THE GATTI FAMILY

Booger & Bubba
Copyright 2005
Seamus Muldoon
All Rights Reserved

 



      Since last you heard from us about the arrival of Sweetie Pie, much has happened, just about all of it good. Sweetie Pie has now befriended everyone and is growing into a delightful, no longer a baby kitten, friend and pal. Truth to tell, she has somewhat outgrown Old Muldoon, and she no longer sleeps next to him. Now she sleeps anywhere in the house that suits her, and she has her favorite spots in every room. She can jump up onto any counter or cabinet, and Bubba and Bugger no longer have anywhere to run to where she can’t get up there and bother them to play. She is absolutely a darling.

      During the last several months, starting not long after Sweetie Pie arrived, Mum and Old Muldoon have been on another remodeling campaign. We call it a campaign and not a project, because campaigns take a long time to complete, and projects tend to get over and done within a reasonable time. A few years ago, Old Muldoon remodeled the kitchen so that he could happily cook in his large quantities and bestow gifts of his gastronomic creativity upon anyone who happened to be around when the food was ready to serve, including visiting family, neighbors and especially Mum’s sister and her family who recently moved nearby.

      Somehow that project didn’t seem to take very long, and soon the strangers who came and did all the work were no longer in our way and under foot. There was no more noise and dust and all the other inconveniences that accompany any remodeling project. Now the kitchen looks great and functions perfectly. Old Muldoon enters it like going to church, worshipfully and full of awe and inspiration. The aromas and food that come out of that kitchen are really grand, and the expense was really a worthwhile investment in improvement of life around here.

      This new project, remodeling bathrooms, was different. It is now just about done except for little touch up things. But there were glitches, and the glitches prolonged the work for months. There were strangers here much longer on this project, and sometimes our patience with it all grew thin. We might become irritable and snippy. We would scratch around in our litter boxes more aggressively, and litter would be scattered around the floor outside the box. We would just run as fast as we could around the house at the end of the day when the workers would go home for the night, venting all our pent up energy from hiding out from the noise and activities of strangers in the house all day. Bubba would sometimes just throw up.

      We even found ourselves feeling aggressive about things that used to simply entertain us. In short, we grew very tired of all the commotion, and frustrated that we had no way to do anything about it. And so, to relieve the stress, we played a fantasy game.

      The favorite television show in this house is “The Sopranos”, a story about a New Jersey Mafia boss, his personal family and his gang of criminals family, and the problems they faced and how they dealt with those problems. It seemed to us that the Sopranos could just pull out a gun and whack anyone or anything that got in their way. We were very jealous, because we had gotten to the point that we might start whacking people just to keep them from coming to the house.

      There was also a big story about the Gotti family, a real life Mafia family in New York. Now, as everyone knows, the word Gatto, in Italian, means cat. And the plural form of Gatto is Gatti, meaning a group of more than one cat. In our fantasy game, we decided that we would form our own gangland family and just whack everyone and everything that annoyed us. We became the Gatti family.

       It is very easy to pretend to be Italian in this house. Old Muldoon cooks with so much garlic and olive oil and herbs. What addictive drugs are to people bent on self destruction, garlic is to Mum and Old Muldoon. Wednesday is pasta night. Sunday The Sopranos are on the tele. Sauté’s and grillades and salads, with fresh baked bread every day and seemingly gallons of wine make this place a constant Italian gastronomic experience. Minestrone soup is the life blood of the family. It seems that every week Old Muldoon will take everything in the fridge that has not been timely used and make it into what he calls Minestrone soup. That too simmers in a large cauldron, and the aroma of the herbs, seasonings and, of course, garlic would permeate every piece of furniture in the house were it not for his industrial strength air venting system in the kitchen. Of course, those aromas are then moved out of doors, and anyone walking or riding by outside is treated to the mouth watering aromas. When Old Muldoon cooks, the entire neighborhood salivates. How Italian can you get, for God’s sake!

      Old Muldoon’s favourite movie other than John Wayne and Clint Eastwood movies is the Dom De Luise movie “Fatso” in which Italians eat their way into oblivion, replete with enormous overfed people committing suicide with Italian sausages, salamis, capicola/gabigul, breads, assorted other meats, and being put into caskets that have to be made larger to contain their final remains. His favourite scene is the one with the cadaver of some incredibly corpulent person who died from overeating, laid out in the living room for mourners to view as they weep and wail and lament his passing. In the kitchen there is an enormous pot of tomato sauce/Sunday gravy in which meatballs and sausages are gently simmering so that the mourners can walk into the kitchen and break off a piece of bread to dip into the sauce and joyously consume it along with some piece of sausage or meatball. There is this circular movement from the entryway to the casket to the chairs in the living room and then into the kitchen to snack, and then back into the living room to offer condolences some more before returning to the kitchen for another few bites. When he cooks his own enormous pot of Sunday gravy and the aromas waft, it is exactly like that scene in the movie “Fatso” except that we don’t have a dead fat person in the living room and people crying.

