My Cat, Unregistered Investment Advisor

An orange tabby cat beat professionals in a stock-picking competition.  He made his selections by throwing his favorite toy mouse on a grid of numbers allocated to different companies.

                                                         The Guardian

 

I’m “working” from home today, and as I lay down to take the first of my two scheduled naps I noticed Rocco, our tuxedo male cat, standing with his paws on my computer keyboard.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

“Just checking a few stocks in European markets,” he said.  He’s always been a bright cat, but I had no idea he’d opened up an on-line brokerage account.


“Sell Amalgamated Wolfram!”

“You’re not fooling around with my money, are you?”

“You?  Please.  Gimme a break.  Don’t they call security when you walk into Charles Schwab?”

I’m not a high-roller like some of our friends, who like to brag about how much money they make day-trading.  Nope, I’m the tortoise to their hare; diversification of risk, buy mutual funds and stay away from individual stocks, walk slowly and always wear your cartilaginous shell when you go outside.  Still, I know a little about investing.

“No they do not,” I said defensively.

“I know, that was unfair,” Rocco said as he tapped in the Euroclear symbol for General Electric.  “They ask you to go around back to the service entrance.”


“I’m overweighted in large caps.  Also in my hindquarters.”

“Har-de-har-har, so funny I forgot to laugh,” I said.  “Whose money are you playing with, by the way?”

“My own,” he said.

“And where did you get it?”

“If you ever read anything besides The Boston Herald, the comics in the Boston Globe . . .”

“Made famous by Andy Rooney on 60 Minutes when he said ‘What kind of newspaper puts the funnies on the front page?’”

“On the nosey.  And the New York Times Book Review, you would have noticed that I’ve been winning stock-picking contests with impressive regularity.”


“My cat’s smarter than your broker.”

 

“You mean you’re beating the self-promoting do-bees who expose themselves to public ridicule . . .”

“And the obloquy of all right-thinking men . . .”

” . . . by entering Future Brokers competitions?”

“You got it.  I’ve attracted quite a following in our sleepy little burb.”

I should have known.  Everybody wants to beat the market, and with interest rates at historic lows bragging rights for best-performing portfolio–and try saying that five times fast–are highly coveted in playgrounds of the idle rich.


“You can have the Business Section when I’m through.”

 

“So what do you look for in a stock these days?” I asked, not that I was going to switch to active management of my portfolio anytime soon.

“Well,” Rocco said, stepping away from the computer for a moment and gazing out the window to literally take the long view while he figuratively did so.  “I try to toss my mouse up high–that way it can land on a larger number of publicly-traded companies.”

I was silent for a moment, waiting to see if he was pulling my leg.  When he turned back to the screen, I knew he wasn’t kidding.  “You’re taking money from our friends and neighbors . . .”

“They’re all accredited investors . . .”

“. . . and picking stocks based on where your stupid felt mouse lands?”

“You got a better system?”

I had to admit I didn’t.  Because of my innate cheapness–“Chapman” is derived from the Middle English “cheapman,” an itinerant salesman–I try to pick stocks whose price is unfairly deflated by trivial events of passing significance, such as natural disasters, bankruptcy and massive internal fraud.  This strategy–known as “catching a falling knife”–has caused me massive bleeding in my portfolio.

“Well, no,” I said.  “Still–throwing a mouse?”

“Hey–I use the best and most recent information available.  The print edition of The Wall Street Journal.”

“Those are yesterday’s papers, you dingbat.”


“P/E ratios are totally out of whack!”

 

“You need to take the long view,” he said, turning back to check the Hang Seng Index.

“I agree, but my attention span is slightly longer than a common housecat’s.”

He whirled his head around as if he’d heard a coyote.  “Who you callin’ common?” he snapped.

“Oh please.  You don’t seriously expect me to believe that you’re beating the Dow Jones and the Russell 2000 merely by your skill at throwing a stuffed felt toy, are you?”

“Of course not,” he said blandly.  “I use performance-enhancing drugs as well.”

“Adderall?”

“No, dubo.  That mouse is full of catnip.”

Available in Kindle format on amazon.com as part of the collection “Cats Say the Darndest Things.”

Estate Planning for Cats

The Massachusetts legislature has passed a bill allowing residents to write pets into their wills and leave trust funds behind for their care.

               The Boston Globe

Image result for lawyer will signing
“There–Kitzi is all provided for!”

Every year about this time I take stock of my family’s financial situation–how much life insurance we have, the allocation of my retirement plan between bonds, stocks and 60’s era collectible plastic model cars, what would happen to everybody else in our household if I should die before them.

I was sitting at my desk trying to figure out the pie charts on my monthly statement when Okie, the older of our two cats, jumped up on my desk.

“Whatcha doin’?” he asked, mustering as much wide-eyed innocence as a creature who likes to rip the guts out of chipmunks can possibly manage.

“Just my annual financial self-check-up,” I said, reaching into the drawer for an extra box of hyphens.

“I don’t mean to sound . . . crass . . . but have you taken care of me?” he asked.

I gave him a withering look. “You’ll be fifteen years old this year,” I said. “That’s 105 in human years.”

