They call me Puddin.
Iím about two months old and weigh about two pounds. Iím quite precocious.
Iím the smallest and amongst the newest of a family of fifteen kitties who live with a middle aged woman and her servant in Houston, Texas. There are still things about this arrangement that I havenít figured out. I have been told by my garage mates that, notwithstanding the luxurious circumstances in which I live, I am just another stray feral cat, the eleventh kitten this year of a very promiscuous feral female known in the neighborhood as Mama Kitty, and by the cook, Old Muldoon, as Sister Prolifica. Considering that my living arrangements are qualitatively far better than those of over ninety-five percent of the worldís people, I sometimes have delusions of royalty.
Some amongst us believe that we are all sent here to celebrate the forthcoming election of a governor who is an animal lover, and especially cats, named Kinky Friedman, and that Kinky, my litter mate, is named after him. If elected, then Governor Kinky Friedman will usher in a feline dominated era, which the opposition candidates call CATastrophic. They fear that if Kinky Friedman is elected, Texas will go back to being a place where everyone gets to do whatever they like with no interference, so long as they arenít bothering anybody else, and that if they are bothering anybody else, why they can just sort it out amongst themselves with no governmental interference. They would prefer that Texas become a place where unctuous church folks get to tell everyone else what to do and how to live and what can be taught in schools. Just last month, so we saw on television, a school teacher was fired (this is not a joke) because when he took his class on a field trip to a museum, a kid went home and told his parents (unctuous church people) that he saw a statue of a neked lady. Mum and Old Muldoon say this kind of compulsive tyranny by the ignorant needs to be stopped. Old Muldoon really touched a nerve when he told us that if the religious crazies win another election they will try to outlaw catnip. He said that they havenít realized yet that catnip is to us what marijuana is to people, and that when they do, they will be going around from backyard to backyard trying to pull up every catnip plant they find. That has galvanized all of us to work for Kinky Friedmanís election. They go around in Kinky For Governor tee shirts every weekend. I wish there were Kinky Friedman tee shirts for cats.
It is the beginning of the second week of October, 2006. There is a very large, round and shiny moon that folks hereabouts call a harvest moon. It is truly beautiful and it lights the night with the warmest of soft golden light. Everyone is scurrying around making great plans for what they tell me is the Feast of Saint Belinda that is celebrated every year at this time. Iím not a very religious kitten, so I havenít been able to appreciate this as profoundly as the rest of the group. But I hear tell that itís sort of a pre-Christian pagan orgy complete with howling cats, fecundity rituals of a feline nature, games in which the winner is the fastest to catch a small lizard or mouse and bring it over to the statue of Saint Belinda to be sacrificed, followed Ė when everyone is done having a grand time Ė by a very short religious service lasting about two minutes, and then everyone goes to sleep for the night. WOW! I canít wait. Blue told me that before Old Muldoon gave up martinis, he used to participate in the rituals Ė all of them.
One of the more senior cats here took me out to the big oak tree in the back garden and pointed out the statue of a woman dressed in a robe with a look of devotion about her. He told me that is a statue of Saint Belinda of Sacred Address and Blessed Assurance, who takes in stray kittens and raises them in grand abundance, lovingly caring for them as if they were her own children, and who provides us all with these sumptuous arrangements in this great residence that she refers to as her garage.
The garage, as they call it, from my perspective, seems like some form of enormous place of worship, or maybe a museum, a place where the great instruments of customary function are on display and, for the most part, rarely used. At one end is a blank wall, and at the other a very large door that opens with the aid of a motor that starts when a switch is pulled. There is a large blue machine that everyone refers to as The Murano. It sits on four wheels, and frequently when the large door opens, it is for the purpose of that machine being removed from the building. I have no idea what it does or where it goes once it is out the door. But when it is inside, Mum adorns it with blankets and cushions, and some of the senior kitties lounge atop it much in the manner of some very important functionaries lounging on some dais and perusing their domain and those who inhabit it in their daily comings and goings. They just jump up on it. I canít do that. It is just too big for me. Booger and Bubba, two of the inside the house kitties, told me that they have a Murano in the house also, but that theirs hangs from the ceiling in the dining room. Somehow, I just canít get a mind picture of that.
