Who is Chuck and why does he like to travel?

I was born to be a writer and when I wrote my novel Wild Point Island, Chuck, my orange and white recently rescued feral tabby, got it in his head that he wanted to travel to the island and see the place for himself. Well, of course, Wild Point Island, can only be seen by revenants (you'll have to read the book to find out who they are) and Chuck is no revenant so instead, I concocted a plan to take Chuck with me when I travel around the world, which I do frequently. Not an easy task. First, I have to deflate the poor kid of all air, stuff him in my carry-on bag, remember to bring my portable pump, and when I arrive, I pump him back up. Ouch. But he's used to it by now and given the choice to either stay home in his comfy cat bed or get deflated, he pulls out his passport, ready to travel, every time.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Chuck Meets Santa

I love Christmas. The singing of carols, the wrapping of presents, the decorations, the hustle and bustle in the stores, the back and forth texting with all my sisters and brothers trying to sort out the menu on Christmas day--all of it.

But this year, as the days ticked by, I dreaded the coming of Christmas day--knowing that Santa wouldn’t have arrived and my Chuck would be disappointed. The man in the red suit wouldn’t have slid down our chimney. Chuck’s present wouldn’t have been deposited underneath the Christmas tree. Chuckie wouldn’t have experienced that moment that all kids love--when they could rip the wrapping off their present and get to the good stuff.

Yes, dread sat on my chest like a hundred pound gorilla.

Chuck was hoping for a box full of cat treats--Temptations--to be exact.

Every night Bob said, “Tell the kid the truth.”

But I couldn’t.

Maybe I wanted to believe that somehow Santa would arrive. That somehow Chuck’s faith in Santa would make it happen.

Crazy right?

And then Christmas Eve was upon us, and Chuck could hardly contain his excitement, confident that Santa was on his way.

I went to bed that night with a heavy heart.

Chuck camped out underneath the tree, determined to stay awake and wait for Santa to arrive with his present.

I tossed and turned in bed, but finally nodded off.

The next morning--Christmas morning--I awoke at the crack of dawn, anxious to see how Chuck was handling his disappointment. I crept down the stairs and into the great room where we have our tree. Chuck was fast asleep, sprawled on top of a large box. Strange, I thought, there weren’t any presents left unopened under the tree last night. We had already opened all of them.

Bob was behind me. “Did you put a present there for Chuck?” I asked.

He shook his head.

“Are you sure?” I asked.

“I thought you did.”

I tiptoed across the room toward the tree. The wrapping paper didn’t look familiar. Crouching, I stared at the gift tag on the present. In bold letters, someone had printed “Chuck”.

At that very moment, Chuck opened one eye.

“Merry Christmas, Chuckie.” And then I studied him closely. He didn’t look sad or depressed. Or disappointed.

Dare I say it?

“Is that box for you?”

Chuck didn’t answer, but it took him less than a minute to unwrap the present and open the box. Well, there was no doubt this box was from Santa. The box was filled with bags of Temptations. Chuckie’s favorite treat.

Was it possible?

I turned to Bob.

He shrugged.

I mouthed “Santa”?

“Who else?” he said.

“So, Chuckie, you actually got a chance to meet Santa. What did you think? Did he say anything to you? Did you see the reindeer?”

But the Chuckster wasn’t listening. He was too busy trying to get one of the bags of treats open. After all, the kid was hungry. And how could he resist all those bags of Temptations?

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Chuck Lies In Wait for Santa

“T’was the night before Christmas and all through the house . . .”

I made a big mistake in reading Chuck that poem.

When he heard the tale of how Santa makes the rounds of houses and doles out goodies to good little boys and girls and CATS, of course, he became determined to wait, under our Christmas tree, for Santa’s arrival. Convinced that Santa’s gift to him was going to be, well, STUPENDOUS.

After all, wasn’t he the most wonderful cat in the whole wide world?

I hated to break Chuckie’s bubble, as they say.

I hated to tell the Chuckster the truth that Santa and giving gifts was more of an idea--a fantasy--a symbol of how we should all be generous--not just during the holiday season but all the time. Well, you get the picture.

Frankly, for as smart as Chuck is, I couldn’t quite believe that he believed that some guy would be stuffing himself down our chimney and delivering gifts on Christmas Eve.

Well, Chuck, of course, didn’t believe that part. He had already seen through that ruse and realized that Santa started out from the North Pole on December 1. After all, the whole wide world is a big place and those reindeer can travel only so far on any given evening.