“So? You’re the one who rides his bike on state highways.”

Rocco
Rocco: “You made mom the trustee? Good grief!”

“I wear a helmet,” I said, turning back to something called the PIMCO Variable Rate Long-Term Investment Grade Bond and Baseball Card Fund.  “I don’t think you’re going to outlive me.”

He’s not the brightest cat in the world; he’s gone a long way on looks alone, with females rolling over and swooning at the black stripes in his short grey fur. I could literally feel him trying to figure out an innocent-sounding way to restart the discussion.

“Not for me,” he said, even though I seemed to recall that he’d used the word “me.”  “For the children.”

“You mean Rocco? He’s going to be 9 this year, so he’s 63.  Sorry, I think the humans around here come first because of their longer life expectancy.”

He turned away, a bit miffed.  “Did you see The Globe today?”

Okie
“I can’t go out and get a job at my age!”

“That was their advertising slogan back in the 80’s,” I said.  “Which part?”

“An article that tells how you can set up a trust fund for me and Rocco.  Just in case something tragic–God forbid–happened to you.”

All of a sudden it clicked. There’d been a segment on “Biography” last night about the Menendez brothers, the Beverly Hills teens who killed their parents to get at their assets.

“Forget about it, pal,” I said, and I tried to put some starch into my voice.  “I don’t have enough money to make it worthwhile to bump me off.”

“What are you talking about?”

Rocco came in the room and, as always, sized up the situation in the bat of an eyelash.

“Is he trying to talk you into a trust fund?” he said before sprawling on his back legs to lick his crotch. “I told him you wouldn’t fall for it.”

Image result for radiator

Okie emitted a hiss like the radiators in my first apartment.  “You are so cynical,” he said.

“Am not,” Rocco said, “unless you mean that I’m dog-like.”

“I think he means you mistrusts his motives,” I explained, switching to the figurative from the literal.

“I’m not greedy,” Okie said. “I’m not like Leona Helmsley’s dog, Tycoon.”

“The one who was bequeathed $12 million, later reduced to $2 million?” I asked, although I knew the answer.

Image result for tycoon helmsley
Tycoon, with Helmsley: “He’s the only one who really loved me for the bitch that I am.”

“Yeah–pigs get fat and hogs get slaughtered,” he said, using an old country expression popular among big city lawyers.

I reached over and scratched Okie on the head.  “Don’t worry, if mom or I died you could stay here until the other kicked the bucket.”

“What if you died together?” he asked. He’d apparently thought this thing through thoroughly.

“Well, I’m sure one of the neighbors would take you.”

Image result for jack russell terrier
Jack Russell terrier: Yip, yip, yip.

“Ix-nay on the olstead-Hays,” Rocco said, not even bothering to look up from his nether regions.  “I can’t stand their stupid Jack Russell terrier.”

I looked at the two of them, and realized they had a point.  “Tell you what–you guys can make out living wills, saying who you’d want to live with if we died. How’s that sound?”

“Is that enforceable?” Okie asked–he wasn’t completely on board yet.

“With two witnesses and a notary,” I said.

“And we can choose anybody we want?” Rocco asked.

“Sure–who did you have in mind?”

“Aunt Chris–she sends us Friskies Cat Treats!”

Available in Kindle format on amazon.com as part of the collection “Cats Say the Darndest Things.”

Cat Fancier Magazine Names “Kitten Stuck in Tree” Top 7 News Stories of 2021

ST. PAUL, Minn.  Cat Fancier Magazine, the leading newsweekly for cat owners, released its annual list of top news stories of the preceding year today, with “Kitten Stuck in Tree” taking the top seven honors.


Daring rescue.

“While 2021 was a year of great upheaval in the realms of politics, the environment and social justice, we felt that stories of kittens stuck in trees outweighed climate change and terrorism in terms of human interest and newsworthiness,” said Editor-in-Chief Carmella Hewlett.  “Mr. Wifflesworth agrees, dudn’t he?” she adds as she scratches her ten-year-old, fourteen-pound orange tabby under the chin.

In eighth place was “Kitten Rescued From Storm Drain,” followed by COVID-19 and “Biden Inaugurated.”  In response to critics who found the list too heavily oriented towards kittens in peril, Hewlett blamed demographics and the changing market for special interest magazines.  “I plead guilty to that one–our readers just find stories about kittens to be more appealing, and we’re a business.” she noted.  “But Mr. Wifflesworth is just as cute as those kittens, idn’t he?” she added as she scratched her cat’s belly.


Mr. Wifflesworth, Jr.

Kittens stuck in trees have been a staple of the news business since the 19th century, when a period of intense competition between the Hearst and the Pulitzer newspaper empires resulted in low content, sensationalist reporting that came to be known as “Yellow Journalism.”  “With the dawn of the internet age the hope was that lower production costs would result in higher-quality investigative stories,” says Floyd Harches, a professor of journalism at the University of Massachusetts-Seekonk.  “The exact opposite happened, with cat videos placing second only to porn as the premier source of on-line banner ad revenues.”

