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All That Fall

There are days when life at Stratford Palace flows as smoothly as butter and honey over a warm croissant.

And then there are days like today.

Having arisen at 4:07 to serve gushy food to two ravenous cats, the caretaker shuffled back to the comfort of her bed, thankful for Caturday mornings. When the alarm sounded at 7:00 am, she rolled out of bed, slipped on her sandals, and headed to the kitchen to switch on the shiny new coffeemaker.

But a funny, not-funny, thing happened on the way to the coffee. One minute the caretaker was striding down the hallway and into the dining room, owning life in all its glory, and the next minute her forward motion was cut short as her right foot was accidentally introduced to the left side of a furry beast who was snoozing in the middle of the floor.

As an aside, let us now take an inventory of the designated sleeping surfaces in the palace:

  • a large couch
  • a large chair
  • six smaller chairs
  • two twin beds
  • a cot
  • four cat beds, including Sock Monkey and a covered cave bed
  • four boxes lined with blankets

All of them are clean, soft, and inviting. None of them is in the designated walking spaces. Yet Buddy was sleeping in the middle of the cold, hard floor, directly in the path between the bedroom and the kitchen.

But we digress.

Being a law-abiding citizen, the caretaker was careful to observe Newton’s first law of motion. Her uniform motion in a straight line was compelled to change its state by the presence of the sleeping external force, to wit, 14 pounds of muscle, bones, and fur. She also obeyed the second law of motion; her velocity changed when her foot met the previously mentioned external force. Further, she obeyed the law of gravity. All of that forward motion thwarted in mid-stride had to go somewhere, and that was down. Meanwhile, the cat’s inertia had immediately converted into hysteria, as he scampered off to avoid the falling object, to wit, the caretaker (weight undisclosed).

All the while, the caretaker’s frantic brain was continually reassessing the situation. Should she try to catch herself? No, that could cause even more damage. Should she yell really loudly and hope the force of her voice will buoy her up? No, that’s not even a thing. Should she fall as gracefully as possible and hope for the best? Welp, there’s really no other choice.

So she did a Humpty-Dumpty right there in the middle of the dining room.

For a few awkward minutes, she lay stretched out upon the floor, moaning through a wellness check on her limbs. Then she sat up, wincing, and Buddy slowly approached. He stared solemnly into her face as if to say, “Are you going to going to be okay? Because if you’re not, you need to call someone to come over here and feed us. Now.”

Overcome by his concern, the caretaker slowly stood up and began learning to walk again, with almost as much grace as Frankenstein’s monster. Almost.

A quick internet search indicates that there are anywhere from 650 to 840 muscles in the human body. If the caretaker’s level of pain is a good indicator, there are exactly 841, and they have banded together to challenge the constitutionality of the laws of physics.

Despite the caretaker’s agony, her love for Buddy has not waned. After all, who could resist this face?

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As promised, we will reveal our very exciting news about the cats’ New Can Opener. Now, gentle reader, before you protest that cat food cans are usually equipped with a ring top that practically opens itself, we must remind you that opposable thumbs are important in completing the ring-top-opening transaction. Granted, with a bit of ingenuity, the lack of thumbs might be overcome, but at the very least, the ability to use tools is important. And so we announce with great delight that Stratford Palace has gained another hooman who serves as a supplementary caretaker. The old, decrepit caretaker calls him “Son,” but the cats call him “Unca Dan” because that’s what The Boy used to call him.