So, imagine my Chuck, with Ella--his twin sister by his side--snuggled under the Christmas tree, night after night, waiting for Santa to arrive. Imagine him waiting in breathless anticipation for the man in the red suit with the long white beard.

“What are we going to do?” I asked my husband, confident that Santa wasn’t going to arrive on schedule, as the belly boy believed.

“Tell him the truth.”

“I can’t do that.”

“He’s going to find out sooner or later.”

Was there some way to avoid the inevitable?

I decided to have a heart to heart with Chuckie. I took him upstairs to my writing room. He often sits on my lap while I’m working.

“Chuck, the holiday season isn’t all about presents. It’s about being thankful for what you already have.”

The kid eyed me suspiciously.

“For example, when you were born, you were homeless. But you were lucky to find a home with us. You and Ella. And your two brothers were also adopted. And now you live in a nice house and . . .”

The squirming started. When Chuck is bored, he begins to squirm. Big time.

I decided to try another tact, realizing there was no way that I could tell the truth about Santa or the lack of his physical existence in this modern world.

“The truth is, Chuck, you will never see Santa. He only arrives when you are fast asleep. I’ve known kids to try to stay awake, but they can’t.”

He jumped off my lap then and scooted down the stairs.

I followed.

There he sat vigil underneath the Christmas tree.

“Chuck, that’s what I call being too stubborn for your own darned good--”

“Leave him alone,” my husband said. “Maybe Santa is coming after all.”

I shot my husband one of my famous looks of exasperation.

My Chuckie wanted to meet Santa. See Santa with his own two eyes. How the heck was I going to arrange that?

Years ago one of my brothers dressed up as Santa, but there was no way he was sliding down our chimney. And not for a cat!

I did not want to see the kid disappointed.

Talk about pressure.

“Well, you have one week to come up with a fake Santa that will fool your cat. One week. One week before Chuck learns there is no Santa . . .”


Saturday, December 10, 2011

Chuck Likes Flamingos and the Color Pink

It may be hard to believe that a cat likes movies, but it’s true. No, not hom e movies, but we’re talking Hollywood big, blockbuster-type movies. Action movies. And if there is an animal or two or three or four, well, the more--the better. Which may explain why the Chuckster would pick Out of Africa as one of his favorite sit you down and eat a snack while you are watching type movie.

He loved to see those lions on the screen--his ancestors, of course.

But, if the truth be told, nothing beat those flamingos--all gathered in a group on the shore--so much pink . . .

On safari in Kenya, when Bob and I had the chance to visit some of the places where Out of Africa was filmed, Chuck couldn’t wait until we got to Lake Nakuru National Park, which is a sanctuary, a very famous one, for the flamingo. Not that Chuck knew anything about that. All he knew was that he was going to see thousands of pink birds, and he liked the color pink.

Who knew?

When I write thousands, I’m not exaggerating. There are times when Lake Nakuru hosts close to a million flamingos.

We arrived by safari vehicle in the park and immediately noticed two large rhinoceros who were sunbathing not one hundred feet away from the flamingos, who were spread out along the shoreline, very busy, it seemed to me, in search of lunch.

What attracts the flamingos to Lake Nakuru is the shallow water and the abundance of algae that grows along the shore. Once again, it is all about food.

But having two rhino so close was not good. Well, I suppose, it could have been worse considering that the park has offered 25 black rhino and 70 white rhino a home there.

But still.

Chuckie didn’t seem to notice. He was staring, quite mesmerized, at the flamingo. All that pink.

And you guessed it.

Chuck does not like to stay put when there is action to be had.

Before I could issue my standard warning, he jumped out of my backpack and was already scampering toward the shoreline--due to pass one of the rhino, who looked to be snoozing.

But who knows when a rhino is really snoozing?

I certainly didn’t.

Close to panicking, I was determined to maintain my cool.

Then I spotted a straggly creature slinking along the shoreline, heading in the same direction as my Chuckie.

“OMG. That looks just like a . . .”

Before I had a chance to say the word, Bob, my ever loyal and observant husband, had noticed the danger. “Those darned hyena are everywhere.”

“Do hyenas eat flamingos?” I asked.

He frowned because there was an even greater problem.

“Or cats,” I added.

“Maybe the Chuckster will blend in.”