Hewlett notes that a cat doesn’t have to be “fancy” to appear in Cat Fancier Magazine, a misconception she says causes more reputable news outlets to write off her reporting as “fluff.”  “It’s used in the British sense of a liking or a fondness for something,” she notes.  “And it’s not as fluffy as Mr. Wifflesworth, is it snookums?”

Available in print and Kindle format on amazon.com as part of the collection “Cats Say the Darndest Things.”

Baptizing My Cats

Another weekend with the in-laws ends on a sour note as the question is again raised, once the Agnostic-Rastafarian in the family (that’s me) steps outside to load the car, why our children aren’t baptized.

mary

For some reason this discussion always takes place when I’m out of earshot and can’t participate.  I think it’s because of my reputation as boy theologian, the kid who received a little plastic statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary every year in grade school for the highest score in Catechism class.  That kind of street cred scares off church-goers who worry more about what to wear to Sunday service than the parable of the lilies of the field (Matthew 6: 28) would suggest is proper.

“The kids are grown–it’s their choice,” I say when the uncomfortable discussion is relayed to me once we’re on the road.

“I know, but it’s really important to my parents,” my wife says.

“Do you think it would help if we baptized the cats?” I ask, trying to think of some way to heal the rift that I’m blamed for causing.

“Why on earth do you think that would help?”

“Well, that way they’d know you’d have company when you get to heaven, since I’m not going to be there.”

d9d97-images

“I don’t think that’s the solution, but I know you’re going to do whatever you want, so don’t mind me.”

We drove on in silence, but as soon as we got home I broached the subject to our two male cats, Okie–a grey tabby–and Rocco, a black-and-white “tuxedo” cat.  “Grandma and Grandpa think you can’t get into heaven unless you’re baptized,” I explained.  “Would you guys be interested?”

“Is the cat food better in heaven?” Okie asked.

“It can’t be any worse than that low-cal Iams crap they feed us here,” Rocco said out of the side of his mouth.

“Everything’s supposed to be perfect up there, so I’d say yeah, it will probably be an upgrade,” I say.

“So we’re talking ‘wet’ catfood for once–like every other cat in the freaking universe gets?” Rocco asks with more than a trace of bitterness.

“Yes,” I say.

“Okay, I’m up for it,” Okie says.  He’s gotten by on his dashing good looks his whole life, and as a result his critical thinking skills are–shall we say–underdeveloped.

“You maybe ought to ask him what’s involved in this ‘baptism’ ritual everybody thinks is so important,” Rocco said, as he lifted one leg and licked at the spot where his balls used to be.

Rocco
Rocco: “You can’t be serious.”

 

I was silent for a minute; Okie stared off into the middle distance, profoundly incurious.  Rocco gave me a look like I was a chipmunk peeking its head out of our stone wall and asked–“Well?”

“Let’s just say it involves water,” I said, trying to keep things vague.

“How much water?” Rocco asked.

“Depends.  Could be a little on the forehead, could be what the Southern Baptists call ‘full immersion.’”

cat1
“I’m a martyr for my faith–or lack thereof.”

 

“What do those words mean?” Okie asked.  Every now and then he shows a spark of intellectual curiosity.  About as often as Halley’s Comet comes around.

“It means I’d dunk you under water and hold you there while I repeated some religious mumbo-jumbo.”

“You’d let me up–right?” he asked nervously.

“Don’t worry–I was baptized Catholic, it’s the lower orders of the Protestants who are the real wing-nuts.”

“So that would involve?”

“Just a little moisture on the forehead and you’re good to go.”

“I’m in!” Okie said as he ran to the laundry room sink, the one he knows from past experience he can drink from without getting in too much trouble.

“How about you?” I ask Rocco, who’s been taking all this in with a gimlet eye and a skeptical ear.

“I think I’ll stay rational and maintain my membership in Agnostics of America in good standing,” Rocco says, not even trying to conceal his mammoth indifference to things religious, that source of comfort to so many.

cat3
“I baptize thee in the name of the Father . . .”

 

“You know, the irrational is way underrated,” I say as I prepare to administer the holy sacrament to the more credulous of our two pets.

“You ever notice how Okie hides under the bed when there’s a storm–and I don’t?” Rocco asks.

“Yes, you’re brave that way,” I say.

“Not brave, just not stupid,” he says.  “It’s a simple discharge of electricity,” he says.  He spent a lot of time sleeping in front of educational TV programs when our kids were young.

“I think the two go hand in hand,” I say, as I scratch his head a bit to show him that we two are of like minds, although I’m pretty sure mine is a good deal bigger than his.

“Lightning and thunder?” he asks.

“No, the tendency to believe in a world of spirits, both benign and malign.  People who think there’s an afterlife where the rivers flow with beer and wine are also the ones who get spooked by mundane natural phenomena,” I say.

“Tell me something I don’t know,” he says as he washes a paw with his tongue.  It garbled his message but I understood him.

Okie
“Wait–what?”

 

“Are you guys about finished, because I’d like to get a dish of that wet cat food before I die,” Okie calls from the sink.

“As usual, you missed a fairly essential part of the program,” Rocco replies.