Several weeks ago, Unca Dan came to visit for a few days, and the cats mourned when he stopped coming back. After all, he has all the qualities that cats want in a hooman: a kind disposition, an excellent lap, and ten fingers that are willing to scratch ears and open cans. So when he returned a few weeks ago, bringing bags and boxes into the palace, the cats were ecstatic. Besides having access to another hooman whose sole purpose is to adore them, the cats had a brand new set of luggage to inspect. Since such inspections are Buddy’s forte, he took charge of the situation immediately:

Buddy the Inspector at Work

Buddy the Inspector at Work

Finding all of the household goods in order, Buddy turned his attention to escorting Unca Dan around the palace, pointing out the best napping spots, the sources of fresh water, and the location of the food cabinet. Even after several weeks, Buddy feels responsible for helping to assimilate the new family member into the household, so he spends a great deal of time escorting him from room to room. After all, we wouldn’t want our New Can Opener getting lost, would we? Perhaps his most important task is to wait up at night until Unca Dan comes home (pictured below). It is safe to say that Buddy takes his kingly responsibilities seriously. His subjects are truly blessed to have such a watchful monarch.

Buddy waits up for the New Can Opener

Night Watchman

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The cats are more than a little confused this afternoon. The caretaker came home from work early, fixed herself a glass of tea, sat down, and put her feet up. That’s right. Before doling out cat food and water, before asking the cats if they had a good day, before making sure the litter boxes were clean . . .

She sat down.

And put her feet up.

After the initial shock, each cat decided to deal with this unnatural occurrence in his or her own way. Bear chose to occupy a post halfway between the caretaker and the food bowls, making sure the caretaker had a perfect view of her very unhappy kitty face. She lay on the cold, hard wooden floor for almost an hour staring at the caretaker with THAT LOOK, occasionally turning her eyes longingly toward the food bowls, each glance weighed down with an aura of fading strength. She remained silent throughout this tragic scene, but like many silent film stars she was able to dim the world ever so slightly with her pathos.

Buddy, on the other hand, was a bit more direct in expressing his displeasure. Jumping up on the chair arm and placing his face directly in the caretaker’s face, he assumed his best “woman-your-whole-purpose-for-living-is-to-take-care-of-me” attitude. (He is not very good with punctuation at times like these.)  As he sniffed her lips to find out if she had been eating something she hadn’t shared with him, he was startled by a strange noise at the door. It was a combination of large footsteps and low singing tones. That’s right, a song was being delivered to Buddy’s front door, and the thought pleased him immensely. He extracted his nose from the caretaker’s face and jumped down to wait for the song to enter the house. But as he stared at the door, he only heard a metal box clanging, and then the song began to fade away. He remained there staring at the door until all hope of receiving his very first singing telegram was gone.

Crestfallen, Buddy ambled down the hallway to hide under the cot. These two disappointments following so closely upon each other’s heels provided more data than he was equipped to handle on a Friday afternoon. Perhaps after a wee nap the world will regain its former luster. If not, he shall simply have to get another hooman, one who isn’t so self-centered, one who will feed him mounds of fish with gravy and then order him a singing telegram.

That doesn’t seem too much to ask.

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At the end of our previous post, Buddy and Bear were sleeping serenely on the throne of Stratford Palace and life was looking very sweet. For the most part, the cats have adjusted well to their new home and are finding many advantages to the palace, as compared to the Seafoam Cottage. For one thing, they now have their own room and do not have to share quarters with a mere hooman. For another, there are no floor dragons (Bear is particularly happy about this improvement). The palace has many more Cat TVs than the cottage, and they are all very large. One of them is double-wide and reaches almost to the floor. It is the best of all, for it allows them to lurk behind the couch to spy on the neighborhood cats, and then jump out to frighten the caretaker at a moment’s notice.

But the most important feature of a house is missing, for alas, the palace has no screamed-in porch. Buddy is still trying to deal with this tragedy, and he is not bearing up manfully. He spends a substantial chunk of most evenings running from the front door to the back, bellowing out many a mournful “Marrooou”  as if to announce that the screaming WILL occur, with or without a porch. From time to time he scratches on the glass of the storm door in a valiant attempt to dig himself free.

So you may imagine his surprise, gentle reader, when upon the caretaker’s return one fine evening, Buddy bounded to the door to scratch the glass, only to discover that there was no glass! The very tall man who painted the door had removed the glass while the paint dried, and the caretaker did not even notice. But nothing escapes the Houdini of the cat world (except himself, of course).

