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Once again the Cottage has fallen into an unusual silence, and the caretaker seems to have run amok. She has blamed her recent erratic behavior on something that she calls “Krismus.” The cats were able to ascertain the correct spelling of this term, and although their research tells them that Christmas is a very special time of year, they are none too certain they approve. The gentle reader will no doubt agree after hearing their account of the past few days.

Thursday evening, the caretaker scurried about the house pulling out bags and colored paper and rolls of sticky stuff and items that she called “gifs,” which was confusing because the cats saw no connection between her pathetic behavior and the majesty of a Graphic Interchange Format file. Needing a closer look at all this paraphernalia, Buddy jumped into the middle of the caretaker’s work area and began his usual scientific inquiries. His investigation was stopped short, however, when the caretaker picked up all the colorful items and put them away in a closet. She obviously has no head for academic pursuits.
Buddy Crashes the Wrapping Party

Buddy Crashes the Wrapping Party

But that was only the beginning of the cats’ frustration. Friday night the caretaker hurried home from work, quickly filled their dinner dish, and then hurried away again with the pretty bags and box that Buddy had tried to inspect for her just the night before. Unfortunately, his inquiries are thwarted forever because she returned without any of those items, but with an entirely different collection of colorful things. Apparently she became confused and picked up the wrong baggage. However, one of the items she brought back seems remarkably at home in the Seafoam Cottage, for it looks all the world like a portrait of Buddy, and he could not resist examining it. He was especially pleased when told that The Boy had painted it. The Boy always did have excellent taste in objets d’art. So even if it was brought home by mistake, Buddy intends to keep it. But don’t tell anyone.

Double Trouble

Double Trouble

Then Saturday, just as it was time to get serious about settling in for the night, the caretaker wandered off into the cold again. The cats were baffled that she seemed excited about her impending journey. She was babbling something about going to “cherch” to “sing phrases” with her friends and family. Bear wondered why no one would be allowed to sing entire sentences, but she dared not ask, for she did not want to hear the singing of words, phrases, sentences, or paragraphs while she was settling down for a long winter’s nap. Speaking of which, the caretaker returned very late and disturbed the cats’ rest. At this point, they were certain all her wandering would cease, but even after they were kind enough to let her sleep until 6 a.m. today, she had the audacity to wander off AGAIN to sing some more. The only comfort that Bear could take from such inconvenience was that the singing was to be done off premises.

But apparently all the singing is over for a while. The caretaker finally returned this afternoon, and conditions improved dramatically. First, the weather was mild enough for Buddy to spend some coveted time on the porch. Second, the caretaker sat still long enough for Bear to spent some snuggle time in her lap. And third, O glorious third, was the special treat that the caretaker dished out: tuna in a special sauce (For the uninitiated, “sauce” is a refined word for “gravy.”) When the caretaker explained that she saved such delicacies for special occasions, the cats made their peace with Christmas. Perhaps it was not so bad after all.

And so they would wish you one and all a Meowy Christmas! But no singing, please.

Christmas Dinner

Christmas Dinner

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Despite the chill that descended upon the Seafoam Cottage a couple of weeks ago, there have been enough sunny days to lure Buddy back onto the screamed-in porch. Bear’s porch time is over for the season; she has packed up all of her napping accoutrements and returned to the couch to nest in the lovely fluffy blankets she had not needed since April. But as long as there are birds and squirrels and a nemesis named Mr. Shorty (which, as we have just realized, rhymes with Moriarty), there will be a black and white cat patrolling the porch for God and country.

Captain Buddy, Porch Pirate

Captain Buddy, Porch Pirate

Though it may be both good and easy to be king, it is not easy to continually hate Mr. Shorty when he is out of sight. Fortunately, he has apparently come to understand the necessity of his presence in the complex equation that constitutes his relationship with Buddy. Therefore, in these fleeting days of cold mornings and warm afternoons, the legendary battle between good and evil that was depicted in the 1800’s by Sherlock Holmes and Professor Moriarty is being relived from the confines of the screamed-in porch, weather permitting, with Buddy inexplicably playing the part of Holmes and Shorty taking on the mantle of Professor Moriarty. On a sunny day last week, the caretaker caught sight of the dreaded villain and was able to begin her own surveillance as she returned to the Cottage after work. Though Moriarty was in Buddy’s front yard when the caretaker first spied him, he scurried across the street to lurk behind a telephone pole and plot evil against the inhabitants of the Seafoam Cottage.

