Encroaching old age has a few benefits and pleasures, such as (here I pause to list them, except I can't remember what they are). However, one of them occurs to me every night. It takes the form of an affectionate female who climbs into bed with me, curls up and looks at me with a demanding stare that says, “OK, big boy, let's have some music.”
At which point I reach out to my bedside table, pick up my pint-size Sony radio, and switch on WCRB, a 24-hour Boston classical music station. As beautiful sounds emerge, I place the pint-size radio a few inches to the side, where my cat Ellie has established herself.
Ellie barely knows Beethoven from Bach. Nor do I. But with the passage of time I have brainwashed her to prefer good music over the noisy kinds that flood the airwaves as I scroll my Sony in my search for WCRB.
At first I thought Ellie's apparent devotion to the classics was only because I stroked her with a brush or my fingertips as we listened to the music. But then I realized that she remained still and attentive to the music even when I was nowhere near her. Now she remains that way even when I snore or leave the bedroom.
Ellie is about 10 years old, more or less. Her original owners were my daughter Barbara, her husband, Craig, and my four grandchildren. Each summer they traveled, and I began caring for Ellie in their absence. Today they own a Puerto-Rican dog, Kuna, of uncertain lineage and brains, while Ellie and I ease our way into our sunset years. Life can work out nicely sometimes.
Ellie asks for little except food, water, a fairly-well-kept litterbox, and as much attention as I can spare. As I write, she sometimes jumps onto my desk and tries to rearrange the debris scattered there. Her only other vicious trait is to wait until I have a container of coffee or soft drink nearby; then she quickly knocks it over and then gets the hell out of there.
I almost forgot: Ellie also bites. Once a week or so, as I pet her, she will launch a sudden attack on my hand, even after I have stroked her gently for 15 minutes. I howl and search for something to throw at her as she heads for cover, but my aim is always bad. My scars heal within a week, and life goes on.
Ellie is mostly dark-haired, except for a few patches of white that encroach as she ages. According to my cat research, she belongs to a recent cat breed known as Chantilly-Tiffany. That sounds distinguished, don't you think? It redounds of French history and noble warriors dueling for the love of beautiful maidens imprisoned in the Bastille. One day, perhaps, I shall write a novel describing how one brave cat (named — what else? — Ellie) saved an entire French province from the rule of an invading schwein-hundt, Otto von Flungstucker. Sure, Driver, dream on.
Speaking of cat-loving authors, I see TV recently gave us a series about Ernest Hemingway, his skills and neuroses. Years ago, many ambitious writers wanted to write short, tough, descriptive sentences, the way Papa Hem did.
Not me. All I've hoped for is to write one or two columns a year that at least five persons read all the way to the end. Ah, well. You gotta have a dream. At least I'm still kicking the gong. Hemingway blew his brains out when he was only 61. I wish he hadn't. He wrote good.
And he loved cats.