June, 2015 – In Life – Everything is Negotiable


Berkel and MeJonFrangipane-byLS

In Life – Everything is Negotiable

A Part of the “Berkel & Me” Series  

By Jon Frangipane

    Berkel usually curls up under my desk when he needs a catnap, but the other day he chose my one and only comfortable chair in the studio.

       “Would it too much trouble for you to find another place to store your big rump, so I can sit down in my own chair?


Berkel didn’t even raise his head, but he managed to open one eye and said, “Excuse me, but I don’t hear very well when I’m asleep. Would you mind repeating that statement?

“If I found time to sleep 18 hours a day like you do, we’d both be on the streets, begging for food without a roof over our heads.”

“Maybe you’d  be on the streets. You don’t seem to be aware that little old Mrs. O’Malley next door loves me to death and told me I could move in with her anytime I’m ready.”

I tried not to appear threatened. “Do you realize that I actually work the same, exact amount of hours that you sleep?” I explained.

“Well, no wonder my bowl is always empty. I’m locked in this dungeon you call a house, and I’m half starved because you’re gone the whole day and prowl half the night. Look at me, I’m all skin and bones,” Berkel complained.

“If you call your fat rump skin and bones, then I must get my eyes checked,” I replied.

“While you’re getting your eyes checked, get your nose checked – my litter box is now attracting horseflies and centipedes,” Berkel countered.

When losing an argument, it’s always a good idea to change the subject. I had to find some way to get my chair back, so I casually sank to the floor and sprawled out, attempting to look as though the chair had become unimportant to me.

“Listen, Berkel, not to change the subject, but you being a Scorpio and me being a Virgo are supposed to be the right ingredients for an ideal relationship, according to our horoscope, that is.”

“Tell me, oh wise and powerful one, aren’t discussing signs of the Zodiac a pathetic age-old desperate ploy to impress a woman at the local bar by a man, hoping to score points, just before he challenges her to a kamikaze contest? I’m no woman and this ain’t no kamikaze contest!”

Wow! This cat is good, I thought. Let me try a little sugar coating.       

Berkel, oh wise and… and…ah…fuzzy one _ I felt it my duty to inform you that Scorpio is one of the most powerful astrological signs. And Scorpios are known as dynamic and excellent leaders, and do not accept failure as an option. You seem to possess all those attributes, as far as I can ascertain.”

Berkel looked down at me and said, “Your not getting your chair back, so knock off those sappy, obviously contrived, sugar-coated remarks to trick me into giving up my chair. I don’t accept failure as an option, or did you, perchance, forget what you just said about Scorpios?”

So far, my strategy seemed to be backfiring on me. I could just pretend like I’m going to sit on him, but I’ve tried that with no success. Instead, I slowly sat up from the floor and tenderly put my face up close to Berkel’s face and softly said, “Listen, Berky old friend, let’s not quibble, life’s too short.”

Berkel put his paw on my shoulder, put his nose practically in my mouth and said, “My life expectancy happens to be about 15 years. Yours happens to be 76. And you’re telling me life is too short?”

“I can’t speak with your nose in my mouth, now can I?” I sputtered. “And besides, I’ve heard that some cats live as long as 30 years.”

“I’d take a wild guess that 30 year-old cats aren’t hounded, harassed and starved all their life as I’ve been. I‘m lucky if I reach age 7 living in this hell hole!” Berkel shouted.

“Listen, it’s going to be your 7th birthday in a few months. I’ll invite some of your alley cat friends in and bake a big chocolate cake. What do you think of that?”

“Mass Murder! It’s called murder when you feed a cat chocolate, or are you just as stupid as you look?” cried Berkel.

“Oh, I forgot. How about a nice big mocha cake?”

“Oh sure, I prefer the type of torture when dying slowly as the mocha combination of coffee and chocolate take affect, Berkel smugly replied.

“You forget that cats have 9 lives, so you’ll still have 8 lives left, anyway. So, what’s the big deal?” I explained.

“That reminds me, your own life with your girlfriend, Gloria, may be over.”

“I’m wise to your tomcat foolery, Berkel. Things have never been better between me and Gloria.

“You’re not going to like what I’m going to tell you, buddy boy.”

“Tell me what?”

“I can’t. She confided in me. But in life, everything is negotiable Give me a good reason to tell you.”

“Negotiable? Hey, fuzzball, you need me more than you need Gloria. I’m your meal ticket!”

“ There’s always Mrs. O’Malley next door, old buddy. She serves sirloin!”

“ Alright, alright! What do I need to give you in return for the information?

“I want to stay out on Saturday nights.”

“But you’re an indoor cat. You’ll get eaten up alive! I just can’t give that kind of freedom.”

“In life, all things are negotiable. You said it yourself.”

“Okay, you can stay out on Saturday night, but only ‘til 10.

“Make it 11.

“Deal. Now tell me what she said.

“You sure you want to hear this?”

“I said a deal is a deal.”

“Okay, so Gloria said that you’re idiotically stupid beyond your years, and when God gave out brains, you were last in line.”

“Gloria would never say that. I don’t believe a word you say.”

“That’s because you’re idiotically stupid beyond your years, like she said. And I personally suggest that you forget the whole matter because you’re already treading on thin ice, if you know what I mean.”

“Ha, ha! Gloria would never leave me. I’m her Rock of Gibraltar. I’m her knight in shining armor. I’m her moon, her stars, her heaven.”

“Then whose red convertible was she riding around in today?”

“Oh, that’s her brother. He’s in town for the weekend.”

“If that was her brother she was kissing, then I’m Tony the Tiger.

“Kissing, you say?”

“It was probably nothing, I give a call tomorrow. And, like you say… in life, all things are negotiable.

Copyright 2009  ©Jon Frangipane    Revised 2015.

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in Lighthouse Point Magazine. Thank you, Jon Frangipane, for your mentoring and your good humor at all times. 

Jon Frangipane is a pianist and an ASCAP published composer. He is co-facilitator of the Fort Lauderdale Writers’ Group, along with Wendell Abern. He dabbles in playwriting and tennis. Lives with Tiger, a neurotic tabby. Berkel is now in kitty heaven.