A Christmas Story
Berkel and Me
Conversations with a psycho-neurotic cat
By Jon Frangipane
Berkel and I sat under the Christmas tree opening our presents and sharing eggnog on Christmas morning.
“There’s not enough rum in this drink,” complained Berkel.
“You know, you’re lucky I’m allowing you to drink at all,” I said. “How many cats do you know get this privilege?”
“I’m no ordinary cat,” said Berkel. “You should know that by now!”
His tail was swishing some wrappings on the floor.
“For your information, I put rum extract in the eggnog this year to save a little money,” I explained. “Things are tight.”
“You mean that you’re tight! Christmas is no time to be cheap,” Berkel replied angrily. “Rum gives me a little lift. After all, I live a rather dull existence in this house throughout the year!” he added.
His tail began swishing more rapidly, clearing away all the wrappings around us.
“Dull existence, you say?”
“Do I have to repeat myself?” Berkel growled.
“Just my luck, I go to the Humane Society six years ago and pick you, a cat who growls. Cats aren’t supposed to growl!”
Berkel stopped swishing his tail, gave me a long stare and said, “People aren’t supposed to bark, either.”
I said, “touché.”
“Touché?” Berkel queried.
“It’s French for making an effective point in an argument.”
“Do I look French?” Berkel asked, as he licked his butt.
“I wish you wouldn’t do that when we’re talking.”
“When would you like I should do it?”
“Just not right now. Later maybe.”
“You just can’t put off licking your butt. It’s a feline thing that’s been in our DNA for centuries, and I’m supposed to turn it off like a faucet?”
I tried to change the subject.
“Isn’t that a nice scratching post I got you for Christmas?”
“You got me a scratching post last Christmas.”
“Yes, but this one features imported Persian carpeting. It cost me a bundle.”
“How thoughtful, but I prefer to scratch the right side of our new sofa. It’s gentler on my nails.”
“I’ve had cats all my life, and by far you are the most ungrateful cat I’ve ever had the displeasure of owning.”
“You’re saying that you own me?”
“We’ll, of course. I paid something like eighty dollars, more or less.”
“Let’s get this straight, no one buys a cat. You may obtain papers that allow you the privilege of having a soft and furry companion, that maybe takes the place of a not-so-furry companion you’ve broken up with, but it by no means makes you own me. Do I make myself clear?”
His tail shot straight up and started to quiver. I wondered how Berkel knew that I broke up with Helen six years ago, and needed someone to take her place; something fuzzy. Someone who didn’t stomp around screaming obscenities. I could see that this Christmas was going to be a test of wills. I tried another tact.
“Let me get you another eggnog. Perhaps I can add drop or two of a rare cognac I was saving for a special occasion.”
“Whoop-dee-doo! I think adding a drop or two would hardly be worth the trip to the liquor cabinet, now would it. A jigger or two would be more like it.”
“Christmas is not about getting blotto,” I blurted.
“Are you suddenly changing your holiday consumption habits. It seems to me I remember the police extracting you from our attractive neighbor’s chimney last year, thereby ruining our Christmas together because you had to spend the entire holiday in the hoosegow.”
I had forgotten that important fact.
“I was depressed. I hadn’t been with a woman for ages.”
Berkel put one paw on my leg.
“I thought we were getting along so nicely. Now you had to spoil it!”
“You’re right, Berkel, you have been there for me every minute of the day. Maybe except for the excessive hair loss, tearing my new sofa apart, having loose bowels and an occasional hairball, you’ve been super. I don’t know how I could have been so selfish all these years.”
Berkel gave me an understanding gaze, climbed on my lap and said, “It’s okay, pal, just go fetch me that eggnog you promised.”
Jon Frangipane is a pianist and composer and former editor/publisher of the Lighthouse Point Magazine. He also co-facilitated the Fort Lauderdale Writers’ Group with writer/publisher Krista Martinelli. Also he owns a tennis racket.