      Strewn around the kitchen are plates with vegetables and cheeses and olives and bread, for the cook and anyone else who happens to walk in to munch on while they visit. The look of it, the aroma of it, the total mise en scene of it compel you to eat. No one can stand in that kitchen and not eat. From time to time something will be fished out of a pot or pan and put onto a small plate and handed to whoever is standing there to taste for flavor balance and doneness. No screen writer could ever script an Italian kitchen scene better than what we experience here every day.

      And who could cook like that without an ever present open bottle of wine? And who could cook like that with an ever present bottle of wine without either listening to Italian music, singing Italian music, or both listening to and singing Italian music? If they decided to film The Sopranos here in our house they could save a fortune on building a movie set. This house, at least in the kitchen, is an ultimate “Sopranos” movie set, a quintessential “Fatso” funeral feast kitchen.
Fortunately for all and sundry, Mum and Old Muldoon do not overeat. They are very careful. Old Muldoon has reconfigured recipes in every possible way to minimize fat and cholesterol, substituting vegetable products that have the same emulsifying properties, the same texturizing capabilities as things like creams, eggs and fats. To be sure, Old Muldoon is a very large man, but his health is excellent and he does not gain weight. Mum, of course, can still fit into – and zip up – her high school cheerleader outfit, and is also in great good health.

      We have “positions” everywhere in this house. We know every window and every possible resting place where we can see through every window, whenever we like. Nothing escapes us. Our Gatti family network sees all, hears all and knows everything that is going on anywhere, all the time. If the CIA knew its territory like we know our territory, Congress would triple their budget and no enemy of the United States could ever do anything bad. And, since Mum and Old Muldoon provide us with a home and food and love and good health care and other benefits, we use out Gatti family network to protect them. So, just like the New Jersey Italian Mafia, we sell protection to Mum and Old Muldoon. Nothing can approach the house without our being aware of it far in advance of when any human hearing could pick it up. We are the first alert system here. Additionally, since we don’t have that much to do by way of assigned chores, we are always on guard, shifting our positions around the house from window to window, always watching, always on guard. All day long the movement of the sun makes some spot in front of some window a warm and sunny resting place for us. And, since there is always more than one window with its warm spot, we are all moving from warm spot in front of a window to warm spot in front of another window. Every angle of the house is covered by a Gatti family cat on guard. And since we really dislike any disturbance or any intrusion, we alert loudly and conspicuously when any stranger approaches. No burglar alarm company could ever sell anyone a household protection system that is as good as we are. This protection racket is our principal source of revenue.

      This is Houston, Texas, where it is always deliciously warm and humid, the most nurturing climate you could ever imagine for every kind of beautiful plant and flower and bug. The perfectly balanced natural environment that lies just beyond our door is inhabited not only by other stray and feral cats, but also buy substantial populations of other life forms that would enjoy having access to our home if we would permit them to come in. Every time someone opens a door, there is the potential for infiltration by some flying, walking, creeping or crawling life form, our version of an extraterrestrial. These space invaders provide another excellent reason why Mum and Old Muldoon depend upon us to keep the house protected. Nothing gets in here, not even by accident, that we can’t handle. If we are in a good mood at the moment, we make a game of chasing the bug or whatever. The faster bugs are the best game. It’s no effort at all to pick up a slow bug and present it to Mum or Old Muldoon for disposal. The speedy ones are so fast that if we weren’t here to deal with them, Mum and Old Muldoon wouldn’t be able to catch most of them. People are too slow, and they can’t follow a fast bug under a sofa or chair, or surround them and cut off every avenue of escape. Our sense of smell is so acute that we can detect a bug fart from thirty feet away. Actually, we can hear it too. And so, bug whacking is another important activity and source of income for the Gatti family.

      And like the New Jersey Mafia, we never pay taxes to any government on any income that we receive for our protection racket/services. We are so good at this that never in the entire history of the Internal Revenue Service have they ever successfully audited a cat. No member of our family has ever gone to jail for tax evasion. Outdoor cats, stray feral cats, do from time to time encounter difficulty with law enforcement resources, and they do sometimes end up in public custody for various reasons. They also get whacked from time to time by cars and trucks that they thought they could outrun when crossing the street. But none of that ever happens to the cats who live here. We are immune to the vicissitudes of the itinerant life.