“What’s that?” Okie asks.

“You have to die to get it,” Rocco calls back to him.

There is silence from the laundry room.  Rocco and I wait to see whether the paradox of the belief in an afterlife will penetrate Okie’s thick but good-looking skull.

After a moment the suspense is broken as we hear Okie say “I can live with that.”

Rocco and I look at each other with, as Keats said in On First Looking Into Chapman’s Homer, a wild surmise.  That’s the Okester for you.

“How about you, Roc?” I ask as I get up to baptize Okie.  “Don’t you want to go to heaven?”

He looks at me for a second, then returns to the task of washing that paw.  “No, pops.  I’d rather be with you.”

Available in Kindle format on amazon.com as part of the collection “Cats Say the Darndest Things.”

Mike the Cat

This is a poem about a cat named “Mike,”
a name for a cat that I rather like.
Not Mitzy, or Kitzi, or Bitsy, or Ditsy,
  Mike’s a guy, and his name quite fitzies.
He doesn’t go for the cutesy-wootsy,
  Although his feet look like little bootsies.

He wears a tuxedo, as he roams around,
  his aging belly slung low to the ground.
His eyesight is fading, far as I can tell,
  so the birds don’t worry that he wears no bell.
He makes his rounds like a cop on his beat,
  moving silently, slowly, on little cat feet.

We try to persuade him to join us for lunch,
  he demurs and moves on, but thanks us a bunch.
He’s got things to do, places to go,
  he’s a busy feline, surely that you must know!
He’s the cock of the walk in our condo complex,
  he monitors every construction project.

He’s up quite early, and stays out late,
  I don’t know that there’s any gal that he dates.
He plays the fields, by which we’re surrounded,
  he gets quite jumpy when by dogs he is hounded.
If he were a human he’d be way down south,
  instead he walks round, with mice in his mouth.

He’s quite self-sufficient, which can be a vice,
  he rejects entreaties if you try to be nice.
He doesn’t need charity, thinks you’re a dunce,
  for trying to get him to sit with you once.
No, Mike is quite the independent guy,
  I know ‘cause I failed the time that I tried.

At the Feline G-20 Summit

News item:  Three stray cats evaded security and wandered around the main stage at a G-20 Summit meeting.

cats

“I seriously don’t know what it is with these human ‘leaders’ who think they run the world,” Rocco said as we stepped onto the stage at the G-20 Summit.

“They’re delusional,” I said as I checked the placement of the microphones and the podium.  “They believe they’re in charge, like some crazy guy who thinks he’s Napoleon.”

We were joined by Chester, an orange tabby who went walkabout years ago while just a kitten.  He’d been on the run, or “feral” in human-speak, ever since, returning to our home on infrequent occasions to berate us for being domesticated house-cats, while he has fomented revolution where’er he went.

cats1
“ME get out?  Why don’t YOU get out?”

“How did the G-7 become the G-20?” he asked.

“If you would come out of the woods every now and then, you might know,” Rocco said.

“I’ll take that to mean you don’t know,” Chester said.

“Ask Okie,” Rocco said.  “He’s older–maybe even wiser.”

“Oak?” Chester said to me with a quizzical tone–or was it merely skeptical?

“It was expansion, like the Memphis Grizzlies, or the Florida Marlins,” I said.  “Broadening the base gets more fans interested in the machinations of the lever-pullers who control the world’s economies.”

cats3
Billy Marlin:  “Why am I wearing my pajamas at the ballpark?  Why not?”

“Have they added a wild-card format since I went off the grid?” Chester asked.

“Everything but,” Rocco said.  “You’ve got Turkey, Mexico . . .”

“Mexico?” Chester asked, incredulous.  “That’s like adding an NBA franchise in Oklahoma.”

“They’ve got one of those too,” I said.

“Good Lord,” Chester groaned.  “I step out of the room for 5 years and all hell breaks loose!”

“Enough with the kvetching, Rocco said.  “We’ve got some serious ruling to do.”

“I’m with you,” I said.  “The twenty humans they’ve assembled for this chivaree couldn’t find their asses with both hands.”

cats4
“We are the world . . .”

“Why is that I wonder?” Chester said.

“It’s the old student council conundrum,” I said.

“What’s that?” he asked.

“The kind of people who are attracted to world government are precisely the ones who shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near it,” Rocco interjected.

“Because?” Chester asked.  He has been out in the woods a long time.

“Because of their vaunting ambition, and overweening self-regard,” Rocco said.  He’s like that; a slumbering giant in the vocab department, but once he gets going it’s Katy-bar-the-door–whatever that ancient phrase means.

“Still,” I said, “I think there’s one world leader who deserves our support as cats.”

“Which one’s that?” Chester asked.

“Angela Merkel.”

I could sense an explosion coming on, like Old Faithful or the Mount St. Helens volcano.  It was Rocco, stifling a laugh, which he could restrain no longer, as he erupted like Vesuvius.

cats5
“BAD cat!”

“And why on earth should we give a rat’s rear-end about her?” he asked with evident skepticism.

“Because,” I replied calmly, “she’s got the best lap of any G-20 leader!”

