Berkel and Me
Conversations with a psycho-neurotic cat
By Jon Frangipane
I called my psychiatrist and asked, “If you live with someone for a long time, is it true you can take on their characteristics?”
“If the person you are referring to is weak of character, simple-minded and desperate for attention, then I say, yes, it’s a good possibility. This person probably has a serious case of ailurophilia. Why, do you know someone with such a problem?”
“Yes, ailurophilia is an uncontrollable love of cats. Your friend probably is suffering from this mental condition.”
“Doctor, can this uncontrollable love of cats be cured?”
“Fifty-fifty. If the symptoms haven’t progressed too far, he may be able to be saved from disastrous circumstances. You better have him see a doctor friend of mine as soon as possible!”
I hung up and called the doctor for an appointment the following morning. When I arrived, the waiting room was quite crowded, so it was 45 minutes before I was called in.
“Good morning!” the doctor said, as I entered his office. “I was told that you may have ailurophilia?”
“I’m hoping it’s a simple case of a love/hate relationship with my cat, Berkel, and nothing more,” I explained.
“When you entered the office earlier the nurse noticed you walking on all fours. She said she first thought you were looking for a dropped coin, but then noticed you sniffing our client’s shoes and rubbing up against their legs. I think your condition may be progressing quite rapidly.”
“Is it too late to save me, doctor?”
“Well, if you stand upright, it will be much easier to check your vitals before we proceed with any treatment.”
“I tell you, this uncontrollable obsession with Berkel, that’s my cat, is driving me nuts, complaining about the quality of food I feed him, the terrible living conditions he’s living under, the T.V. programs I watch. You name it. As much as I love this cat, sometimes I feel like squashing him like a bug.”
“Did I hear you say that you are having conversations with your cat?” the doctor queried.
“Oh, didn’t I tell you? Berkel suddenly began speaking when overdosing on catnip at the animal center. There was a moment of silence.
“Doctor, did you hear what I just said?”
“And just how long have you been hearing cat voices in your head, may I ask?”
“The voices, they’re are not in my head, doctor. The voice is actually coming from my cat, Berkel. And he even has a little English accent.”
“Are you sure you aren’t overdosing on catnip, my dear man? the doctor suggested.
“I really think I might have actually been a cat in my past life and this feeling for my cat is more like a romance, rather than an ordinary infatuation or mental condition.”
“Yes, what you say is a common defensive response from ailurophiliacs.
“So, what do you suggest I do, doctor?
“I suggest you change your litter box regularly.”
“Is that supposed to be funny, doctor.”
“Yes, it is. I inject humor as well as tranquillizers to settle a patient down. You know, if one cannot laugh at oneself, then one is just a lowly microbe swirling around in a Petri dish. Now how has your diet been lately? Eating the right foods?”
“Well, not exactly, you see…”
“Okay. So, are you into wet food or the dry?”
“There’s so many more flavor choices in the wet. So I’m a Fancy Feast wet fan,” I answered.
“How nice for you,” the doctor said as he checked my ears. “Hmm, I’m noticing that your ears are rotating 180 degrees as we speak.”
“Yes. It’s much easier to hear, if I point them in the right direction,”
The doctor began to check my throat.
“My, my, you have quite a rough tongue there. It’s what I would describe as a very cat-like tongue. I almost cut my finger.”
“It comes in real handy when you have to slurp out of the dish,” I explained.
“I don’t know how to tell you this, but I think you may be actually turning into a…”
“Cat! Say it, I’m becoming a cat!”
“Okay! You’re becoming a cat!”
“No, no, no! It can’t be true!”
I jumped on the doctor’s chest and screamed, “Let meowt of here!”
An alarm went off and I awoke suddenly from a deep sleep, realizing I had been dreaming all the while.
“Berkel! I screamed. “Where are you?”
“Where am I? I’m right here in the clothes hamper. You left it open.”
“I overslept and had this terrible nightmare, and my doctor told me I was turning into a cat. Can you imagine me, a cat?”
“I can’t even accept you as a human being. Besides, my bowl is empty. Let’s get a move on!”
“My ears even rotated 180 degrees like yours and my tongue was razor-sharp, just like yours.”
“Not to digress, but do you know what today is?” asked the cat.
“It’s two days after the day before yesterday and one day before tomorrow.”
Berkel was silent for a moment and then blurted, “Do you realize that you are making a mockery out of the most important day of the year?”
“Christmas is over. What’s your problem?” I said.
“Today is Valentine’s Day. That’s what!” Berkel shouted. “The day to recognize those you adore, and blanket them with expensive food and gifts and goodies and rhinestone collars!”
“Well, the old money well has dried up, and if you’ve been following the news, you must be perfectly aware that the current economic conditions warrant a tightening of our belts.”
“I’m a cat. I don’t wear a belt, Bozo!”
“Well, you’ll be wearing one this year, fuzzface!
Berkel looked up at me. A teardrop was about to fall from his gunk-filled eye. He knew I would mortgage my house if I had to.
Copyright 2009 © Jon Frangipane Revised 2015
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.