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Looking Back

Recently the caretaker packed up the last of the stuff and left the Seafoam Cottage for the final time. While she was there, a neighbor stopped by and asked whether the caretaker had moved away and left the little white and gray cat (a.k.a. Mr. Shorty). Apparently, everyone in the neighborhood thinks Mr. Shorty belongs to someone else, so he has had to resort to living by his wits  It is sad to think about anyone moving away and leaving a pet behind to fend for himself, but such is the world in which we live. The caretaker assured the neighbor that she would never do such a thing and that her own precious babies were safe, comfortable, and well fed at Stratford Palace and not wandering the streets keeping the rodent population in check.

While the caretaker walked to her car with the very last box, Mr. Shorty emerged and confidently crossed the street as if asking to be blogged one last time. And so, Mr. Shorty, “if we no more meet till we meet in heaven,” the caretaker and the cats wish you happy hunting and safe crossings.

Any of our gentle readers who are already dabbing their eyes may want to avoid the pictures below, which make up a montage from the unblogged but very happy days that Buddy and Bear spent at the Seafoam Cottage. By God’s grace, their days are still happy, especially when snacks are plentiful and the caretaker’s travels are few. But that is another post.

I'm on your bookshelf creeping you out

I’m on your bookshelf creeping you out

I see you over there, Mr. Shorty

I see you over there, Mr. Shorty

Warm, Soft, Secluded: Win, Win, Win

Warm, Soft, Secluded: Win, Win, Win

I love you to pieces

I love you to pieces

Tag, you're it

Tag, you’re it

I'm in your laundry basket creeping you out

I’m in your laundry basket creeping you out

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Truer Grit

We are sorry to be so abrupt, gentle reader, but Buddy has had quite enough of this Weather, and he wants something done about it right now. The incompetent caretaker has been unable to accomplish any of his demands to bring back the sunshine and the “warms” and to banish the rain and the cold wind. He could not help but notice the effect that simply mentioning the name of Lawyer J. Noble Daggett achieved in True Grit, so he is contemplating how to proceed with a lawsuit against the Weather. He originally wanted to sue the caretaker, but he was afraid such an action would stop the daily feedings and ear scratchings, not to mention the litter box cleaning and other menial services that she provides. She is moderately useful, so he will refrain from bringing suit against The Can Opener, as he has taken to calling her behind her back.

But the Weather is another matter entirely, and he has determined that it will and must pay for his pain and suffering. He was already considering legal action when the condition of the porch deteriorated so much that he became unable to pass his time ruling the world from his perch and saving the universe from the devious plots of Mr. Shorty and Tabby Lee. There is no question that justice must be pursued now that the Weather has violated his other sanctuary, the kitchen window, where the caretaker had placed a comfortable chair so that he would have a front-row seat for an off-off-off Broadway show, “The Nut-Gathering Frenzy,” starring Murrell the Squirrel and his trusty sidekicks Burrell, Cheryl, and Spice Girl Squirrel.

All was well until yesterday morning, when something went horribly wrong. As he approached his chair, he found that the lovely upholstered seat was soaked with water, and then he noticed a “drip-drip-drip” sound. While he was processing this horrific information, the caretaker walked up to investigate the noise. Even in her dullheadedness, she could tell that something was wrong. She rushed from the kitchen to gather some towels to mop up the rain, leaving the king undefended.

And then it happened. This impudent Weather monster, which had already invaded his life to an unacceptable degree, was now egregiously assaulting his person. A nasty, wet raindrop plopped on his royal head. That’s right, gentle readers, there was rain inside the Cottage, where rain does not belong. Nothing, absolutely nothing, was right about this situation, this travesty, this attack on the king’s majesty. It was in strict violation of Feline Rule #8: Cats abhor water. And therefore, something must and will be done, and it needed to consist of more than towels. Buddy spent most of the night trying to wake the caretaker to get her to find Lawyer Daggett, but she infuriated him by simply going back to sleep each time he woke her. Now he has dipped into a seriously depressed state that would break your heart.