Available in Kindle format on amazon.com as part of the collection “Cats Say the Darndest Things.”

A Public Option for Cats?

We had finished dinner and I was hoping to relax and watch some TV when my wife stopped me on the way to the couch.

“We need to talk,” she said in a somber tone–never a good sign when you hear that.

“About what?”

“Expenses–I can’t believe the bills we have coming due!”

“These things always work out,” I said.

“I had to write a big check today,” she said, her forehead furrowed like a field of soybeans.

“For what?”

“A doctor’s visit–$332!” she said with exasperation as she held out the patient’s copy.

“I thought it only cost a $10 co-pay.”

“Not for me–for the cats.”

I was shocked.  We have two cats, but they seem to be in good health, both physical and mental.

“What was wrong?”


Exercise is important.

 

“Nothing.  Just shots and a regular checkup–weight, heart–the usual.”

It had somehow escaped my attention until then that while the country was engaged in a fierce partisan debate over healthcare for humans, we had taken our eye off the nation’s pets.  With veterinarian’s bills skyrocketing out of control, pet-related healthcare costs threaten to consume an ever-larger portion of the American worker’s take-home pay, larger than the gut of a widow’s pampered dachshund.


“Does this coat make me look fat?”

 

“Let me see that,” I said as I grabbed the receipt out of her hand.  I added it up–not that that would have changed anything.

“Let me talk to the guys about this,” I said with firmness, and I walked into the family room where our two cats–Rocco and Okie–were sunning themselves.

“Can I talk to you two for a second?” I said.  They both looked at me like I was a bulk bag of dry cat food from a wholesale club, when they were hoping for Friskies Party Mix.

“I’m kinda busy,” Okie said.

“I wouldn’t call sleeping 16 hours a day ‘busy,’ but perhaps this is a subject on which reasonable species can differ,” I said.

“You’re pretty articulate for a guy who’s just had three glasses of wine,” Rocco said.

“I burned the alcohol off when I saw this!” I said as I thrust the vet’s statement in front of their noses.

“What do you want us to do about it?” Okie asked, barely raising his head from the floor.

“I want you to see how much you guys cost us,” I said.

“Did I tell you to have cats?” Rocco asked as he licked his paw and rubbed his ear.


“. . . like I give a flying you-know-what at a rolling chew toy.”

 

“No, but we’re all in this together.  Every nickel we have to spend at the vet is less money we have to spend on cat food.”

“I got news for you,” Okie said.  “I don’t think you could spend any less on cat food than you already do.”

“Are you kidding?  That Iams low-call stuff is expensive!”

It was Rocco’s turn to gripe.  “You’re not getting your money’s worth,” he said.  “Why do you think we’re always eating chipmunk guts?”

“You’ll thank me in a couple of years when your stomach isn’t dragging the ground,” I said.

“Are those cat years or human years?” Okie asked.

“Whatever.  It’s for your own good.”

“No, it makes you feel good,” Rocco said.  “It makes us miserable.”

“Look–everybody in this house needs to maintain a healthy lifestyle!” I snapped.

“Or what?” Okie asked.  If he’d had eyebrows, one of them would have been raised.  I didn’t like his tone.

“Or we may have to cut back in other areas,” I said in an even tone.  “Like maybe–one cat instead of two.”

“I told you there’d be death panels!” Rocco said.

“You wouldn’t dare!” Okie said, finally taking the trouble to prop himself up on one leg.  “I’ll call the MSPCA!”

“Go ahead,” I said with a laugh.  “They’re the merchants of death, not me.”

That sobered them up a bit.  “We need a public option,” Rocco said after a few moments.  “For cats.”

I hate to say it, but the level of economic ignorance among American household pets is simply appalling.  “Yeah, that’s just what we need,” I said with a sneer.  “Any cat and his dog can just waltz into an emergency room and get unlimited free healthcare.”

“What’s wrong with that?” Rocco asked.

“You end up ballooning the deficit!” I said with alarm.


John Maynard Keynes:  “When the facts change, I change the kitty box.”

 

“What was it Keynes said?” Okie asked.  “‘In the long run, we are all dead.’”

I can’t tell you how annoying it is to have a Keynesian cat in the house.  No matter how many times I show him how government “stimulus” programs have failed time and again, prolonging economic downturns and acting as a stealth tax on those at the lower end of the economic spectrum through inflation, he just keeps parroting the same cockamamie theories back at me.


Children:  They’re cute when they’re young.

 

You may be dead in the long run, and I may be dead in the long run,” I said with determination, “but our children and their grandchildren aren’t dead in the long run.”

They looked at each other for a moment, then broke out laughing.


Babe-licious!

 

“Spare me,” Rocco said.  “You may have children, but we sure as hell won’t.”

“Remember?” Okie added.  “You had us neutered before we could get it on with that long-haired bitch next door.”

Available in print and Kindle format on amazon.com as part of the collection “Cats Say the Darndest Things.”

The Baddest Cat on the Team

          A star high school quarterback was persuaded to play football at Rice University by a handwritten letter its offensive coordinator wrote to his cat.