      Here in the Gatti household, life is balanced. We are all here almost every day. We account for everyone’s presence very often. When Mum and Old Muldoon are in the same room, we are all there with them. When they are in separate rooms we usually hang out with Mum, but go over to check on Old Muldoon quite often, jumping up onto his desk and lounging in front of his computer screen so that he has to take a work break and engage us in some social exchange. But if one of them has to be out of town for a day or for several fays, we become anxious. We miss whoever is absent. We can’t find them anywhere. We worry about them. If Mum is gone away on a trip, Old Muldoon takes care of us, cleaning litter boxes, feeding us our meals, doing his duty for the outside strays and feral cats, but it isn’t the same as when Mum does it. Face it. Old Muldoon is not Mum. Every thing Mum does is done to the absolute peak of perfection, while Old Muldoon is…well…Old Muldoon….a tad sloppy and careless. And so we have to muddle through until Mum returns, and then everything gets back to the way we like it. When Mum is away, Old Muldoon has a hard time getting anything done, because we are then constantly in his office and on his lap or on his desk. We crave attention. We love being adored and admired. We are, after all, Gatti.

      When Old Muldoon is away for a few days, we are better cared for by Mum, but the kitchen becomes like a museum. There is nothing happening in there. There are no aromas. There is no music. There is no wine being sipped. There is no conversation in there. Meals are solitary and without foolishness. Old Muldoon always cooks meals in advance for Mum when he goes out of town, but heating up something from the fridge isn’t the same as freshly prepared. Fresh chopped herbs added to any dish at the very end of its preparation are quite different from herbs that have been in the dish in the fridge for a day or so. Things ”heated up” are not what we are accustomed to here. And so, when Old Muldoon returns from a trip, we are happier than when he is away, because the personality of our home is the way we like it only when both of them are here. There is a joy when everyone is here that isn’t present if anyone is absent.

      As a civic minded and charitable project, we sponsor and maintain an orphanage for stray and abandoned kitties. This institution is situated in an outbuilding on the property. Every day those in residence at the orphanage receive fresh food and water and access to a protected yard for fresh air, sunshine and exercise. There are apartments and other residence configurations in the orphanage so that its occupants may dwell in relative comfort. It is well ventilated in summer and heated in winter. It is The Gatti Family Home for Orphan Cats. At the present time there are two authorized residents there, but other stray and feral cats constantly seek admission, and some even break in every now and then. The intruders are quickly evicted when found, but occasionally one of them is present long enough for there to be some confrontation with one of the residents.

      One of the two orphans living with us out there is the former cat of Mum’s sister that could no longer continue to live with Mum’s sister when she sold her home and moved into a restricted apartment complex. This is a very old, lazy, fat, slow white cat named Ace. All Ace ever does is eat and sleep. He moves around the yard all day, following the sun. When there is an intruder, Ace stands out in the middle of the yard and stares in the direction of the intruder. Even if no one has seen an intruder make its entrance, if we see Ace standing there in the middle of the yard staring intently in one direction, on point as it were, we know that someone has to go out there and evict the uninvited. We also maintain free food at the Gatti Family Save A Cat meal station elsewhere on the property, so that stray and feral cats who are not eligible to reside at the orphanage may have nutritious meals and fresh, clean water all day and all night, 365 days a year. This is another community outreach charitable activity of the Gatti family. There is a shelter established there in the event of dangerous weather. Unfortunately, some of these street cats think that the shelter is a place for romance. Mum keeps fresh towels in the shelter for them to sleep on and to be warm on those few cold winter days that we have. Occasionally some recently born kittens will show up there for something to eat, and Mum will occasionally try to befriend them, but they are too wild and frightened of human contact. Two of them once managed to crawl into the exhaust pipe of the clothes dryer, even though it is protected by an obstruction designed to keep animals from getting in. They became stuck in the pipe and would have died there from the heat being vented out the back of the dryer if Mum had not spotted the bulge in the flexible pipe and investigated it. She pulled the pipe off the back of the dryer, saw what she thought was a mouse in the pipe and panicked. Old Muldoon was summoned and simply held the pipe vertically and shook it until the two kittens fell out. They scampered around the laundry room as fast as they could until he and Mum could catch them and release them into the outdoors. It was so funny that we laughed for a very long time. There were Mum and Old Muldoon trying to improvise what to do, and the kittens going berserk, and Mum shouting instruction as she always does when supervising Old Muldoon. You had to have been there to appreciate how hysterically funny it was.