Where is Lawyer Daggett when you need him?

Where is Lawyer Daggett when you need him?

So, gentle reader, if you have any idea how to contact Lawyer Daggett, please pass this information along to King Buddy, and he will award you a suitable boon, perhaps the honor of scratching under his chin. Meanwhile, the foolish caretaker is off on some harebrained notion of getting the roof repaired, as though that would appease the king’s wrath against the Weather. Buddy senses that The Can Opener means well, but he is not entirely sure that she IS well.

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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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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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The past few days of mild weather have been almost heaven for Buddy. For large patches of time, he has had free run of the “screamed-in” porch, and his enjoyment has even lured Bear out into the last refuge between the safe boredom of the house and the intoxicating call of the wild. Napping has given way to patroling the perimeter, and the view from the porch has given Buddy and Bear something to despise besides each other. The first day it was a ring-tailed tabby, much like Bear, only thinner. It pranced about, proudly demonstrating the magnificence of freedom. As Buddy and Bear watched intently, Tabby Lee scooped up a mouse and trotted off to the back yard to dispatch it. Nevertheless, Buddy and Bear were glad enough at dinner time to eat their own civilized food from a clean plate. One cannot overrate the importance of creature-comforts, such as food that does not try to escape and that does not require skinning.

The next day there was yet another wild kitty to envy, at least until dinnertime. This one was a bicolor American shorthair—white with tabby markings—who seemed mildly interested in making friends with Buddy and Bear, but not interested enough to give up his freedom. Mr. Shorty wandered up so close to the back screen that the caretaker was concerned he would try to claw his way onto the porch. That was when she stuck her big nose where it shouldn’t be, at least in Buddy’s opinion. He could tell at once that she had arrived to break up their little tête-à-tête, so he whirled around and yelled at her sternly while popping her ankle with his open paw (no claws). But alas, it was too little, too late. Mr. Shorty moved on to greener pastures, leaving Buddy to brood under a cloud of overprotection.

So for several glorious days, with varying amounts of porch time, Buddy and Bear have kept watch over robins, cardinals, blue jays, squirrels, outdoor cats, and the occasional dog on a leash. And the caretaker has kept watch over it all. As much as she wants the cats to have the diversion of the outdoors, she still remembers the brave but fallen felines from her past who did not fare well in their conflict with the forces of nature. Her diligence paid off this evening. Just at dusk, when there still enough light to distinguish colors and shapes, she looked out for the umpteenth time to see Buddy focused on something in the back yard near the house. It was another ring-tail, but this one had a bandit’s mask, the sight of which struck fear into the heart of the caretaker. A raccoon had killed another kitty on that same porch about six years ago. As large, strong, and brave as Buddy is, he is no match for the wild rage of a raccoon, so the caretaker scooped up a kicking, screaming Buddy and rushed him into the house. As the door closed behind them she dropped him and listened as he indignantly gave her a piece of his mind and then lunged at her feet several times, like a prize fighter afraid to deliver a blow.

He finally turned away to salvage what he could of his safari, so he ran to the kitchen window to look for Bandit, who by this time was gone with the wind. The caretaker followed Buddy, compassionately trying to move the plants away from the window so that he could see better, but he returned her kindness with a slap to the back of the hand. It took a little while for him to calm down, but he finally remembered who opens the cans of food and empties them into clean plates so that he doesn’t have to eat mice, and who keeps his water bowl filled so that he doesn’t have to drink from dirty puddles. Bridges must be mended so that menus will be protected. So with his characteristic expectation of happily ever after, he found the caretaker on the couch and sidled up to her, purring gently and rubbing his nose on her face. Besides, he had found on his way from the kitchen table to the couch that the caretaker had filled a bowl with his favorite green treats. For all of her serious faults, the caretaker is a decent woman, and he should, he would, he must forgive her again. This time, at least. Besides, he was secretly glad he had not needed to prove his prowess against the beast. Overprotective caretakers are invaluable, if not in saving face, at least in saving lives.

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