Sports Illustrated

Rocco
“With these feet, I’m gonna need high-tops, like Johnny Unitas.”

Ho-hum.  Another day, another Division I offensive coordinator prostrating himself before me.  “Dear Rocco,” Clyde van Pelt of Nebraska writes.  “Can’t you see yourself in beautiful Lincoln, Nebraska on Thanksgiving Day, with 87,000 screaming fans urging you–and of course your human–on to victory with a national title on the line?”

Uh, no, actually I can’t.  “Beautiful Lincoln, Nebraska”?  Are there two of them?  Is the beautiful one located out-of-state?

To cop a line from Fred Allen, Nebraska’s a great place to live–if you’re a stalk of winter wheat.  Into the round file from waaay downtown–for three!

Okay, who’s next?  Penn State.  Sorry, when I go into the kitty box, I want privacy.  Ix-nay on the ittany-nay ions-lay.

Okie
“How about me?  I’m a Nittany Cat.”

Whadda we got here.  Harvard?  Are they serious?  Well, an Ivy League education is worth something–in some benighted minds.  Let’s see what kinda package they’re offering.  Canvas tote bag, no-show job at the Widener Library, free use of a Volvo station wagon.  For what?  To pick up Environmental Studies majors in Harvard Square?  That ain’t the way the Big Cat rolls.

Let’s see–Miami.  Too hot.  Wisconsin–too cold.  Missouri–they don’t pay enough.

Stanford–now we’re getting some place.  Top-notch academics, competitive program, all those venture capital alums to give me a job in case I go undrafted.

And the pussy!  I mean really sharp looking cats, brainy too!

Gotta get this one in front of the bi-ped, see what he thinks.

Funny kitten
“I want everybody down in a 4-point stance!”

Hey–wake up, Cheetos-breath.  C’mon, don’t force me to make happy paws all over that stupid sweater of yours.

Yeah, you, numbnuts.  Have you signed your national letter of intent yet?  Well, don’t, okay?  I want you to look at Stanford, then maybe Northwestern, or Virginia, before you commit to four years in some God-forsaken hell-hole where the only entertainment is football and beer.  I don’t want to waste the best years of my life in some place that Gertrude Stein would rank lower than Oakland; not only no there there, no where where.

Look at this course catalog–lots of interesting classes.  History and Philosophy of History and Philosophy.  Can’t top that for circular academic thinking.  The Courtly Tradition in Fiction from Le Morte d’Arthur to Raymond Chandler.  Cats in Cartoons: From Felix to Top Cat.

cats4
“PLEASE–promise me you’re not considering Ohio State!”

What?  Oh you want to spend the next four years in a drunken stupor–is that it?  Well, include me out, Buster.  This cat’s got a brain, okay?  Even if we make it to the NFL–and that’s a big if–we’ll spend the first three years holding a clipboard. Making millions of dollars, granted, but do you know how many jobs there are out there for clipboard-holders?  Not too freakin’ many, pal, and they don’t pay diddly squat.  You know why?  Low barrier to entry.  Anybody can be a clipboard holder, it takes very little training, no professional certification or state-mandated test, no . . .

catfood

Hey, what’s this?  Somebody actually took the time to write us a nice handwritten note–in big cursive letters, too!  This is straight outta Martha Stewart!

Lemme see where it’s from, gimme gimme gimme.  Rice U?  Wha?  You mean like Eukanuba Adult Dry Cat Food Lamb and Rice Formula?

Yuk.

Isn’t there a University of Friskies Party Mix?

Available in print and Kindle format on amazon.com as part of the collection “Cats Say the Darndest Things.”

Behind Enemy Lines With the Parachute Cat Corps

Thomas De Quincey’s elder brother William succeeded in some attempts at bringing down cats by parachutes.

                                              The Life of Thomas De Quincy, Malcolm Elwin

Image result for cat parachute

As I looked around the hold of the Puss in Boots, I realized I might be spending my last moments with my buddies Okie, Chester and Chewie.  We were cats on a mission; to drop behind German lines and insinuate our way into the hearts and minds and onto the laps of hausfraus wearying of World War II.  The plan was to pull off a Lysistrata of sorts; have them withhold their, um, favors from their men and bring the Third Reich to its knees.

Image result for fat german woman
“. . . glug, glug, glug, glug, glug . . .”

 

“You guys ready?”  It was Captain Lemuelson, captain, as you might have surmised, of the crew, leading us to ask in our minds who the hell was flying the plane.

“I heard that,” Lemuelson snapped, brooking no question to his authority, not even an internal monologue.  “We have a perfectly well-qualified Co-Captain who’s handling the knob and the stick and the wheel and that other thing, the watchamacalit.”

“The whammy bar?” someone asked.

“No, that’s a guitar part.”

“The who-si-whatsis?”

“That’s it.  Anyway, if any of you are about to crap your pants from fear, the chaplain is here to offer a few words of prayer.”

Image result for world war II chaplain airplane

Father McCloskey stepped forward, and none too steadily I might add.  He’d been transferred from the Army and was afraid of heights, so my guess was that he’d taken a nip or two of sacramental wine.  He crossed himself and began to speak, slowly and reverently: “Bless us O Lord, and these thy gifts, which we are about to receive, through . . .”

