more before being scratched behind the ears, then Buddy is definitely the exception to the rule. He lives his life by fits and starts, with considerably more fits than starts. Buddy of Paranoia Eternal is the Jason Bourne of the cat world, behaving as though everything and everyone is out to get him. No noise, for example, is a mere noise. The sound of a passing train is treated as the invasion of a demon horde. The June bug that buzzes around the living room light becomes a fire-breathing dragon. The clatter of the ice-maker dropping its fresh supply of cubes can upset Buddy to the point of hysteria. The caretaker has learned to move slowly and deliberately through the house, and even then, Buddy becomes agitated when she approaches. She finds it most distressing to walk into a room and see her beloved Budster, back raised and tail puffed, moving sideways through the house like a furry white crab being pulled along a trolley cable. She means him no harm, of course, but for no apparent reason he can act as though he is being hunted. Perhaps his conscience weighs heavily on him, or perhaps he just assumes that everyone else has the same ulterior motives that lurk in his mischievous head.

Recently, even his forays onto the porch have been surrounded by a heightened sense of drama. The caretaker’s habit has been to prop open the storm door so that the cats can enter and exit as their leisure. At first, he only stopped at the door opening long enough to make sure the caretaker was setting the door prop. But now he no longer approaches the door directly. Instead, he jumps onto the bookshelf beside the door, glares at the outside world suspiciously, and pretends there is no way out, sometimes even trying to climb up the door frame (pictured below). He then pretends there is no way down from the bookshelf, so he jumps to the nearby table, hops over to the back of the couch, and howls in faux distress. The penultimate act in this demented play begins when he finally finds the floor, walks over to the door, ignores the opening, and mindlessly scratches on the glass to be let out. This act’s last scene can be hastened when either Bear or the caretaker tries to walk outside. That is when Buddy suddenly remembers the fundamental operation of the whole “walking-out-the-door” business and flies by them as though fleeing a burning building.

Buddy pretending there is no way out

Buddy pretending there is no way out

But such antics seem to use up Buddy’s entire store of eccentricity because when it is time to close up the cottage for the night, the caretaker now needs only to go to the door and call his name. From wherever he is keeping watch over the palace lawn, he hops down and walks straight in, just as though he were a tame, sane cat. This closing scene in the evening’s play is, perhaps, the finest demonstration of his thespian skills that could ever be imagined.

Curtain

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With water rising daily in his hometown and the caretaker failing to do anything about it, Buddy has been considering ways that he can save himself (and possibly Bear, but he hasn’t decided yet). Like most cats, he does not care one whit for water (unless he is sticking his paws into a hooman’s drinking glass), so he has begun to study exit strategies.  Having once heard a rhyme about a cat sailing away with an owl in a “beautiful pea-green boat,” he set about to learn how to attain such a floating device, as it would not only save him from the rising rivers but would also come equipped with a food source (though he prefers fish to fowl). He had already decided that he would try to hold out for a while about eating the owl because according to the rhyme it knows some charmingly sweet songs, and he greatly enjoys singing, especially when he is the central topic of the ditty. But his searches have led to a most confusing term: “catboat.”

He was actually looking for a “cat-amaran” (as evidenced by a browser history review), when he stumbled across photos and explanations of the enigmatic catboat. Just consider, gentle reader, the combination of the terms “cat” and “boat,” two things that have less chance of intermingling than oil and water, east and west, Democrats and Republicans, or the caretaker and sane people. It is one thing for a cat to make use of a boat for a short journey to dine upon unwitting owls while seeking dry land; it is quite another altogether for the cat to be the boat’s adjective. That is much too much. Unless . . .

Ah, that must be it. There was no offense intended at all, for who would dare to offend the king? Surely the term was meant as a compliment. No doubt the catboat moves swiftly and gracefully, gliding effortlessly along in feline fashion. No doubt the catboat is the ideal conveyance for all who intend to sail away for a year and a day. No doubt everything about the catboat is perfect, like its namesake. But for now, Buddy is weary and so must table the matter until after his nap. Tonight there will be no dancing in the light of the moon, for Buddy is quite exhausted by his full day of napping, snacking, chasing the fly that wandered into his realm, and planning his escape from a watery doom.

The affairs of state are quite demanding. Thank goodness for the occasional respite. By tomorrow, he and Bear may be in their cat carriers on the roof, flanking the caretaker as she sings “Non Nobis” and “Te Deum” and waits for them all to be rescued. But today, ah yes, today, there is sleep, sweet sleep because to err is hooman; to nap, feline.

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5:31 a.m. – “Mrroow?”
Buddy the Magnificent

Buddy the Magnificent

This voice belongs to Buddy, whose utterances all sound like questions. Large and sinewy, without an ounce of fat, Buddy views life as a series of athletic science experiments. He is the poster cat for curiosity. This morning his scientific energies are directed toward a granddaddy long-legs spider that has squeezed its way under the back door to escape the oppressive heat. So the caretaker’s essential coffeemaking routine is interrupted by Buddy’s mad pursuit, not to kill the spider, mind you, as Spidey’s death would have two undesirable results: it would end the experiment and it would be entirely too useful. (Feline Rule #1: Cats have absolutely no desire to be helpful.)  Buddy is simply interested in learning how a creature whose legs are so skinny can move so fast. As he carefully paws at Spidey, he says, “Fascinating,” though it comes out sounding like “Mrroow?” (Just as an aside, are Spock’s ears pointed because Vulcans are actually mutant cats? Something to consider.)

5:35 a.m – “Mwaaaaaaaah”

Bear in a Bag

Bear in a Bag

Ah, yes, there she is, right on cue and ready for breakfast. That would be Bear, who is pictured at right in the fashionable fuschia shopping bag. She is also quite large, but not particularly sinewy. She has, in fact, accumulated a fair amount of padding in the time that she has been living with the caretaker. Bear is extremely vocal, and her special talent is the ability to sound just like a human baby crying when she is hungry. Under normal circumstances, Bear doesn’t care about crawling bugs or other animated toys. Bear’s interests are quite simple: sleeping, eating, and being scratched behind the ears. But this morning she joins Buddy in pursuit of Spidey. With all of this mighty cat power poised to pounce, the poor arachnid seems doomed.

“Kill it, Bear.” The caretaker is not usually so bloodthirsty, but all sixteen legs are standing between her and the coffeemaker. One must have priorities, after all.

“Mrooo.” Bear stares up with an expression combining the most caustic elements of disdain and disgust. (You are again referred to the photo, which illustrates the disdain portion of the equation.)

“Yes, Bear, I know he’s called a granddaddy, but he’s not YOUR granddaddy. Besides, that’s just a figure of speech. For all we know, he’s a ruthless thug or an axe murderer or even a lawyer. Kill him.” (You may have guessed by the ill-timed Shakespeare reference that the caretaker fancies herself a scholar, having gained two degrees in English and one in theology.)

By this time Spidey has realized that he couldn’t be safer if he had crawled into a PETA meeting, so he scurries off while Bear makes one last feigned effort to stop him. Meanwhile, Buddy saunters back to the door to see if anything else will enter illegally and thus need its credentials checked. Bear makes her way to the food bowl to eat all the best pieces before Buddy gets ready for breakfast. The caretaker now has a clear path to her goal. By the time the air is filled with the aroma of coffee, everyone is happy, especially Spidey, who has lived to fight another day.

Apparently well-fed cats do not need a killer instinct. Fascinating.

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