Elsewhere in the building there are pieces of old furniture that would be in disuse except for the fact that Mum has so arranged them as to provide small private spaces that she also adorns with blankets and cushions. These she calls apartments (whatever that means), and there is one for every kitty. Some of the apartments are front view apartments for kitties that like to see what is going on, and others are in the back with greater privacy for those kitties who prefer their solitude and being left alone. Old Blue is the most private amongst all the garage kitties, and his apartment is so secluded that you canít even tell when he is home and when he is away. There is apparently a great deal of thought in the ordering and arrangements for the comforts and sensibilities of each of us, even those of us who only recently arrived. Ace, the old white kitty who always seems to be about to expire but always soldiers on, says that the facilities were inspired by John 14:2-3. Ace firmly believes that Saint Belinda has an inspired reason and plan for everything she does.
Most of us are related through Mama Kitty. Cowboy and Little Girl are Mama Kittyís children who live inside the house with Booger, Bubba and Sweetie Pie. Precious and Zorro are Cowboyís and Little Girlís siblings, and they live out back with us. Frick and Frack are Mama Kittyís also, but their daddy is Michael Jackson, a rather scruffy, weird looking feral stray cat who hangs out at Mumís front door at feeding times. Dude, Kinky, Sugar Pie and I are Mama Kittyís kittens too. Michael Jackson is also our daddy. As Old Ace explains it, we are of different folds but are now of one fold because Saint Belinda has taken us in and made us her own. Ace says that it is just like the good shepherd who knows his own and whose voice is heard by all of them in the same way, making them all of one family despite their differences. John 10:14-16.
I have learnt a great deal from Old Ace, and I have come to understand what it means to have someone who is always there for us. Just as Mum and Old Muldoon know that they enjoy a firm foundation of belief in something that is true and eternal, and try to conduct their life together committed to that principle, we too have been lost, but sought and saved. Mum has passed down to us the blessings that have been given to her. She has sought us out and taken us in and saved our lives and given us a loving home. Luke 19:10.
Mum and Old Muldoon have their Gospel, and I and my brothers and sisters have our own Gospel, just for kitties, thanks to her. We understand where her love for us comes from. But we all think that Mum is right, and that it is time to get Mama Kitty fixed. We are running out of room.
I may be the runt of the litter, but I can jump on a stool by the grill and then jump up onto the grill cover and look right into the kitchen window and watch Old Muldoon as he prepares meals and washes dishes. He has big knives and is always chopping and peeling and putting food into pots and pans on his big stove. He does the same with cat food when it is kitty feeding time, but then he just puts everything out and arranges it for Mum to actually prepare our meals. Then he helps her carry all the food and fresh water out to us. When we have eaten, he helps her carry it back into the house and then he washes all our plates and dishes and stacks them to dry for our next meal. He washes all the plates and dishes that he and Mum use for their meals too, except that there is one glass that he never seems to wash and that never seems to be empty. Maybe he washes it after we go to sleep.
Every day I come to realize that what life is like here represents the establishment of a family that includes all my garage mates, all the kitties inside the house that we see and that see us every day through the windows, and the people who sustain us with their love and generosity. No one has to tell me anything about what that means and about the feelings that come to me as I witness this. I cannot imagine that any kitty living without other kitties could ever understand so much love and happiness or possibly be as happy as we all are. Even in our roughest moments we are together and with each other. When Mum comes out to care for one of us who is not feeling well or who has been hurt, we instinctively all gather round and wait close beside her while she is treating whatever needs treatment. That kind of caring devotion does not need exhortation and preaching. It is the witnessing of what happens here every day that is the lesson. I believe what is obvious from what happens every day, and I donít need anyone to tell me about its meaning. The bestowing of kindness comes from a kind and caring heart. John 14:10-11
It is beginning to be Fall. The days and nights are cooler. We are all friskier than when it is oppressively hot. What a great relief. We play fight and chase each other all over the yard and up the trees and bushes. We hide amongst the bushes and the profusion in the garden. When we are tired of chasing and wrestling each other, there are squirrels in the big oak tree that take their pleasure in taunting us, daring us to climb the tree and catch them. They know we can never catch them (well, almost never), and they come so close that we instinctively go after them, from limb to limb, higher and higher, until they just scamper away on some rooftop, leaving us so high in the tree that we wonder how on earth we will ever get down again.
Old Muldoon and Mum now enjoy early evenings sitting out in the garden with glasses of wine, watching our shenanigans and laughing. We entertain them. Everyone will run up to Mum for some petting or cuddling, but we donít know Old Muldoon that well. Many are scared of him and wonít go near him. Zorro goes right up to him and gets petted and isnít afraid of him at all. I thought I would try that, and he was very happy to talk to me and pet me and make stupid noises that he must think kitties respond to. We know what he is trying to convey, and it is so funny that he does it so clumsily. I wish we had a digital recorder so we could replay his cute little sounds and laugh. It is even funnier because he has no idea how ridiculous we think he is when he tries to talk kitty baby talk. Maybe itís the wine.