“We’re not getting ready to eat, you dingbat–stop saying grace.”

“Oh–then what were the cocktails for?”

The Captain gave him a look that could have defrosted a freezer.  “Just say something to make these cats’ leap to a near-certain death easier to bear, would ya padre?”

The cleric began again.  “Dear Lord, please guide these cats on their way to the heart of the enemy.  Let them warm it and turn the thoughts of the Huns towards their fellow Europeans, whom they will one day crush by monetary rather than military means.  Ah-men.”

Image result for angela merkel young
Angela Merkel checking to see how much her Greek friends owe her.

 

Those of us who’d been raised in Catholic homes made the Sign of the Cross, everybody else just improvised with various non-denominational forms of hand jive.  Then we were ready to jump.

Image result for cat parachute

We’d been drilled in questions the Nazis might ask us to determine if we were really German if they found us crawling through the countryside.  Name Goethe’s latest best-seller.  Who’s better, Bach or Mozart?  Which Katzenjammer Kid is which?

Image result for katzenjammer kids

I looked at Okie, and he looked at me.  He started to give me a little thumbs-up, then realized that he didn’t have opposable thumbs.

“I guess this is it, Rocco,” he said.  “It’s been great . . .”

“Like hell it has, unless you were going to say it’s been great having the living crap beaten out of you on a regular basis.”

He gave me that stupid smile of his, the one that comes over his face when he knows I’m making fun of him and still doesn’t get the joke.  He is not, to put it metaphorically, the brightest bulb on the scoreboard.

“If one of us doesn’t survive, the other has to write mom, okay?” I said.

“Sure, sure,” he said.  We knew the odds were against us.  We’d read about Operation Cat Drop, the British plan to parachute cats into Sarawak, Borneo to fight an infestation of rats.  Pretty Sara-wakky if you ask me.  There are no reliable accounts of what happened, and the fear that all of us felt was we were guinea pigs being used to test some crackpot theory cooked up back at HG.  And nothing offends a cat’s dignity like being used as a guinea pig.  Fer Christ sake, you can get guinea pigs cheap at Pet World.

Image result for cat parachute

Frankly, I wasn’t even sure we needed parachutes.  I mean, have you ever seen a cat fall and not land on its feet?  The whole parachute pack was a nuisance, if you asked me.  Without it, I could have hauled a lot more food and probably survived in the wild until I’d found the perfect little German gingerbread house to take me in.

Image result for cat parachute
Elite black Schwarze Katz paracat prepares for night jump.

 

We clipped our chutes to the overhead rail, and the plane banked slowly to the left over Berlin.  If all went well, one of us would make it to the bunker and beguile Eva Braun into talking her man into calling the whole thing off.

“What is it we’re supposed to say again?” Okie asked me.  His short-term memory is shot from too much catnip.

Image result for eva braun
The face that launched a thousand-year Reich.

 

“Geronimo.”

“What does that mean?”

“He was a daredevil Indian, used to jump from high places.”

“Without a chute?”

“He didn’t need no stinking parachute.”

I saw Okie gulp a little.  He was plainly nervous.  “Besides that Borneo Cat Drop, has anybody else ever tried what we’re about to do?”

“Well, there was Thomas De Quincey’s older brother.”

“Isn’t that the guy who wrote Confessions of an English Opium-Eater?”

“That’s the one.”

“So we’ve got a hare-brained scheme to land cats in Borneo, a crazy Indian and a drug-head, right?” Okie asked.

“That about sums it up, pal,” I said.

He looked out the door of the plane, then back at me.  “Well,” he said just before he jumped, “That’s good enough for me.”

Available in Kindle format on amazon.com as part of the collection “Cats Say the Darndest Things.”

Ask Mr. Car Person

Is your car making a funny sound?  Does it give off a bad smell?  Ask Mr. Car Person for help, and as soon as he gets the grease off his hands, he’ll type out an answer to your question.

Dear Mr. Car Person–

My husband “Carl” is a certified public accountant, which as you probably know can be a very “stressful” job in the spring.  During these periods I have to take care of “manly” things he is too busy for, although he always seems to find time for bowling.  “Carl” was recently going over our bills from the gas station and saw that I paid for a tune-up for our 2014 Buick LeSabre last October and again in April.  Why the hell did you do that? he asked, and not very nicely.  I said to him, “You told me to get the car serviced, so I did.”  He says a tune-up, which can cost over $100, isn’t the same as getting a car serviced, although he couldn’t explain how.  Can you tell me what a “tune-up” is, and how I am supposed to know technical things like this?

Thank you in advance,

Mrs. Beverly Johnson, Ouachita, Oklahoma

Dear Mrs. Johnson:

“Regular” auto service usually means just an oil change, lube job, a check of fluid levels and belt wear.  “Tune-up” is a technical term that refers to a specific automotive procedure in which a car’s engine timing is calibrated, spark-plugs, points, distributor cap and rotor replaced, and valves adjusted.  Here’s a handy yardstick: regular service every 3,000 miles, tune-up every 30,000 miles.  You have indeed paid for a tune-up when you didn’t need it, but I think the bigger problem is a simple lack of spousal communication.

