Thursday, December 30, 2021

Moving a Mountain

Two and a half years ago, friends and fellow cat-people gave me a set of stairs to put beside my bed for Cammie to use, after her stroke had blinded her. They were a great boon to her. Since then, others have used them, most notably Renn.

When I clean the bedroom, I place them in the corridor, out of the way until I am done. Almost every time, I find Hector playing with them. I assume it’s some form of play, perhaps like a child pretending to have a fort, or a cave of his own. The first time it happened, I heard a scraping sound and came out of the bedroom to see the stairs inching forward, seemingly of their own accord. It was Hector, crawling underneath them, and taking the stairs with him. There is a very narrow space though which Hec can slip between the bottom step and the floor, though the stairs are not heavy and he can probably push them up to give himself room.

After he is done playing, he emerges, apparently tired out, as if he had spent much effort achieving a great feat. Perhaps in his fertile imagination, he has. For all I know, he has just moved a mountain. Such is the power of youth, even in a cat.

Monday, December 27, 2021

A Torch Is Passed

Hector became used to the Cosy Apartment’s rooms and furniture quite quickly. There were some spots that remained untried until very recently, however, such as the saddle-topped cat-tree in the bedroom. Another was the set of chairs at the dining table. I put him on one a couple of times. He was wary of this, perhaps because of the narrowness of the seats, and the space available for jumping up. But once he realised the ease with which he could access the spots, they became familiar to him.

Now, he will jump up to the same spot Tucker frequented during our meals together. Hec doesn’t use just one chair, as Tucker did, nor does he like lying there at moments other than meals; the roly poly would often snooze away an evening on the thick cushion of the middle chair. But the newcomer has discovered the convenience of the locations in regard to food. He does not share my late friend’s voracity for some of the items I eat; instead, he seems to have a pressing curiosity about almost all edible products. I’m not sure which cat’s characteristic is worse/more endearing.

I like to think that, rather than being annoyed at Hector usurping his place, Tucker is pleased that at least some of my dinners are again accompanied. He would know that no one could be like him, but might be amused that once again, I cannot leave food unguarded on my own dish.

Thursday, December 23, 2021

Merry Christmas, Evrybuddy!!

The Yuletide has come again. Each year, I hope that Christmas will herald something better; it is the promise of something better that is the essence of Christmas, and perhaps that improvement is not always meant to happen right away. Sometimes we must be patient, and await our Christmas gift.

This year, I lost another two cats, two of my originals. Josie died in February, and Tucker earlier this month. Josie had her final Christmas with me, though I did not know it was her final one at the time. Even so, it was not a matter of hoping that she would hold on for one last holiday. I miss my old lady, but I was aware long ago that this would not be her Christmas.

I thought Tucker might make it to this far. I guessed that, if he did, it would be his last. But I hoped he would see one final Yuletide with me. As it turned out, he did. It just wasn’t this one.

Below is my Christmas card for 2021, inside and out. (You can enlarge the image by clicking on it.) I have included my roly poly. He deserved to be on this card; he survived so much that he has earned it.

I am off for four days this weekend, as I was last year. The usual chores require completion, but I will also relax, read books, listen to music and, of course, spend time with my three boys.

As Mr Poly said, “Merry Christmas, evrybuddy!!” God bless you all.

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Merry Christmas, Mr Poly

Dr Bellen thanked the station-master and returned to the bench where he had been waiting with Tucker R Poly. The two had not been sitting long, and they had enjoyed the snug atmosphere of the station, with a pleasant fire in its grate, and the smell of fir from the evergreen boughs that decorated the waiting room for Christmas.

“The train will be a few minutes late,” he said.


Trains were rarely on time in Idylland. Trains that run on time may have seemed too much like a boast of the wrong kind of regime, so it was not inconceivable that trains were encouraged to be a little behind or ahead of their times. The fact that they were never more than ten minutes late seemed to confirm this.


“I dont mynd,” Tucker said.


“Are you comfortable?” Dr Bellen asked. “Do you need anything?”


Tucker shook his head. He looked tired, but he told Dr Bellen that he was quite comfortable, and thanked him. Nonetheless, he leaned a little against the doctor, when the latter resumed his seat on the bench.


“I had fun,” the cat commented, a moment later.



“Awl the tyme. Eyem haffing fun now.”


“You are?”


“Yes. Eyem wif yoo.”


