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Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2007 01:02 am

The man who talks to cats

Unfortunately, it’s mostly a one-way conversation

Untitled Document When you reach Medicare age, they send you an official paper informing you that you are entitled to one free and complete medical checkup. A friend of mine — we’ll call him Andy — scheduled his doctor appointments bottom to top: He started with a podiatrist and worked his way up, nine “ologists” all in a row. Each one in turn found something wrong and either fixed it or gave him dope to make it less irritating. Andy is in his second week of basement confinement now. The “neck-ologist” is done slicing him open and welding vertebrae together, and all will be swell, they tell him — after two months of intensive exercise. They sold him machines to help him exercise; the machines are in his basement. A young, thin man could complete the workout in two hours — it takes Andy all day. For about half of the day, he is alone and machine-bound, and so he talks to Special Ed and Mr. Chuckles. It started with “Nice kitty” and “Here, kitty kitty.”
Now it’s more to the tune of: “As you know, Special Ed, Internet gambling has always been illegal — something to do with the Wire Act, enacted in 1961. It was a law with no teeth, as far as the Internet was concerned — and so we gambled. And then, in mid-October 2006, they divined another law with large, sharp enforcement choppers! They made it illegal for banks or credit-card companies to process payments to online-gambling operations. “Who are they, Special Ed? Where do they live?”
In this year of 2007, Andy is intent on finding out who they are. Special Ed does not answer. He has decided to limit his activity to eating, sleeping, struggling to make the litterbox, and covering objects. Special Ed covers things; he “plops” ’em and makes ’em disappear. “Have you seen my car keys?” is the question. “Have you looked under Special Ed?” is the answer. That was two years ago, when Special Ed was the size of a breadbox. He’s now the size of a footstool — a stub-legged giant meatloaf footstool with a canned-ham head! “Have you seen the laptop?”
“Have you looked under Special Ed?”
“Have you seen the neighbor’s dog?”
“Have you looked under Special Ed?”
Andy’s wife is a cat person; she has hired expensive veterinarians and expensive cat dietitians to make Special Ed lose weight. They have concocted a special and expensive food for Special Ed. Andy’s wife doles it out in small amounts before she goes to work. Andy does not work, and he’s not a cat person. He’s a cat observer, and Andy has observed Special Ed as he eats the star atop the Christmas tree and then devours the tree itself for dessert. Special Ed eats whole onions and the daily newspaper and brown shoes and unoccupied chairs. This morning, Andy tries bribing Special Ed with a promise of afternoon food. “Talk to me, Ed, and there’s a ham-and-cheese milkshake in it for ya. Talk to me.” Special Ed waddles three meatloaf steps and then plops down on an end table — and makes it disappear. Andy tries Mr. Chuckles. Mr. Chuckles is not fat, and he’s smart, maybe the world’s smartest cat. Andy will speak to Mr. Chuckles about the stupidity of the “Second Prohibition” — the prohibition of Andy’s online poker, and how to find they. Andy: “I’m thinking to start my search for they, Mr. Chuckles. Any advice?”
Mr. Chuckles: Jesus loves you. Andy: What? Mr. Chuckles: Jesus loves you. We need to talk. Andy: Maybe later. Mr. Chuckles is “born again” — again. As nearly as Andy can tell, it happens every time Mr. Chuckles hears someone sing “Amazing Grace.”
Mr. Chuckles is a graduate of many 12-step programs, and so he subjects his born-again episodes to the same curriculum. Steps 1 and 2 have something to do with “basking in the glory of” — and that’s fine. In fact, I envy him his peace, his leap of faith. And then comes Step 3 — wherein he is obligated to convert everyone else to his condition — not good! Eventually he’ll reach Step 6 and quit his new religion, for this step requires him to tithe, to give 10 percent of all he has to someone else, and Mr. Chuckles, like any normal cat, ain’t givin’ nothin’ to nobody.
But for now he’s still at Step 3, and he preaches — and preaches. And preaches! Until, that is, Special Ed, being an atheist cat, tires of it and “plops” Mr. Chuckles and makes him disappear. And then the last doctor, counting from bottom to top, says, “Interesting.” And “How does that make you feel?” And “We need another session; we’ll talk again tomorrow; we’ll talk more of your friend … Andy.”
“Will they be there?” I ask. “Will they be at the session?”
“We’ll see,” he answers. “Maybe.”
“Thank you, Dr. Fluffy. You’re very understanding, a great help. We’ll talk again — tomorrow. We’ll talk the day away.”

Contact Doug Bybee Sr. at dougbybee@sbcglobal.net.
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