Note: As some of you older readers might remember, my wife Ginny and I used to own a highly literate Irish setter named Molly Bloom. Molly did all the things normal Irish setters do -- break through the bathroom window to chase a squirrel on the lawn outside; chew up a leather wallet the writer's Mom had given him for his birthday; ate five chocolate eclairs Ginny had baked for a Saturday night party and the pet cat Bojangles had swept from the kitchen counter onto the kitchen floor. But, in addition, Molly had a flare for self-expressive writing, and on occasion subbed for this writer when the latter was too busy grading freshman themes to write an "At Random" column for the Sunday edition of this paper. In time, she accrued a considerable readership. In 1998, she won a Pulitzer Prize in Journalism.
Molly, at roughly 50 years of age, of course, currently lies beneath the sod in a garden in the backyard of 320 North Spring -- together with other small animals too numerous to identify individually. Today, the Nash family owns three cast-off cats. They are, in alphabetical order: Betty, an asthmatic gray-hair, of stunted growth and truncated tail. We found Betty, with a bloody stump of a tail, starving, and trying to hold her own against a wandering, mid-size, rough-hair mongrel, later named Winston, out at our 150-year-old stone house in the country. Boots, a sleek-haired swaggerer, is a fast-on-his-paws heavy-weight. He came to us by jumping into our Chevy truck, the moment we pulled up to our new barn, and opened either the door or window, it didn't matter. Harry, the aristocrat of our trio, is a fluffy pure black cat very much the size of Boots and twice the size of Betty. His fur looks to have been worked over by a Mix-Master. We were given him by a young home owner who found him abandoned by the occupant of one of her rental houses. Harry, as his name implies, used to be a bar-room brawler; but now he thinks of himself as a prince in search of a kingdom to rule. When someone opens a door and the other two cats rush for it like kindergarteners at recess, Harry sits or lies where he is, too regal for rushing. He may eat more than the other two combined, but he gets his food, not by brawling for it (as Betty does), or by stealing it out of his rival's mouth (as Boots does), but by waiting until everyone else in the house is asleep, in the very early morning, then knocks the cereal boxes on their sides on the kitchen counters, and paws out their contents, at his leisure--"food shouldn't be rushed" is Harry's number-one sumptuary law.
Last week, thinking of the late-Molly Bloom's newspaper columns, I began to wonder whether I could rely on these three cats to furnish me with the same no-stress, not-so-serious, directionless, but still Pulitzer -caliber babble as I'd gotten from Molly. So, on Sunday night, after "Desperate Housewives," which put them all in very good humor, I called the three of them together around the dining room table, where we always conduct our business meetings, turned on the microphone, and listened raptly to the following conversation, only part of which I print here:
MODERATOR (Nash): For starters, is there anything you'd like to see changed in this house, for your added comfort? We could do anything within reason.
BETTY: Are you kidding, or what? This place is heaven compared to that jungle out in the country, Chuck! I mean, you try being a young girl in a male jungle some time! And that's what your stone house is, a male jungle. Cows, bulls, ducks, chickens, possums, dogs big and small, now even llamas, for god's sake! I try being a "catch," as they used to say. But I've only got half a tail! I sometimes smell pretty bad. And when a male and I get close enough for me to let him kiss me (heck, I don't care what kind of breed he is, just so he's a guy), damned if my nasal condition don't act up, and I honk and honk and honk, until I blow a huge gob of snot in his face. Is that a turnoff, or what?
HARRY: Yeah, barf!!
BETTY: Shut up, you two!
BOOTS: Well, you asked the question, after all . . .. . .
HARRY: Yeah, Snotty . . .
MODERATOR: Hey, guys!!
BETTY: Anyway, once I got control of these two mugs--stopped them from stealing my food and water, from hogging the extra-soft spots on Chuck and Ginny's pillows, from peeing on my personal pink stuffed mouse, that sort of stuff. I came to see I couldn't ask for any improvements. Except maybe a better grade of tap water. Jeez, does that stuff stink!!
BOOTS: Well, I, personally, would like you to install a swinging front door, so I wouldn't have to wait forever for you or your wife to get out of bed and open the front door so I could go out in the morning, to eat grass or climb a tree or, a few minutes later, so I could come back in and shred a newspaper or two . . .
HARRY: Hey, Fatso, next time you try to climb a tree, let me know. I haven't had a big laugh in a long time!!
BETTY: Yeah, Harry, speaking of big laughs, I'd like to see you climb down by yourself from a bar stool
MODERATOR: Er, I think it's time to turn this mike off. Even from that little bit, you can get a general idea, can't you?