Amblin' Alameda: Cats

Amblin' Alameda: Cats

Morton Chalfy

We live with two cats, siblings from the same litter of gray tabbies: A male named Leon, after Leon Redbone; and a female named Bessie, after Bessie Smith. They are very nice cats, as cats go. They're happy with us unless the food bowl is empty, at which point they begin to make their displeasure known by sitting and staring at us until their telepathic message gets through. (It's a simple message: FOOD!)

Leon occasionally bullies Bessie, so most of the time she contentedly naps in one of her "special" places where he doesn't usually annoy her. Leon is devoted to the mistress of the house, follows her around, lies down between her keyboard and computer monitor (much to her disgust and disapproval) and sleeps at her feet on the bed, at night. She kicks him off (gently nudges him off is more accurate), but he merely decamps until she's asleep and then firmly ensconces himself behind her knees, pinning her under the blanket.

Bessie has a sweet, round face (Leon's is triangular and saturnine) and a timid nature and a habit of sticking her head into any idle hand for petting and scratching. At my desk, my hands often hang at my side while I contemplate the screen and it is very surprising to suddenly feel a little round, furry head in my palm.

In the mornings, if I do not rise at an hour the cats consider seemly (they want to be fed) Bessie will leap onto the bed and put her whiskered face right next to mine, tickle my beard with her nose and begin to purr loudly. Loudly. If I grumble and roll over and pull my hands in under the covers and other­wise make it clear that I'm not getting out of bed right then, she will settle herself just above my head and purr incessantly.

We speak to our cats (who doesn't), but not with any hope that they will either understand or answer. But they clearly share our lives and have their own cat understanding of us. They are aliens to us as we are to them, but not so alien that we can't love one another. The companionship they offer is of a different order than the companionship of dogs, say, or other humans, but it is a real companionship nevertheless. We share space, food, emotions and pets. They like being petted and we like petting.

Mousing is no longer part of their job description, but Leon is ready and eager to take it up if called upon, judging from the following fact: Leon has four little fake mice originally filled with catnip. He likes to "hunt" these mice and carry them out to whatever room we're in and deposit them at our feet, often with a meow and a smug look. Today is cleaning the house day, and all his mice have been put away with his other toys. As soon as we will sit down to relax this evening he will trot them out. We will move into the den to watch the evening news and Leon will retrieve the mice from our sitting room and carry them back to the den.

You can take the cat out of the country, but you can't take the country out of the cat.


Submitted by Kevin Mooney (not verified) on Mon, Sep 15, 2014

Hi Mort. I was thinking of interesting, creative individuals from my past today, and your name immediately came to mind. I'm thrilled to discover that you are alive and well (and blogging) in the Bay Area. For several months in the early 1980's, I did some work for you collecting new business listings in and around Sarasota as part of your Newbiz concept. I was a local musician with long blond hair, and I spent a fair amount of time at your house with you, your son and the silver fox (David?) who spent hours upon hours learning to program those neolithic computers. Though our paths crossed briefly, your intelligence and creativity left an impression that has lasted a lifetime. Cheers, Kevin Mooney (

Submitted by Anya (not verified) on Mon, Sep 22, 2014

Leon and Bessie are lucky to have such good loving caretakers. Three years ago, a wondering cat decided to check us out and made herself at home. She hangs out with us on the patio and demands her attention from both of us. She is a nice companion.
Regards to the felines from Tilden, our cat.