It was as fine a “Harry Potter moment” as Buddy could have ever imagined. He had always wanted the glass to disappear, and now he had apparently willed it away. Without this barrier he was able to squeeze through the metal bars and escape. He would, he MUST, find the screamed-in porch! By the time the caretaker discovered the prison break, Buddy had found the carport and was sizing up its potential as a porch substitute (It failed, as it has only three walls).  The caretaker shut Bear up in the hallway so that there would not be TWO fugitives, and set out to hunt the wild beast that Buddy had now become. Attempting to lure him with a box of food, she lunged to catch him, only to have him dart away, leaving her to fall forward and scrape both hands on the rough concrete.

Recovering as quickly as possible, she resumed the hunt and briefly spied Buddy under the azalea bush, looking very confused at not being able to find the edge of this porch. Even if she had not seen him, she would soon have heard his multiple mournful cries that were even worse than “Marrooou.” There was no point in rushing him now, as he had taken cover in the thick shrubbery and was no longer visible. The only glimmer of hope was that freedom did not seem to be making him as happy as he had thought it would. And so begins a period of great lunacy, as the caretaker walked up and down the sidewalk, scouring the landscape for signs of a four-legged black-and-white monarch. And as she walked, she called his names.

“Buddy”
“Merlin”
“Butters”
“Murray Pipkin”
“Butter Bean”
“Merles”

There were probably more, but the gentle reader must be spared any further mental abuse. (With apologies to T.S. Eliot, the naming of cats is a very silly activity when left in the hands of the caretaker.)

After ten minutes of this fruitless exercise, the caretaker went back inside. What to do?!? She could not imagine spending the night in comfort with Buddy left outside to face the elements, but there did not seem to be much choice. And then the miracle occurred. Apparently Buddy was ready to end his greatest adventure, but he needed this event to resemble his previous concept of normal. So he treated the event like any other evening on the porch. When the caretaker came back to the door to look for him one more time, he emerged from the shrubbery and began walking toward the door. Holding her breath, the caretaker slowly went to the cabinet, pulled out the bag of treats, and returned to the door. By that time, Buddy was on the landing, so she did what she had always done when it was time for him to come in from the screamed-in porch: she shook the bag of treats and tenderly said, “It’s time to come in now, Buddy. We have to lock out all the bad things except for one.” Though he could have squeezed back in through the bars, the caretaker swung the door open wide, poured out the treats, and quickly shut the solid wooden door.

With the perimeter secured, the caretaker ended Bear’s confinement. The inconvenienced cat hissed her disapproval at Buddy and then shoved him away from the bowl of treats. The new normal is beginning to look strangely like the old one.

It just needs a porch.

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Dearest Buddy,

In all these months that you have lived here in the Seafoam Cottage, I’ve frequently been baffled by your irrational fear of my interaction with laundry. You have no grievances with laundry in baskets or on hangers or even lying in the floor waiting to be washed. But the minute you see me pick up a garment to wash it, hang it up, or fold it, your tail goes puffy, your back arches, and you bolt for the nearest exit. Today, for example, you came around the corner in time to see me putting a blouse on a hanger, and I thought you were going to come unglued.

And that’s when it hit me.

You obviously think I’ve hunted and killed some animal for its pelt.

And you don’t want to be next.

My dear little fellow, if only you would stop to think about how well I’ve treated you these many months, you would see that your fears have no foundation. When have I ever harmed you in any way? (Mind you, it does not count that I’ve fed you health food from time to time. Such acts do not prove intent to harm, despite your biased opinion on the matter.)

Besides, I have no desire to wear real fur. The only fur I’ve ever worn is the cat hair that clings to my clothing even after I’ve used the lint roller. It isn’t particularly attractive.

I bought a faux fur coat a couple of years ago, thinking it would be warm and stylish.

It was very warm.

It was not stylish.

It made me look like Sasquatch.