Shorty Moriarity

Shorty Moriarty

Bounding outside as the caretaker entered, Buddy took up the surveillance duties for himself, “hiding” behind the few remaining rose leaves.

Stealth Mode Buddy

Stealth Mode Buddy

But then Shorty Moriarty became as bold as the villain after whom he is now named. He strode across the street and down the side yard, and then had the unmitigated gall to plop down on the deck, just a few yards from Buddy’s favorite corner of the screamed-in porch. Thus was created the most poignant good vs. evil photo op that the Seafoam Cottage has ever seen, that is, if the caretaker had a wide-angle lens and the proper vantage point. But alas, two photos were required, one for each of the bookends. Though the illustration below has the two photos spliced together, the good and evil bit is still quite riveting, as the gentle reader must agree, though one thing it demonstrates is that evil is infinitely more relaxed than good:

Good vs. Evil Staredown

Good vs. Evil Staredown

So rest easy, Universe. Sherlock “Buddy” Holmes has your back. Professor Shorty Moriarty shall not pester you again. At least until the next time.

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The staff of the Caturday Evening Post recently came across a series of letters exchanged between two residents of the Seafoam Cottage. The whimsical charm of these missives captured the attention of the magazine’s Crazy Lifestyle editor (or was it the crazy Lifestyle editor?), and thus the letters are reprinted below in their entirety.

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Dear Buddy,

As you flew by my leg this afternoon on your way through the door, brushing me a little more roughly than necessary, I could have sworn I heard you say something very much like “GET THE FROG OUT OF MY WAY.” I have given you the benefit of the doubt in my interpretation of your utterance, as I really do not want to believe that your language is any worse than that, yet for the life of me, I cannot imagine what frogs have to do with anything. The fact is that your attitude has recently deteriorated, and I am at a loss to know how to manage you. The next time you need to pass someone who is standing in your path, a simple “Excuse me” would be the proper way to indicate your intentions.

Kind regards,
Your attentive caretaker

Deer Hooman,

Well, it is about time you got something right. I said nothing about frogs. And you must agree that my choice of words left no doubt in your mind of my intentions, whereas “Excuse me” is indirect and unclear. Nevertheless, next time I’ll just yell, “MOOOOOVE.” That should do the trick, and a single word should be sufficient to maintain your attention.

Furthermore, I neither need to be “managed” nor told what is “proper.” Obviously, your attitude has deteriorated, not mine.

His Royal Highness, Buddy,
King of the Seafoam Cottage & Emperor of the Screamed-in Porch

Dearest Buddy,

I do see your point in that “MOOOOOVE” is absolutely the most direct way of expressing your desire to have another being remove herself from your path. Yet you really must agree with me that it is not the most mannerly method. And if I may be so bold as to correct your spelling, your salutation should be “Dear,” not “Deer.” I would have thought that a king, even though he may be a cat, would be better educated than to misspell such a simple word. Perhaps you need a bit more managing than you thought.

All the best,
Your ever-attentive caretaker

Insufferable hooman,

I called you “deer” because you were standing in my path like those mindless fawns who wander out into the road and get themselves run over on a regular basis. My spelling is not the problem. Your reading comprehension is the problem. As for manners, I once heard a wise king say that sovereign rulers are the makers of manners. The simple fact is that I am a king. You, however, are not a queen. As inept as you are, you are fortunate to be retained as a serving girl.

Once and for all, you must give up any notion that the king, who is your superior in all ways, must somehow make concessions for lesser beings, especially yourself. When I approach the door, whether for ingress or egress, I am discharging important matters of state, and you should move aside without even being told. If you are hit by an oncoming missile (namely, me) then it is your own fault for assuming that you have any rights other than to continue living so that you may do my bidding.

I trust we are now clear on this matter. I choose not to continue this tiresome exchange which is duller than a great thaw. By all means, woman, go turn on the television set and watch Criminal Mimes or find some other way to amuse yourself and give me some peace!

His Very Royal Highness,
Merlin “Buddy” Blacktail

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And there you have it, gentle readers of the Post. Although it may be a tired old adage, it is nevertheless a poignant truth that it is very good to be the King. And not nearly so good to be the caretaker.

