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With apologies to William Faulkner,
but only if he first apologizes to the better William.

It has been several months since the caretaker has cataloged events at Stratford Palace. Had there been a proper excuse for this lapse, it would have been inserted here, but there is none, which I suppose in itself is good news. By God’s grace, neither the caretaker nor the cats have endured any illnesses or injuries or calamities that would have prevented blogging. Instead, the caretaker has found many activities to occupy her time, and they have crowded in upon her duty to report on His Majesty and affairs of state. But tonight the caretaker finds herself with a few extra minutes, so she will summarize the events of the last few weeks to elicit a droll smile from both our gentle readers.

Therefore, we commence, but not like Faulkner. We will allow our story to unfold in chronological order because we are not a famous Southern author who learned the hard way that liquor and horseback riding do not mix. But that’s another story….

Part 1: June 13, 2017

Even before this terrible day arrived, the cats were suspicious of the caretaker’s movements. She had spent hours dragging luggage out of closets, rifling through obscure dresser drawers, and arranging small bottles of various liquids into plastic bags. Having seen this sort of behavior before, the cats were increasingly filled with dread. They realized it was only a matter of time before the caretaker disappeared for several days—and nights. But what made this terrible day even worse was the influx of visitors who arrived just before the caretaker’s disappearing act. For two creatures whose third greatest fear is being trodden upon, the cats found that the presence of ten additional lumbering feet in the house was too much to be borne. Mercifully for them, the flurry of activity was soon over, and they were alone.

Utterly, utterly alone.

After several hours of deep silence (and possibly naps), Buddy yawned, looked at his forlorn companion, and said with sad resignation, “Catty, we’re gonna have to fend for ourselves.” As dark descended, so did their spirits. It mattered little that the tall Dan-man arrived every evening to attend to their needs. He was not the caretaker. The caretaker was gone. Utterly, utterly gone.

Until she wasn’t.

Part 2: June 17, 2017

The sun had already shone for many hours, which could only mean that another dark night was closing in like the unruly flaps of an Amazon.com box. When the key turned in the door, the cats barely looked up. It would be the tall Dan-man again to open another can of the wrong food, fill the bowl with inferior water, and stop for a quick head-scratching, and then he’d be gone.

Utterly, utterly gone.

But this time was different. Buddy scarcely believed his golden-green eyes when the door flew open to reveal the caretaker’s tired face. The floodgates were opened and the miaow-ridden complaining began. But it was soon squelched by the feeding and the watering and the scratching and the soothing words and the scooping and the sitting-down-to-make-a-lap.

As soon as the lap was made available, Buddy draped himself over it and commenced a deep purr that lasted longer than seemed possible. His world had been redeemed.

For a few days, anyway.

Part 3: June 26, 2017

As before, this day of parting was preceded by several days of flurrying and scurrying, rumblings and grumblings, and a great deal of document printing, all of which boded ill for the cats. When the suitcase turned up and filled up, Buddy once again looked at his morose companion, this time saying, “Catty, she’ll be gone again soon.”

And she was. A rolling box drove up and carted the caretaker and her luggage far away for many days. A different tall man this time, who brought a bubbly little boy, came to the house daily to brighten the cats’ world, but they were having none of it. They grudgingly drank enough water and ate enough food to stay alive,  but they were too irritated to enjoy themselves.

Then both the best thing and the worst thing happened all at the same time. It was very confusing.

Part 4: July 1, 2017

Although the caretaker had received a cool reception the prior evening, July 1 was her first full day back, and the cats had grudgingly begun to acknowledge her existence. But when the neighbors began their annual completely unnecessary fireworks practice, the cats clung to the caretaker like a couple of wet leaves.

Think of a cat as a creature who has Attachment Disorder alternating with Borderline Personality, and you’ll understand completely what these last few days at Stratford Palace have looked like. Hours of aloof behavior that conveyed the message “I’ve learned to be independent during your long absences,” have been followed by tense moments of terror, as explosion after explosion filled the air outside the palace. Hearing the awful sound and mistaking it for gunfire, Buddy, remembered the Alamo, the storming of the Bastille, the attack on the Tuileries, the falls of Troy and Jericho and the House of Usher, and he imagined himself the target of a monstrous coup. Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown. Bear, having no such illusions, thought only of the naps that were being interrupted. Uneasy lies the head that has to endure the incessant thunder of fireworks.

On July 2, the caretaker awoke to find both cats pressed up against her back, sound asleep, a phenomenon that had not happened in recent memory. (Normally they take turns being near her because they do not like to share her attention.) A relatively quiet morning gave way to a boisterous afternoon of explosions no different from that of the previous day, and the same thing happened on July 3rd and 4th. In fact, on July 4 for some reason the fireworks intensified in number, lasted entirely too long, and brought a great deal of upset and fervor (or fur-vor, if you prefer).

But today, on the fifth day, there is silence. Glorious, glorious silence. At this very moment, Buddy is draped across the caretaker’s lap watching the words of his story magically appear on the screen. He wishes you to know that he bears no ill will toward those who planned the coup, but he hopes they will move along quietly from this time forth, even unto the ending of the world. He is certain that all of his gentle readers regard him kindly and would never commit such crimes against his person.

He does tend to sound pompous from time to time, but that is only to be expected from royalty (and Navy captains). 

 

 

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Yips That Pass in the Night

Last year, the caretaker faithfully recorded Buddy’s account of the yippie dog next door. Over the cold hard winter, very few creatures stirred outside for very long, especially the yippie dog, because most creatures had the good sense to stay inside where it was warm and dry. So today during her regular survey of the estate grounds, the caretaker was quite surprised to find that the yippie dog (may we call him “Bark”?) was not just outside but outside the fence, surveying the Stratford south forty as though he were planning to place a bid on it. The tiny, rat-shaped interloper strutted and snorted confidently until he spied the caretaker. At that point he morphed into a canine Barney Fife, and he began yipping—insistent, incessant, intractable, insufferable yipping, combined with enough bobbing, weaving, and lunging to weary a prizefighter.