Dr Bellen regarded Tucker. The cat was not what he once was. He had shrunk considerably, so it seemed to the human. Certainly pounds had been lost, and the once chubby-cheeked face was sunken and thin. Despite all the medicine, despite all the best doctors that the Cosy Apartment Feline Sanitarium could bring to bear on the problem, Tucker had to leave Idylland. He held his ticket on the 8.30 to Samarra in his paw.

“You’ve been through a great deal,” Dr Bellen pointed out.


“I haf no teef.”


“I know.”


“I haf no mancat bits, eyether…”


“I know.”


“I haf die-yabiteez.”


“I know.”


“I haf kidnee faylure.”


“I know.


“Now I haf kanser.”

Dr Bellen didn’t say anything right away, but then asked, “And you still had fun?”


Tucker looked quite serious for a moment. Outside the station, snow was falling. It was cold – though it never gets very cold in Idylland - and there was a cheery glow from the fireplace.

“Yoo haf to haf fun in lyfe. If yoo dont purr, yool bee miserable, even if yoo liv a long tyme. Wut good duz that doo?”


“It’s like what you told Mr Parker when he had to go to Samarra, a few years ago.”


“Mr Parker! Doo yoo think eyell see him wen I get to Samarra?”

“Yes, you will. And Tungsten, and Josie, Cammie and Raleigh, and Bear-Bear, too. All the wonderful people and animals who have gone on ahead.”


“Doo yoo ‘member wen Mr Parker and me got into a fite? Hahahahaha!” Tucker swung his legs, as they hung over the edge of the bench. He was too short to reach the floor from where he sat. For a moment, he looked young again.


“I do,” answered Dr Bellen, smiling. “There was even blood! Do you recall when you wore that device for measuring your blood-sugar?”


“I wuz like the by-onic cat!”

“You were a pioneer. The doctors thanked you for your help. And what about when you had to stay over-night in the infirmary?”


“That wuz after thay took my second bit of mancat bits,” Tucker appeared momentarily annoyed, but then brightened. “Thay gayv me something that mayd me loopy. I tride to nip yoo wen you visited me. Hahahahaha!”


Dr Bellen and Tucker talked about the past eleven years; all the memories they shared came out in funny stories and jokes. The doctor reminded the cat about the innumerable dinners they shared, and the conversations they had while waiting for the food to arrive.

Tucker laughed at how he had once been frightened about leaving his residence at the sanitarium, and how it scared him to walk close to the laundry rooms.

“Yoo see, Doctir? Yoo haf to haf fun, and yoo haf to ‘member that there is mor fun than sadniss.”

A train blew its whistle, and the pair in the waiting room heard the 8.30’s locomotive puffing its approach outside. The station-master exited his office and checked his pocket-watch against the clock on the wall.


“Only ten minutes late,” he said, nodding with satisfaction. He turned to the sole passenger for the train. “Would you like some help with your luggage, Mr Poly?”


“No, thank yoo,” replied Tucker. “I dont haf much.” After the station-master returned to the office, the cat glanced sidelong at Dr Bellen and said, quietly, “He cawld me Mr Poly.”


“Would you prefer that? I’ve always called you Tucker. If I’d known---”


But the cat shook his small head, saying, “No, I lyk it wen yoo cawl me Tucker. But now and then wen sumwun sez Mr Poly, its nyce, cuz it shows respect and kurtisy. It shows eyem not awlwayz the baby of the famlee.”


“I understand,” Dr Bellen said. Then, indicating the doors at the other side of the waiting room, inquired, “Do you want anything from the restaurant to take with you?”

“No, thank you. Eyem not feeling good rite now. I had a reellee good dinner yesterday at the sanatereeum, though, and I had a good brekfist, too – my fayvrit: chick-hen pot-pie grayvee. But now…”


Dr Bellen helped his friend down from the bench.


“Soon, you will feel like eating again, even before you reach Samarra. In fact, everything will feel better soon.”


Tucker perked up as he said, “I noe! I woent haf kanser.”


“That’s right.”


“Or kidnee faylure.”


“Not that, either.”


“And my die-yabiteez will be gone.”




“I will haf awl my mancat bits, too…”


“You will.”






“I will haf TEEF! Hahahahahaha!”

A small crowd had collected on the platform outside the station, dressed warm against the chill air. The train huffed, waiting; a guard, with a kind smile, held the door open to an empty compartment, the seats inside thickly padded, and the air warm.