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Lest our gentle readers jump to conclusions and begin to grieve prematurely, we will hasten to say that all of the residents and friends of the Seafoam Cottage are alive and well, and despite the bad economic conditions that exist throughout the world there is an ample supply of gravied food, crunchy snacks, and fresh water. The screamed-in porch, however, has been rendered useless by the onset of fall weather. Yesterday a cold rain blew in, dampening both the outdoor furniture and Buddy’s spirits. He has plummeted into a deep depression, as he is now forced to rule the world from the windows. And occasionally when he finds a bit of resistance in his heart, he tries to escape through them.

It is Buddy’s theory that even though the porch may now be uninhabitable, if he exits the house in some way other than the front door, he will find a world in which the weather is warm, the squirrels and birds are plenteous, and Mr. Shorty is confined to a cage while he and Bear roam the idyllic countryside. (The caretaker sincerely regrets allowing him to watch The Chronicles of Narnia.) As a result of this conviction, he spent a fair percentage of last night trying to scale the height of the window just above where the caretaker was attempting to sleep. Not coincidentally, the oddly dull clinking of a cat’s claws against glass has become the caretaker’s least favorite sound. Though she knew her efforts would be futile, she sternly said “NO” more than once as he tried various means of escape. During those few minutes when the top of her sleepy head lay in the direct path of Buddy’s swishing tail, there were a few utterances of “Buddy, really!?!?!?!” But most of her pleas were ignored, except for that one particularly stern “NO” that was answered with a very short, sharp shout of “MRU” that sounded very much like a cross between a sneeze and a yell, with exactly the same tone that emanates from a teenager who has been told he is grounded.

So the next four months at the Seafoam Cottage may prove to be difficult for all concerned unless Buddy learns to be content with the state in which he finds himself. Thankfully, Bear can be counted upon for constancy. Cold or heat, rain or shine, wind or calm, Bear’s response to every situation is to eat heartily and then sleep snoringly. At present, she is curled up on a blissfully fuzzy blanket, her neck leaning against the caretaker’s arm. By some miracle her good example has drawn Buddy into a peaceful rest. He is lying perpendicular to her, and her right cheek is pressed against his right cheek. A photo would have been provided, but that would have required turning on the light, which would end the moment of peace. And after the night the caretaker has had, she is willing to maintain peace at any price.

Too bad Buddy couldn’t manage to get a wee bit of rest before the caretaker had to start getting ready for work. This definitely feels like an extra coffee day, and not just because it’s cold outside.

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If you’ve been wondering where the caretaker has been, then you’re not alone. The cats have had just about enough of her wandering away for hours at a time, sometimes leaving before the sun comes up and returning long after it has set. Buddy has been particularly irritated, as her absence has meant that his porch time has been seriously compromised. For several days last week the evening routine consisted of an eager Buddy hearing the doorknob turn after dark, a frantic Buddy loping toward the door, and an angry Buddy being herded back into the living room as the door shut behind the caretaker. The final punctuation on this range of emotions has invariably been a frustrated “Marroooo!” Lucky for the caretaker that a late dinner has been enough to placate both cats, though after several days of this routine, they were as clingy as a polyester skirt in February.

But today was perfect bliss. Although the caretaker left for a little while, she returned while there was plenty of sunlight. As she let Buddy out and set up the door so that he could come back in when he wanted, she told him he was free to roam about the cabin. He had no idea what that meant; he only knew he was quite content. This was a day of no rain, no heat, no cold, just sunlight and birds and squirrels and falling leaves to pique the interest of an inquisitive cat. Yes, perfect bliss. Briefly.

Five minutes into bliss, the return of Mr. Shorty created infinite angst in the soul of a black and white cat who previously been at peace with himself and the universe. He had just finished surveying the porch to find the best vantage point for squirrel-watching when he noticed Mr. Shorty sauntering toward the Seafoam Cottage. As a completely outdoor cat, Mr. Shorty is free to roam about a much larger cabin, with immeasurable amenities. In other words, Buddy was relegated to coach, while Mr. Shorty was flying first class. As the lucky feline made his way up the driveway, he stared hatefully at Buddy, swaying from side-to-side like an arrogant boxer.  A few yards from the door, he swerved toward the tree, driving Buddy almost crazy. As Mr. Shorty wandered out of Buddy’s line of vision, there was a moment of sheer terror on the screamed-in porch as Buddy tried to figure out what to do.