Mum and Old Muldoon often talk about the government when they are enjoying their wine in the garden in the evening. From their conversations, we gather that the government must be some very large group of extremely stupid people who somehow are put in charge of everything as the result of something called an election. Old Muldoon is always saying that it is important that you almost never do whatever it is that the government says you should do. Yesterday he and Mum were talking about flu shots being adverted by the government, saying that this is the flu season. He and Mum would never ever get a flu shot, and they never ever get the flu. Many people who stupidly run and get flu shots get very sick. Old Muldoon says that flu shots are bad for the general health of the population, because it prevents the weeding out of people whose immune systems are so weak that they might die from catching the flu. These people, of course, go on to produce children with similarly weak immune systems, resulting in the general deterioration of the strength of future generations. Old Muldoon claims that one should never do anything that reduces the need for your immune system to fend for itself, because thatís what keeps your immune system strong. As an example, he never uses anti bacterial soap and refuses to take medications of any kind other than something that is urgently required to allow him to remain alive and continue to enjoy eating and drinking whatever he likes whenever he likes. He makes the excuse that, since he is not going to have any children, he can do whatever he likes with no risk to the future health of humanity. Old Muldoon has a long list of things about which it is important never to do what the government says you should do Ė especially regarding hurricane preparedness.
This is a very celebratory week. The 15th of October is Saint Belindaís feast day, and it is also Oktoberfest. There is much scurrying about and cooking on both those themes. Mum has upon occasion mentioned how pretty the kittens look when they emerge from under a bush that always has blue flowers on it. The flowers are always falling off and the kittens come out with the flowers stuck in their fur, like decorated kitty dolls. Old Muldoon is looking all over for a nightie with blue flowers on it, with matching panties of course. We suspect that is not the real gift because he has told her that is what he his looking for and she has told him that if he gives her that he is in big trouble. We have already made our Saint Belinda birthday card selections and will make the customary lizard, mouse and vermin offerings to her when the 15th rolls around. Mum has tried to dissuade him from getting presents for her, claiming that her birthday present was his really taking the kitchen down last week and cleaning it from top to bottom. When Mum says things like that, it isnít meant to be sincere, but rather a suggestion that if the kitchen were thoroughly scrubbed more frequently, she wouldnít be thinking of that as a birthday present. Old Muldoon failed to see the humor. She also declined to get all dressed up and lead a parade in her honor around the neighborhood, saying that was too tacky even for Texas.
Old Muldoon is racking his brain over the present. He knows that she wants an UZI assault weapon, but what she really wants is one that can be put on full auto and be a machine gun. The license for that is just too expensive or he would get it for her. Her new battle ready automatic pistol has her dreaming about being able to mow down carloads of intruders and rowdy people of any stripe with an agenda that is not her agenda. Beside, she already has more guns than she will ever shoot. She would furiously return any expensive jewelry. She canít buy designer knock offs because Old Muldoon makes part of his living going after people who knock off designer ware (except that he is now actually representing an EBay person who is dealing in counterfeit designer jeans). Pecuniam non olet, says he. Another birthday kitten is definitely out of the question. This week he paid for Cowboyís surgery on his paw, but that doesnít seem to be a romantic kinda birthday present. Last year he gave her a gift card for $ 1,000 to the South Gessner Pet Clinic. They made the gift certificate up just for that occasion, and she thought it was a joke until Ms Tabitha wouldnít take here money. Besides, when she picks Cowboy up at the vet after the operation and finds out that Old Muldoon paid for the operation as an I-Love-You present, she will be upset about that too. But Mumís Aggie vet beat him to it and didnít charge for the surgery in honor of Saint Belindaís Week. Another veterinary gift certificate might do as a last resort.
It seems strange that while it appears that the world is trying its best to go to hell in a hand basket, we get to enjoy security, beauty, kindness and abundance. It doesnít seem that complicated. What is it about how some people simply want to destroy everything that could be made beautiful, and hate their neighbors more than they love their children? Although we are just feral kittens, we feel assured that their nonsense could never come here. Mum and Old Muldoon would never let anything like that come near here. There is another side to them that we rarely see. They are truly battle ready in every sense of the word. They keep that part of them locked away until it may be needed, but it is within easy reach. We are grateful that they understand what could be necessary. We are a bit sad that such thoughts have to intrude upon so lovely a place and life. We and they will try to stay happy and healthy for as long as we can, and we will give daily thanks for our many, many blessings.
HAPPY FEAST OF SAINT BELINDA, YíALL!
By Seamus Muldoon, Himself
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