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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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As I Lay Dying: A Photo Journal

The cats have previously lamented about the desperate plight in which they find themselves when the caretaker runs away from home (or as she styles it, “goes on a trip”). The woman may be old and feeble, but she has become deviously evil in her ability to hide her plans until the last minute. Yet there always comes a time when the luggage must be brought out into the open. At that moment, Buddy becomes slightly more agitated (but then, who can really tell?), and Bear, well, Bear plays a death scene rivaling that of Fantine in Les Misérables. Her abject misérable-ness cannot adequately be explained; it requires photos tragiques.

So on the day before the caretaker’s recent trip, as she scurried about the house sorting and folding pelts and putting them in the hated suitcase, she noticed that Bear was languishing on the bathroom rug. In order to capture the depth of Bear’s sorrow, the caretaker decided to pursue her chores with a camera in one hand. Each time she passed by the bathroom door, she snapped one or two photos of Bear. Only a few are needed to tell the sad, sad story. Behold la très grande misère, mélancolie, détresse, tristesse, douleur, etc.

Photo Tragique the First:

As you can see (you can see, can't you?) I have little time left on this earth . . .

As you can see (you are watching, aren’t you?) I have little time left on this cold, cruel earth.

____

Photo Tragique the Second:

drama

I have begun to die.  You do not have to weep an ocean for me. A large lake will suffice.

____

Photo Tragique the Third:

I see the light. If only I had strength to walk toward it . . .

I see the light. If only I had strength to walk toward it . . .

____

Photo Tragique the Fourth:

I suspect you are not taking my plight as seriously as you should  . . .

I suspect you are not taking my plight seriously. Do you not hear the bell tolling for me?

____

Photo Tragique the Fifth:

To assuage your doubts, I have turned to show you y more tragic side.

To assuage your doubts, I have repositioned myself to reveal my more tragic side.

—-

Photo Tragique the Sixth:

Oh, hello, Wall. It appears you are paying more attention than my previously trusted caretaker.

Hello, Wall. It appears you care more about me than my previously trusted caretaker.

—-

Photo Tragique the Seventh:

I die, Horatio. ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ.

I die, Horatio.

—-

Photo Tragique the Eighth:

I am still dead. Really.

I am still dead, Horatio. Really. Pay no attention to my flapping tail.

So as not to leave our gentle readers in the depths of woe and grief regarding the beloved Bear, we are pleased to report that she is very much alive. She was waiting at the door when the caretaker returned today, and her sorrow has been turned into joy by a lovely spa treatment and her favorite dinner, which was devoured with a good will. (It would seem her recent difficulties did not deal her appetite a fatal blow.)

When confronted by teasing about her “death scene,” she turned her head slowly, thus silently reminding the caretaker that cats have nine lives, and the final moment of each of them shall be such an end as to be worthy of remembrance. Of that, the caretaker has no doubt whatsoever.

~ fin ~

With apologies to Victor Hugo, William Faulkner, William Shakespeare, J. R. R. Tolkien, John Donne, the translators of the King James Bible, and pretty much every other respectable author who has ever lived.

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Just in the nick of time, a proper Caturday was restored to Stratford Palace last weekend. During the first three weeks of June the caretaker was gone for 13 days. Now that her travels are over for a while, she has made herself available for all of her usual tasks: feeding cats, filling water bowls, purchasing cat food, distributing cat snacks, grooming cats, and sweeping up cat hair. As necessary as those chores may be, they must never displace the most important activity of all: sitting on the big new chair so the cats can gather around to be adored.

During those times, Bear can normally be found draped across the chair back, occasionally reaching her paw out to poke the caretaker on the shoulder to reassure herself that the caretaker is still in her proper place. And Buddy is generally draped over the caretaker’s arm, fully expecting to have his ears scratched and to have the caretaker speak in calm and soothing tones, perhaps breaking out into a silly song or a round of baby talk. At those times, the caretaker is allowed to type, but only with her right hand, and she dare not sneeze or she runs the risk of having her left arm and leg shredded. (Buddy is inexplicably spooked by the sound of sneezing.)

Prime Real Estate: The Caretaker's Lap

Prime Real Estate: The Caretaker’s Lap

But lest our story degenerate into sappy sentimentalism, let us now introduce our gentle readers to the conflict that seethes just below the surface of this happy scene.

From time to time, Buddy’s affection level reaches maximum saturation, and he is compelled to hop down and stalk rogue pieces of paper, grab a snack, survey the neighborhood from the picture window, or raid the garbage can to eat the fur that was carefully swept up just an hour before. And while Buddy gallavants through the palace, Bear makes her move to inhabit the empty lap. She slowly climbs down from the back of the chair and creeps toward the caretaker, using as much “stealth mode” as an aging overweight feline can muster. Upon reaching her desired spot, she flops onto the caretaker and takes over Buddy’s place, which still has a bit of warmth left over from the previous occupant.

If she’s lucky, Buddy’s antics keep him occupied long enough for her to finish a lovely nap. But woe be it to her if he returns and wants to resume his rightful place of adoration. Buddy has never been particularly delicate, so his usual tactic is just to flop down on top of Bear and make her angry enough to leave. Sometimes, however, the scene played out on the prime real estate of the caretaker’s lap appears to belong in British Parliament, complete with incomprehensible squabbles and a level of rudeness that can only be achieved by otherwise civilized folk. At the end of the hissing and other forms of lively debate, both cats are usually banished and the caretaker vacates the chair in order to take care of her own chores.

As the curtain closes on this silly melodrama, the caretaker has returned to the chair, with Bear draped across her neck and Buddy draped over her arm. Any reader desiring a sequel should return to the beginning of this post. And please do try to stay out of the garbage can.

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