“Good-bye, Mr Poly… Remember us, Mr Poly… God bless you, Mr Poly…”


Tucker was touched. He had not known that he was so well-liked and respected.


“All you’ve gone through, and how much you kept purring through it all, have brought you many friends,” explained Dr Bellen. He lifted the cat into the compartment and closed the door. Tucker immediately lowered the window and leaned out. He rubbed his furry face against the human’s hand.


“I will miss you, Doctir,” he murmured. “Merry Christmas.”


“I will miss you, too,” responded Dr Bellen, though he did not feel that Christmas would be merry this year.


The train started to move forward. The people and animals on the platform waved and smiled and wished Tucker ‘bon voyage’. Tucker leaned a little farther out the window.


“Merry Christmas, Doctir! Merry Christmas, evrybuddy!!”


Dr Bellen stood on the platform long after the crowd of Tucker’s friends had dispersed. The doctor felt that he had spent a lot of time on train platforms lately. He was still there as twilight crept in its slow and friendly manner from the east. Even in Idylland, winter evenings came early. The lamps of the station came on, and those along the railway, and the lane leading back to the sanitarium. Dr Bellen pulled his coat closer about him, and tugged on the brim of his hat. He at last turned, and set his face for home.

There was still work to do, waiting for him in his office. One of the attendants had kindly lit a fire in the grate, and the flames’ light was reflected on the smooth stones of the hearth.

Dr Bellen walked to his desk but did not yet turn on its lamp. Instead, he lifted one of the framed photographs that stood on a corner. He carried it to the wall next the fireplace and carefully hung it under the others that were there. It was a picture of Tucker, looking very much like the ‘baby of the famlee’. Dr Bellen smiled.


“Merry Christmas, Mr Poly,” he said, quietly. “Merry Christmas.”

Monday, December 20, 2021

The First and Last Christmas

I put up my Christmas tree this past Friday. I have not decorated it, except for the lights, as I figured I would take it one step at a time. Hector is, after all, new.

To my surprise, the boy has completely ignored the tree. This is a cat who will leap up on to the kitchen counters at the slightest hint of food, or hurry over to anything dropped on the floor; play with a dangling electrical cord, and slap small marks on the wall. But the tree, bright with lights, and new and invasive in its spot in the sitting room, did not exist for him. Strange little fellow.

I also hung the stockings. You will note that there are four cats’ stockings. I wanted to include Tucker in this little custom, as I have included him on my Christmas card. He came close to staying for one more Yuletide. And he would never have been able to claim the fancy stocking that goes to the senior cat if I didn’t give it to him this year. Josie relinquished the senior’s stocking only when she died in February, so Tucker would have had no chance at it if he didn’t have it now, despite his absence. Next year, it will be Renn’s, but this year, it is Tucker’s.

Sunday, December 19, 2021

A Parting Gift from Tucker

As readers may recall, I purchased a small, plastic stool for Tucker to use in what turned out to be his last months. It was to help him ascend to his favourite chair at the dining table, and very useful it was, too. But it is strictly utilitarian, and not very attractive. I have, since Tucker’s death, placed it against the ottoman in the library. Because Renn uses the stairs to the bed and those to the sitting room couch, I thought he might benefit from an easier access to the library sofa. He did not used it.

At the back of my apartment building’s ground floor, on the landing of the rear staircase, is a spot where tenants may place items which are usable but no longer wanted by the owner. These include non-perishable food, slightly used clothes, dishes and even small pieces of furniture. I have left objects myself and have, in turn, taken in items. Yesterday, I found this tiny stool – a tuffet, as I prefer to term it - at the recycling spot in my building.

With its heavy wood construction and upholstered seat, it looks much more attractive than the plastic item; I replaced the plastic stool with this new (to me) tuffet. Remarkable to relate, both Renn and Hector have used it already. Sort of. I caught them not stepping on it to reach the ottoman, but sitting and lying on it, as if it were another chair. Well, whatever they see its purpose as, at least they have given it one.

I wish Tucker had had the opportunity to use it. I think he would have liked it. But in his honour, I will call it Tucker’s Tuffet, since I would not have bought the first, utilitarian, stool if not for him, and I would not have replaced it with this. I like to think of it as his going-away present to his roommates. A final gift from my roly poly.