Hey Car Person–

Long-time reader, first-time writer.  I like to think I’m pretty knowledgeable about cars, but I took my 2012 Ford Explorer in for the Meineke $49.95 Lifetime Muffler Special recently and when I came back from getting a cup of coffee, which is how I pass the time when my car’s in the shop, I was in for a surprise.  There was an add-on of $73.25 for something I couldn’t make out on the bill.  I asked the guy there who didn’t look none too bright and I swear he says he had to put in a new “frammis gadget attachment,” my old one was worn out.  Car Guy, when I got home I went straight to my Chilton’s Auto Repair Manual and I can’t find anything that even looks like “frammis gadget.”  Help me out here.

Lloyd Putnam, Jr.,  Hibbing, Minnesota

Lloyd–

My guess is that the serviceman was referring to the Explorer’s throttle body spacer or perhaps the knock sensor, two parts that have not proven to be durable for your model year.  Without listening to the fellow talk I can’t be sure, however.  Let this be a lesson to you-–drink the free coffee at the garage where your car is being serviced, no matter how bad it is.

Dear Mr. Car Person:

I am sure that our car makes noises, but my husband claims he doesn’t hear them.  He says I am having auditory hallucinations, and should see a psychiatrist.

Ethel Robertson-Needermeyer, Rye, New Hampshire

 

Dear Mrs. Robertson-Needermeyer (that’s a mouthful!)-

What kind of noises?

Mr. Car Person–

I am a philosophy major at Central Illinois State University and must commute 18 miles to school each way.  Yesterday a guy in a greasy “DeKalb Seed Corn” cap rolled down his window at a stoplight and said “You ought to get your tires rotated.”  What does that mean?  Don’t all tires “rotate”?  If they didn’t rotate, how would the car move?

Leon Racunas, Kankakee, Illinois

 

Leon-

Even though you are a philosophy major, the difference between “rotating” and “revolving” tires is one you should be able to grasp.  Tires should be rotated from one wheel to another every 3 to 4 thousand miles in order to preserve balanced handling and even out tire wear.  There are three basic patterns for tire rotation–the forward cross, the rearward cross, and the “X” exchange or “flea flicker.”  These look very much like a “backfield in motion,” so you should perhaps have someone from the football team explain them to you.

Mr. Car Person–

The sound is like “ta-pocketa-pocketa,” and is heard whenever we parallel park.

Ethel Robertson-Needermeyer

 

Ethel:

If your car is an automatic, my guess is you are low on transmission fluid, unless your husband is a ventriloquist and is trying to drive you insane.


Big Kitty

 

Mr. Car Person–

My wife and I have had a place at the Lake of the Ozarks for many years. When we first got it we were newlyweds, and she used to take her cat “Big Kitty” down for the weekend ’cause she didn’t want to leave it alone.  Anything to keep her happy I said at the time, but after a while I put my foot down.  Leave the damn cat at home, I said.  That’s why you get a cat instead of a dog.  Over the years she (my wife, not the cat) has developed a number of subterfuges for sneaking Big Kitty down to the cabin.  She’ll hide it in a picnic basket, or her sewing bag, and as soon as we are too far from home to turn back, she springs it on me–surprise!  This is what I have to put up with.


Big Kitty, when little

 

Anyway, last week we got about as far as Tipton when I stopped for gas. There was a guy there who offered me a Bass Pro rod and reel if I would take him down to the Bagnell Dam, where he said he was gonna meet some people.  Sounded like a good deal to me, so my wife got in back and he rode shotgun.  We no more than got out on the road again than he pulls out a fishing knife with a serrated edge and says “I’m the Beaman Strangler–don’t pull any funny business and you won’t get hurt.”  Mr. Car Person–I have never been so scared in my life as the Beaman Strangler has terrorized Central Missouri for several years now.


Dramatic re-enactment of the crime.

 

He had barely got the words out of his mouth when Big Kitty comes over the top of the seat and lands on the Strangler’s hands–I guess she smelled fish on the knife and just went crazy.  It was enough of a distraction so that I could grab the knife away from him but we ran off the road in the struggle and crashed into a car that was parked at a memorial marker where Jesse James robbed a train or something.

My insurance company tells me that I am 100% at fault because the other guy was stopped for a legitimate purpose, and that I am liable for the deductible.  In other words, I get the aggravation of being threatened with a knife and I’m out $500.  Should I try and patch the radiator myself or take it to a professional?

Ray Lee Suggins, Smithton MO

Ray–

Sorry to hear of your misfortune.  A car radiator is a delicate thing, and any error you make in fixing it can lead to further damage to your engine block.  As hard it may seem to you after such a traumatic incident, you should always seek the assistance of a trained automotive service professional for major repairs.  And thank your lucky stars that your wife is a cat lover!

Available in Kindle format on amazon.com as part of the collection “Take My Advice–I Wasn’t Using it Anyway.”