Solitary Confinement

by Mike Jourard.
Column for The Leisure Times, Single Gourmet Newsletter, May 1990.

Pussy Cat, Pussy Cat, Where have you been?

     I don’t have a pet, although I have been thinking about getting a turtle. Maybe I’ll get a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. “Turtles fight with honour!” (I just lost 79.8% of my readers, although some of you with young children might know what I’m talking about.) When you live alone, it’s sometimes nice to come home to a not so empty apartment.

     A lot of Humans have this annoying tendency to give their animals such silly names. Like Fluffy, or Spot, or Snowy, or Fido. I believe in giving them “people names.” Like the Turtles, named after their master’s favourite Renaissance painters: Leonardo, Michaelangelo, Donatello, and Raphael. Would you call your child Rover?

     Heidi was my very first pet. She was a field-type mouse. She used to hide in the shavings. Actually, her name was Hidey, but variations in spelling are allowed. Then there were the rats; the white one was Ernestine (as in The Telephone Operator), and Geraldine (as in Jones) was the brown one. It was fun watching the rats watching the cat watch them.

     I like cats. They are such COOL beasts. Unless you get some neurotic dough-head, or a loud-mouthed bitch of a cat, nothing phases them. Independent as the day is long, they do as they please. You don’t OWN cats. If anything, THEY own YOU.

     That’s how my sister, Tigger, refers to them. One of the world’s great cat lovers, she often says, “I’m going over to see Fluffy’s humans.” She means she’s going to visit her friends; Fluffy is their cat.

     If you like cats, check out the book Cat Tales. It contains ten classic stories from favourite writers, such as Colette, Anton Chekhov, and Lewis Carroll. (None by me, I’m afraid.)

     “In that direction,” the Cat said, waving its right paw round, “lives a Hatter; and in that direction,” waving the other paw, “lives a March Hare. Visit either you like: they’re both mad.”

     “But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked.

     “Oh, but you can’t help that,” said the Cat; “we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”

     However much I like cats, I live in an apartment. I don’t believe it’s right to lock up a cat inside all the time. Cats should be allowed to roam free, to come and go as they please, occasionally stopping in for something to eat, or to rub up against your leg, or to catch some sleep in front of the fireplace.

     I remember the best cat this world has ever seen. The embodiment of Cat Cool. Hardly ever said a word, but he knew everything that went on. This was one cat you didn’t mess around with, unless you wanted a face FULL of claws!

     Spiro T. Agnus was born on the street behind our house on May 4th, 1970. He was 18 years, 15 days old when he died. His mother was Boots. She was not the brightest cat in the world, probably the cat equivalent to a Bimbo, whatever that is. I picked her up one day when I was about nine, when she followed me to school.

     When her kittens were born, the people who owned Boots and lived over the fence from us gave me the pick of the litter. That was Spiro. First-born in a litter of four, he had more class in his one paw than most cats have in their whole body.

     And what paws. A polydactyl wonder, Spiro and his brothers all had extra toes. He had seven toes on each front paw, and five on each rear foot. Normal distribution is five and four.

     Spiro seldom had to use them, though. He’d just look at you; you’d back down. He was THAT cool!

     But it was all an act. One time, we took him to the doctor for a check-up. All the way there, he was screaming, “Let me out! Let me out!” When we got to the office, there were other patients in the waiting room. So he immediately goes into his Mr. Cool act.

     “What’s the big deal?” he says to a nervous collie puppy embarrassing himself all over the floor. “Hey! There’s nothing to this!”

     Then all is quiet. The others have left, and it’s Mr. Cool’s turn. Guess who starts to panic once the audience has gone?

     Spiro was known by many nick-names. The Kid was his most common one. In recent years, I had taken to calling him The Old Man. He was also known as the Baz (short for Bazoo), the Hairy Bazoo, the Bald Bazoo when he had his milliares dermatitis, and other such names.

     Known and loved by all, he will be dearly missed. So here’s to you, Spiro, my old friend. There will never be another like you.

     And on that note, I shall shed a tear for my dear, departed friend, and go eat my pizza. The first drink is in your honour, Kid.

     A DOG’S LIFE? You can have it! I prefer a cat’s life!

The Postman Cometh

     I just love to get mail, especially fan mail, or love letters, or postcards from friends on vacation.

     We got a letter recently from Uruguay through EMS/Priority Post. (You go Uruguay, and I’ll go mine!) It was from Ray, our lost friend from the Table 15 bunch.

     “If I haven’t returned your calls, it’s because you haven’t been calling South America. I have accepted a research assignment here and have been in Uruguay, Chile, and Argentina since last fall. It’s amazing what can happen to you when you let be known that you speak Spanish and don’t mind cockroaches.”

     Ray’s mail finally caught up with him. He noted that he was listed as missing, and felt he should let us know he is alive. “I completely agree with Mike’s assessment of the group,” he writes, “and feel that this is something that must be kept alive.” Ray said he would organize another Table 15 Get-Together once he is back in Toronto.

     My first “official fan letter” came to me in care of the Single Gourmet. It was a (belated) Christmas card from Sandy, with cartoon reindeer on the cover. Sandy provided us with the “answer to the Ancient Ritual of Spoon Hanging.

     “It was passed down to me from my oldest Aunt, who was the official keeper of family secrets. My family, from Europe, were always invited to the King’s court as close friends. Or was it court jesters? Anyway, on to the problem.

     “First, brush, floss, and gargle so not to have Jungle Breath coming back in your face when blowing on the spoon.

     “Now the secret unfolds. The common mistake made by many is blowing on the spoon as if you were cooling your soup. Now take a deep breath so to pick up moisture, and blow on the spoon. Quickly affix spoon to nose, and there you have it.

     “Note: Fat noses work best. Maybe that’s where my family has the edge over others. (Just kidding.)

     “Most sincerely, Sandy (Alias Mike).”

     And somewhere out there are two separate postcards for me from two separate friends who went on two separate vacations to New York City. I’m STILL waiting, even though my friends have been back in Toronto for some time now. I wonder if they even have mail service from New York City.

Abyssinia later.

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