Looking for Mr. Shorty

Looking for Mr. Shorty

To understand Buddy’s quandary, the gentle reader should know that Mr. Shorty’s normal behavior is to continue in the other direction, down the side yard into the back yard, his entire trip in plain view of the coach cabin. At this point, Buddy normally follows him down the side of the porch until he is out of sight and then bounds into the front door to catch up with him through the kitchen window. That scene may have been posted before, but it’s worthwhile to repeat it here:

Spying on Mr. Shorty

Spying on Mr. Shorty

So when Mr. Shorty swerved to Buddy’s left instead of his right, Buddy was at a loss. He darted inside, looked toward the kitchen, and immediately realized that would not get him what he wanted. He bounced back and forth a few times and then darted back out onto the porch. And then a miracle happened. In the back yard, where Mr. Shorty would have been if he had taken the right road, there was a squirrel busily gathering walnuts and providing enough motion to make Buddy forget that Mr. Shorty was somewhere in the world needing to be hated. The sinews that had until that moment been straining to tear Mr. Shorty limb from limb were now twitching and itching to skin Murrell the Squirrel.

And once again, God was in His heaven and all was right with the world, or at least good enough. Mr. Shorty was last minute’s news. As Murrell moved about the first-class cabin, he consumed the in-flight nuts, and Buddy watched the in-flight entertainment from his seat in coach. He really must hire a better travel agent next time.

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During the epically long, hot days of the summer of 2011, the outdoor cats in the neighborhood were nowhere to be found. Either they have air-conditioned homes where they are welcome, or they figured out that the train down the road would take them on out of this town. Regardless of their heat-dodging measures, they are back now that fall is here, giving Buddy more opportunities to exercise his growling muscles. A few days ago, Tabby Lee was back. Today marked the return of the elusive Mr. Shorty, who is sort of like a cat mullet: formal white legs, with a casual tabby back and tail. If Buddy and Bear had ever had a child, it would have looked a lot like Mr. Shorty. It would have been stark raving mad, of course, as it would have been paranoid and skittish yet too lazy to do anything about it. But it would have been very cute.

Despite these diversions on this lovely afternoon, Buddy can’t decide whether he would rather be patrolling the porch or aggravating the caretaker. Thus far, aggravation is ahead by a nose—a cold, pink nose that he keeps poking into the caretaker’s head, face, and ears.

Pink Nose

Pink Nose

Then, a few moments ago, he was inexplicably gnawing on her hair. It is only a guess, mind you, but she suspects that the new brand of health food is to blame for this behavior. Something must be done to prevent waking up in the morning with most of her hair nibbled off, or perhaps her entire head missing. She halfway expects to hear him call her “Clarice.”

Perhaps it’s time to pull out the snacks for Buddy, and in turn, to give the health food to Mr. Shorty.

Quid pro quo.

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In the beginning, the evening was lovely. The weather was just about as nice as it gets, at a shopping-mall-perfect 72 degrees under mostly sunny skies. The caretaker came home to find Tabby Lee wandering up and down the side yard, after an absence of several weeks. In her pathological need to befriend all creatures great and small, the caretaker spoke to TL, welcoming him back and expressing relief that he was looking so well. He stopped to listen for a moment, but when she took another step closer, he ran under the deck. Those other two cats might enjoy being held captive by a crazy woman, but TL was determined to have none of it. So the caretaker reluctantly left him and went inside to greet her two captives . . . er, cats . . .  and to feed them a lovely dinner. And then she opened the door.

Buddy ran in and out for a while, puffing his tail and threatening TL with annihilation, but once he recognized that he was both limited and protected by the screen boundary, he finally settled into a silent, seething crouch on the porch ledge from whence he could enjoy all the sights and sounds and smells of fall. Besides Tabby Lee, this evening’s episode of Cat Reality TV included squirrels, birds, bicyclists, joggers, and cars. As with less entertaining forms of television, there was little opportunity to enjoy the accompanying smells. Until . . .

As dusk painted darkness over Buddy’s domain, the caretaker began to hear the faint noise of water sloshing just outside the door. It sounded almost like rain, but not quite. Curious, she walked to the door and looked out. And at that moment, smell-ivision became a cruel reality. The source of the sloshing noise was the house next door, and the noise itself was the sound of raw sewage bubbling up from a PVC pipe that is probably a vent of some sort. The caretaker is no plumbing expert, but she is pretty sure that the pipe is not supposed to be depositing the former contents of the neighbor’s toilet onto the side yard.

A rose by any other name may smell as sweet, but sewage by any name at all smells pretty foul.  You know a smell is pure evil if it drives cats away.

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