My only consolation was that I knew no animals were harmed in the making of my Bigfoot costume. I can only hope that the person who purchased the coat from Goodwill has found it to be everything she had hoped for and a bag of chips. (But if you should happen to see a local news story about the sighting of a Sasquatch eating a bag of chips, you will at least know not to be concerned.)

And so my precious, the next time I do laundry, I hope you will be able to relax in the knowledge that I am not sorting pelts. I am only preparing my clothes to wear to work, where I go to earn money to buy gravied morsels for you and Bear.

I also hope you will see that if you did not have murder in your own heart so often, you would not look for it in mine.

Your humble servant,
The Caretaker

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Not to put too fine a point on the matter but the caretaker has lied through her teeth multiple times to Buddy, and he does not intend to let her forget it. More precisely, the caretaker has repeatedly made assertions about something over which she has no control, and she has now been proven wrong. Here’s what we mean:

Liar, Liar

When Buddy is on the porch and the train goes by, he always hurries inside, feigning concern about the caretaker:

*Hey, there, I wanted to make sure you’re safe, woman. Just wanted to stand really close to you and make sure you’re not afraid. Pay no attention to my wide eyes and puffy tail. I’m just protecting you. Yep, that’s it. Train’s gone now, so I’ll move along. Nothing to see here. Carry on.*

Truth be told, Buddy is really quite anxious about the rumbly noise and the loud, deep whistle. (It appears that the caretaker is not the only fibster in the house.) So the caretaker always pretends to feel protected, and she generally says something like this: “It’s o.k. Buddy. You’re perfectly safe. The train has its own special road that it has to travel, and it can’t go anywhere else. It’s just making that loud noise to scare the cars off its road so it won’t hurt them.” And most of the time that is exactly the way things happen. Most of the time . . .

Engine, Engine

Early this morning, an ambitious train decided it was bored with running on the same old road, so it jumped the track just a few blocks away from the Seafoam Cottage. Its little adventure didn’t hurt anyone, thank goodness, but it caused enough damage to the track and the road to make a mess of both auto traffic and shipments of cat food to points east.

Read about the train derailment

So the next time the caretaker says that everything is fine with the train or the weather or the diminishing supply of gravy-covered morsels, the cats will look at her with their all-knowing stares as a silent reminder of the day the train ran amok.

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Happy What?

Gentle readers, it should go without saying that the cats have no interest in the boring details of hooman calendars. Cats are attuned to the fact that sunlight comes and goes every day, and there seems to be some pattern in the amount of cold and heat over a period of time, but that is the extent of cats’ concern for time. Cat life consists of naps, food, and perimeter patrol from either the porch or the window, depending upon weather (that is, upon “weather” it is warm enough to sit on the porch). As long as Caturday happens from time to time, who needs calendar pages or names and numbers for days and months? Therefore, the beginning of a new calendar year is of no consequence to Buddy and Bear.

What is of great consequence, however, is that the new year is ushered in by a great deal of noise. The Seafoam Cottage stands in a university neighborhood in which several of the neighbors are students who are inordinately fond of parties and fireworks. Now, a few bottle rockets at midnight might not have been so very bad, but for some reason, the festivities last night began a little after 10:00 pm and continued sporadically until long after midnight. One or two nap interruptions might be forgiven; multiple awakenings are not to be tolerated. By 11:00 pm, Buddy and Bear had heard quite enough, and each disturbance was met by a frownier face than the last. It may be weeks before the furrows in Bear’s brows straighten out.

The only saving grace of the evening of 12/31/11 was the presence of the caretaker. In Buddy’s mind, if the caretaker is at home and awake, it is her responsibiilty to keep the Seafoam Cottage safe. Despite having their naps disturbed multiple times last night, Buddy and Bear were able to drift back into peaceful sleep each time, knowing that nothing would happen to them on the caretaker’s watch. Therefore, the cats are quite content that she is old and tired and seldom invited to parties. The caretaker has found her calling in life. Keeping Buddy and Bear safe from passing trains, storms, and fireworks is a noble purpose.

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