Though the caretaker was shaking uncontrollably (with laughter), she was able to snap a couple of action shots for your viewing pleasure.

Yips on the move

Bark on the move, and living up to his pretend name

 


 

Extreme Close-up

Extreme close-up. I can almost feel the coldness of his nose.

If the object in this photo is closer than it appears, the caretaker is in trouble. Buddy could have destroyed Bark with one swoop of the paw, but unfortunately Buddy was sleeping soundly on the other side of brick and glass.

Will the caretaker survive?

More importantly, if she doesn’t, will the substitute hooman feed the cats at the proper times!?!?

Get hold of yourselves, gentle readers! The only reason the caretaker was able to snap these photos is that she sat down on the ground to make herself look smaller to the miniscule dog. Her plan was to win him over and thus shut him up. But as soon as she stood up, Bark saw her as tall and menacing, and so he retreated with maximum vigor, yipping heartily all the way to the other side of the car.

With the crisis averted and the cats’ mealtime spared, the caretaker has only one observation to make: Isn’t the clover beautiful at this time of the year?

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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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We introduced our gentle readers to Buddy’s nemesis, Ginger Peach, a few months back, but the orange menace has not made himself known for several weeks. Therefore, please mark down today, 16 May, in the year of our Lord 2013, as the day of Buddy’s waking nightmare, an episode of Cat TV he will not soon forget: Ginger Peach standing on the other side of the storm door. In this case, the storm was all Buddy.

Knock, Knock

Knock, Knock

What cannot be fully captured in a photo is the raw, frantic violence with which Buddy scratched at the glass. What CAN be captured reasonably well is the utter nonchalance of Ginger Peach. Confident in the safety provided by the door, he approached Hurricane Buddy for a closer look:

Cat hatred

“Well, hello there, little fella.”

This cheeky move raised the hair on the back of Buddy’s neck and increased the speed of his glass scratching. Ginger, in the meantime, seemed genuinely interested in making civil contact with the poor little kitty trapped behind bars and glass. Neither contact nor civility were on today’s agenda, however, so he soon became bored and began to turn away. This snub only increased Buddy’s ire.

Ginger Peach

“I think I hear my mom calling.”

As Ginger Peach began to look for a graceful exit, Buddy continued to look for a weakness in the glass, but alas, none was to be found. Despite Buddy’s desperate attempts to make contact in his own way, Ginger Peach wandered off in search of adventures. And perhaps in search of a Welcome mat that does not actually mean “You are welcome to die.”

cat

“Don’t go, GP! I have not killed you yet!”

At the moment of this writing, Buddy is lying across the threshold, breathing hard and straining for another look at GP. We will spare him the humility of posting THAT photo.

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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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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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Though the cats have lived at Stratford Palace for almost nine months, they are still discovering just how many rivals they have in this strange new land that has many boxy houses and very few trees. An early encounter with Tortie Muldoon was chronicled in verse a few months ago, but since that time, the tortoiseshell scoundrel has made herself scarce. She was, however, spotted (pun intended) glaring into the dining room window during one of the Christmas feasts. Fortunately, Buddy and Bear were so occupied trying to avoid being seen by the hoomans that they didn’t notice the uppity minx walking the deck rail like a circus acrobat. The caretaker and Other Momma watched Tortie for a while, but soon she tired of ogling food she couldn’t reach and so moved on.

During the past few months, two other cats have been seen exactly once each in the outlying areas: a black cat looked on from the porch next door as the caretaker brought in groceries one Caturday, and one Sunday night a white cat wandered amid the garbage bins across the street. Not much to write home about, all in all.

That is until recently, when all fury broke loose in the form of an orange-and-white demon referred to in the palace as Ginger Peach, or sometimes GP for short. Like Tortie, GP has no regard for property rights or for royalty and will saunter onto the palace grounds and taunt Buddy whenever the mood strikes him. The most recent encounter with GP was the source of much upheaval in the palace, and it nearly caused Buddy to go completely mad. The caretaker was getting ready to run errands one Caturday during the holidays when she noticed that Buddy was bounding from room to room in an apparent attempt to get a better look at something outside. Curious, she followed him, but she finally gave up on trying to figure out what had Buddy’s heart racing and his feet along with it.

But as the caretaker backed down the driveway, she saw the offender emerging from the bushes in the flower bed, which was well in view of the largest Cat TV in the house. His game of hide-and-seek with Buddy was very much like the shenanigans that Tabby Lee and Mr. Shorty used to perpetrate at the Seafoam Cottage. Given that this desolate land where the palace is located provides no squirrels, few birds, and almost no cats to hate, all of Buddy’s energies were poured into that one encounter with Ginger Peach. And he was not amused.

Whatever transpired while the caretaker was away, GP was gone by the time she returned. As she brought in sacks filled with groceries, Buddy emerged from his throne room to conduct the obligatory inspection of the larder goods. Thank goodness for the small favor that he can be so easily distracted by food. Otherwise, his head may have exploded.

But no doubt his hatred for GP has not been quenched, so be it known that His Majesty Merlin “Buddy” Blacktail is preparing for the Great GP War, and this time he will show his mettle. He is Gandalf the White and Black, and you, Ginger Peach are a Balrog who shall not pass into his fair and happy palace. Mainly because there’s a window between you and him, but nevertheless, YOU SHALL NOT PASS!

So watch yourself, Flame of Udûn. King Buddy knows how to put you out.

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