HO Press is so honored to publish the second edition of Never Say Neigh which now comes with a Discussion Guide. This is a wonderful book for all ages which stresses the positive side of life. Horse Noah Vail and his human voice, Mary Farr, remind us in each tale that life is good and we should never say neigh. Available on Amazon.com
I’d like to report a conversation I had with Madam’s number two hairball pet—the cat. To be more specific, the Fluff Muffin Cat, Mickey, who toured around Minnesota like the dog, perched on the console of Madam’s Subaru Outback; the cat that nonchalantly goes poo-poo in his kitty box while Madam tries to keep the car on the road. Well, this morning, in the spirit of the approaching holiday season, I asked the Fluff Muffin if he might like my help writing a letter to Santa—or to whomever cats commune at holiday time. The Fluff Muffin gave me the cat look. Unlike the Jack Russell look, which typically involves food or rodents, this one implied I could use coaching in feline political correctness. It did not qualify as a warm-fuzzy look.
As much as I enjoy all creatures, great and small, my knowledge of kitty culture appeared to be wanting. My choice of small talk fell flat, so I finally asked him about his health. He rolled his eyes. Incidentally, this this cat did not meow. He chirped—and rather girly chirps at that. I did understand a little Spanish, but I didn’t understand feline chirps coming from the mouth of a robust male cat. As I seemed to be getting nowhere, I decided to try a few interview questions—the leading kind of questions that sometimes catch a cat off his guard.
“What do cats like for Christmas or Hanukkah—or birthdays, for that matter?” I inquired.
“Nothing,” he chirped rather dismissively.
“Surely you must want something,” I persisted. “Maybe you could use a new hat or a game of kitty Monopoly? How about your very own fishbowl? Perhaps you’d like an iPod or a mouse soufflé?” He missed the humor in that one, of course.
Silence. Then he chirped, “I like my box.”
“Does that mean you want a new box?” I queried.
“No, I like this one. And tell Santa or the UPS person who oversees box deliveries not to launder or vacuum my box either,” he instructed firmly. “Actually, I wish you would give Madam that same message. Just when I get the hair and toys perfectly arranged in my current box, she tosses the whole works into the washer. Then I have to start all over, organizing fragrances and what not.”
“I know what you mean,” I offered. “She does have this cleanliness obsession.”
On one hand, it certainly would simplify Madam’s holiday gift list if she only had to provide the Fluff Muffin with a new box or keep her hands off his current box. On the other hand, I’d never met anyone who didn’t want some special gift, especially at the holiday.
“No flat screen TV? No trip to Barbados?” I persisted.
Mr. Fluff had hardly changed position in that box since the last time I photographed him. That was in September, for my Facebook fan page. It was a kitty mystery if I’d ever seen one.
Coincidently, the next morning, while delivering my holiday cookies at Evergreen, I discovered Snuggles snoozing in a similar cardboard box. (Incidentally, this box was designed for a much smaller cat than Snuggles.) I actually mistook her for a coonskin hat lodged in an Ariat purse, though I did not share this observation with her.
As I pondered this new box situation, it made me wonder if this this was another one of those cat-in-the-box eccentricities practiced by the Fluff Muffin. Perhaps, but unlike Madam’s city kitty, Snuggles was a proper barn cat. She was an upstanding hunter, a savvy prowler, and a girl who liked to mix it up with the neighborhood roughnecks. Snuggles actually could scale a vertical wall and make it to the haymow when in pursuit of a chipmunk. Somehow, it struck me as odd that she suffered from the same cat-in-the-box malady as the Fluff Muffin. Hence, I asked Snuggles how she liked her Costco box.
“I love it,” she replied, with a long, leisurely stretch.
“And tell me, have you had a chance to post any holiday gift requests?” I asked.
“Why, yes,” she purred. “You’re looking at it.”
“You mean you requested this teeny box that once served as home to canned peas?” I asked, realizing we had a recurring theme here. Then, I asked her to help me understand why cats treated boxes as if they were upholstered in mackerel.
She scowled. “Tell me why you idolize your room,” she shot back. Oh brother, what a sharp-tongued little squirt. “Well, it’s cozy, and I can practice my Spanish privately without disturbing the neighbors,” I offered. “I also can hum Tony Bennett Christmas tunes in my room if I want, and I don’t have to clean up or wear party clothes. And I can burp in my room, and nobody complains.”
“So,” said Snuggles, “can’t you see that this box is my room? Hanging out here just makes my day run more smoothly. It’s the place where I feel like my most essential me. No mice to catch. No dogs that require whacking. No Monday Night Football or bad news about homeless cats headlining Animal Planet TV. This humble box serves as my official Evergreen address.”
I couldn’t say that I understood cats any better, thanks to that little speech, but she did make a good point. It was fabulous to feel at home in your own room or whatever special place felt like your room. Snuggles caught me off guard with her question about my room, but then I thought about what made it so delightful.
First, it was just the right size for a guy of my build. I appreciated appreciated that the landlord furnished two water buckets, so I could wash my hay in one and wet my whistle in the other. Every day I took delivery of some comfy shavings that invite napping. Andres did a fine job, helping me keep things neat. It just felt like I belonged here. Or maybe this place belonged to me or to all of us. For that matter, Madam belonged to me, and I hoped she’d say the same about me. I liked that. I liked fitting in this space. It was as if I was the last piece of a jigsaw puzzle. Me oh my, such a grand feeling. And another thing, I really liked that nearly all my neighbors were up for a game of cribbage almost any time of the day or night. These little details might sound rather dull to a cat, but they worked for me.
As for Snuggles and the Fluff Muffin, they might not play gin rummy but they felt the same about their boxes. I wondered if Evergreen’s companion goat Bella thought about her room or if she just chewed any old boot that fell into it. On the other hand, Melanie and Olivia acted rather snarky about their rooms. Maybe they liked their personal space a bit too much and felt they had to protect it. It also was possible they played Scrabble together without interruptions from the rest of us. In that case, they probably felt the same about their rooms as we did. I’d have to make a note to interview them about this topic the next time we chatted.
Once I get better on the keyboard, I thought, maybe Madam will let me bring a laptop to my room. Then I could write more about these mysteries of life right when they arose, rather than after the fact.