The world according to Alphonse

Published 12:22 pm Monday, October 5, 2009

A new cat has taken up residence here at the farm. &squo;Alphonse,&squo; aka &dquo;Big Head,&dquo; appeared some months ago, applying, he told me, for the position of barn cat. Sociable, but very much his own person, for the first two days he greeted me in the stable by simply following me about, curious to know where things were kept and why. The third day, it poured and, looking up from my tea at breakfast, I saw his enormous head pressed against the glass of the storm door, pleading to be let inside.&dquo;It&squo;s raining.&dquo; his baleful expression explained.&dquo;You&squo;re a barn cat.&dquo; I replied.&dquo;House cat.&dquo; he suggested, not blinking. &dquo;Today, house cat.&dquo;As I opened the door, he walked calmly passed the terriers who sniffed this spotted invader thoroughly, then lay quietly on the floor, surveying his new surroundings. Our older cat, Vicky, was furious and fled upstairs, but the youngest one, Tippy, was mesmerized and lay in front of him, watching every move. Within half an hour they were wrestling and, after that, Alphonse wanted to nap but Tippy, only 6 months old at the time, found it much more entertaining to hurl herself repeatedly against his solid body, trying to elicit some sort of playful response. When none came and feeling somewhat battered from fruitless exertion, she slept next to him.I&squo;ve never seen a head the size of Alphonse&squo;s. The fact that his black and white coloring is distinctly Dalmatian with a band that divides his face in half, like a bandit, only adds to his dramatic presence. He is enormous and completely emotionless ~ not unlike one of those giant stone heads on Easter Island: impassive, impressive and comforting in an odd way. He allows his head to be scratched but that is all, thank you very much. Being picked up makes him squirm, neither is he a lap cat. But over the weeks, he has shown a clear desire to be involved in everything with everyone. When I walk the long drive to the mailbox, the terriers trot on either side of me and Alphonse, trotting just as vigorously, brings up the rear. If Bonnie and Rosie are digging a hole in the woods, Alphonse is lying on the lip of the excavation, peering with interest at the proceedings. He has immersed himself in dressage and watches me ride each morning in the sand arena which he has also claimed as his personal litter box. In the evenings, as Paul and I watch television, he sits quietly, facing us, on the coffee table and, lately, has insisted on sleeping beside us on the nightstand. Twice, as he changed positions to get more comfortable, he has, with his giant head, knocked the lamp on top of me while I was sleeping. A helluva way to be wakened.&dquo;It&squo;s like having a body guard that&squo;s trying to kill me.&dquo; I said to Paul.&dquo;Perhaps he&squo;s applying for the job of sentry.&dquo; he agreed.I really didn&squo;t want another house cat. The constant vacuuming of fur-tumbleweeds that gather beneath furniture, &squo;accidents&squo; occurring during the night, only to be stepped in uring the morning…and, ironically, it was one of these instances that sealed his fate. Watching the morning news, I heard the faintest and most polite of wretches.Rising quickly from the sofa, I saw Alphonse, trying to rid himself of a hairball, actually leave the area rug where he had been sitting and make his way to the bare, hardwood floor, realizing it would be easier to clean up. &dquo;How very considerate, Alphonse. Thank you.&dquo; I said.Wiping his mouth, he caught my eyes and replied, &dquo;House&bsp; cat.&dquo;

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