      The other orphan in residence has been around for quite a while, and is also a white cat, but of entirely different temperament. He has blue eyes and is named Blue. Blue may be the dumbest cat we have ever encountered. He runs and hides from Mum and Old Muldoon who would never harm him in any way, but he confronts even the most aggressive intruding stray or feral cat and loses every fight. He never learns. We call him “the bayou city bleeder” as he has to be taken to Doc Martin’s cat hospital from time to time to be sewn back up and to get shots so that he does not die of some infection contracted as a result of a fight. Blue never learns from experience.

      Blue and Ace aren’t made cats. Only made cats get to live here inside the house. To be a made cat you have to have “made your bones” and to have been recognized for your exemplary accomplishments for the benefit of the family. Moreover, it is not enough that you may simply have whacked bugs and other pests and helped keep the house free from infestation. You also have to know how to behave and to keep yourself clean. You have to know when things are expected as well as what is expected. Then, if all that is properly accounted for and you are deemed a proper maughey, you can become a made cat. The outside cats simply don’t have what it takes to be a member of the Gatti family. Happily, they seem content with their lives in the orphanage. The orphanage contains not only the accommodations for Blue and Ace, but is also the place where Mum and Old Muldoon keep cars, an old motorcycle and assorted gardening tools, barbeque grills and miscellaneous equipment. They call it the garage. Humans are so funny sometimes.

      And then there’s Rainbow. Rainbow is a scrawny, scrappy cat from down the block. Rainbow’s parents are two butterball fat people, but Rainbow is skinny as a rail. We think they are fat and Rainbow is skinny because they sometimes eat Rainbow’s food. Rainbow is Old Muldoon’s favorite stray cat, except, of course, that he isn’t a stray. But to Old Muldoon, you are either a made cat or a stray cat – there’s no status in between. Before he knew that the cat was named Rainbow, the look of him caused Old Muldoon to call him Scruffy. He called Rainbow Scruffy for over a year before he finally learned what his real name is.

      Rainbow is the world’s most affectionate cat. Right from the first encounter, he would come up to Old Muldoon and rub against his leg and wait to be petted. He would allow Old Muldoon to pick him up. He will come into the house at the slightest opportunity, but is very independent and wants to leave after only a few moments. When the bathrooms were being remodeled, workers accidentally left doors and windows open and Rainbow would come right into the house. After a few minutes, he would leave again, going out through the door or window that had been left open and that he had used to come in. The workmen thought he was one of our cats, and whenever they would see him leave the house, they would pick him up and bring him back inside. This got to be a game until Old Muldoon saw it and explained that Rainbow was not one of the made cats that is allowed in the house. Since most of the people in Houston who really do the work here are Mexican or from other parts of Central or South America, this conversation took place in the Spanish language. “Que hacen ustedes, por favor?” “Su gato quiere salir de la casa.” Perdone, senores, pero ello no es nuestro gato.” This was followed by embarrassed smiles and laughter. What a joke!

      All summer long, Rainbow strolls the neighborhood while mockingbirds and blue jays dive bomb him, trying to peck at him and harass him as such birds do to every cat. He simply ignores them. No cat can put up with the attacking birds the way he does. It’s Old Muldoon’s idea of the ultimate machismo.

      If it were up to Old Muldoon, Rainbow would be a made cat. And, if Rainbow would move in and become a permanent resident, we might consider opening the books and making him a member of the Gatti family. Maybe one day in the future, but not yet. Since Mum is the Boss Of All Bosses here, it is really up to her.

      To understand what it really means to be the Boss Of All Bosses, the Capo Di Tutti Capi, you would have to spend a week or so here and observe how the house and family function and interact. There are no written rules, no constitution, by-laws or regulations. As in any true Mafia family, nothing is written down. Yet there is a clearly discernable order and plan, and there is no doubt whatsoever about who is in ultimate charge here. The power is so absolute that no voice ever has to be raised, no threat ever made, no admonition given. The slightest glance from Mum, the subtlest gesture, will instantly correct any glitch in anything. Even someone who is not looking in her direction will sense that a correction is being mandated, and order will instantly be restored. No living creature would ever wish to be the reason or cause for Mum being upset. And yet, it is not the fear of wrath that motivates everyone, but rather the peace and joy that obtains when all is right that enthuses compliance with her unspoken governance.

We are so lucky.       

 


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