It was a terrible joke. Chuckie is beige and white, not pink. He had fur, not feathers. And from the hyenas’s point of view, a much tastier snack.

And it was windy. By now the flamingos had spotted that hyena and were squawking and flapping their wings, and desperately clearing a path away from him.

All the clatter woke the snoozing rhino who began to lumber toward the hyena OR was he moving toward my cat?

The hyena spotted the rhino and made a quick detour to the other side of the shore, but Chuckie didn’t seem to notice the looming rhino.

Entranced by all that pink, Chuck moved closer and closer to the flamingo as the rhino moved closer and closer to Chuck.

Something had to give.

I was just about to run forward when in one burst of panic, the flamingo--all in unison--took off--squawking and flapping their wings.

Startled, Chuck stepped back.

But more importantly, the rhino lost interest. Casually, or so it seemed to me, he retraced his steps back to the same spot and took up sunbathing again.

Chuck was safe.

I heaved a sigh of relief.

Those darned flamingos.

That darn cat.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Chuck Wrangles with the Antique Mailbox

The big question I’ve been asking myself lately is—do cats even belong in hotels—and I mean, big, fancy, knock your socks off—hotels??

Our decision to stay for a few nights in Boston necessitated that we do our research. We wanted an old hotel, a hotel with character, a hotel that had a history, one that was located on or close by to the Freedom Trail so that we could get our fill of history while we were there.

Hotel X fit the criteria. Grand and luxurious, nicknamed the old Gray Lady, it even had obnoxiously small bathrooms that dated back to the turn of the century so we could feel duly tortured while we admired the beauty around us.

Not that Chuckie cared about the bathrooms.

He is one social cat.

And while we were there, out hotel was hosting some kind of convention—what seemed like a trillion college-aged students converged there for some kind of competition—which meant HALF a trillion beautiful girls.

Now that is something Chuckie would notice.

And that is how the entire sordid mess with the antique mailbox thing happened.

The Chuckster, who sometimes seems incapable of minding his own feline business, overheard a bunch of girls admiring one of the many antique mailboxes they have in the hotel lobby.

“Do you think they still work?” one of the girls asked.

“Do you mean—can you post a letter?” her friend inquired.

“A real letter?” a third girl chimed in.

“What did you think I meant—an email?”

They laughed.

Now Chuck was listening in, and as he was stationed at an adjacent table near the mailbox in question, I saw him dart a glance at the mailbox, as if he, too, were wondering whether it was for real or for show.

And then it happened--the moment when regular Chuck turned into Hero Chuck.

He hopped down onto the floor, and without a bye your leave, scampered over to the mailbox and leapt up. His front paws somehow managed to grab hold of the opening where you would put the letters in.

I watched in horror as he stuck his sniffing nose into the opening. His entire head and face disappeared as I supposed he was investigating whether there were any real letters in there.

All I could think of was that movie As Good As It Gets when Jack Nicholson throws Greg Kinnear’s dog down the garbage disposal.

Would that be the eventual fate of my Chuck? Would he somehow mysteriously slide himself down the antique mailbox slot?

Then I realized CHUCK WAS STUCK!

In the antique mailbox.

The girls realized it, too.

Suddenly the four of us were gathered around trying to wrestle the poor meowing belly boy out from the narrow mail slot.

We finally unstuck him, and Chuck got his fair share of kisses and hugs from the very grateful co-eds, who were amazed that a “hero-cat" was even in the hotel lobby.

That near tragic misadventure didn’t deter us from inquiring from one of the bellboys, “Do these mailboxes really work?”

“Yes, they do. Is that a CAT?”

Needless to say, the Chuckster spent the rest of the day lounging in our room, safe from prying eyes, for, even though he wouldn’t admit it, the “belly boy” was no match for the unusually narrow slot of the antique mailbox!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Chuck, the Wannabe Native Chief!

Chuck has always had a thing for teepees and tents and being outside underneath the stars. He is one of those cats who should have been born hundreds of years ago when the West was still wild and a cat could still roam the plains free, without fear of being run over by a car or a wild horse.

After he attacked the woodpile in the English 17th c village of Plimouth, we lost no time hightailing Chuck over to the other half of the Plimouth Plantation--the Native American Wampanoag homesite--located on the Eel River, figuring he had a thing or two to learn about how the native people lived on the east coast.

At home we call Chuck the “eagle eye.” He is always the first one to spot the tiniest bug crawling along the window ledge. He goes nuts if there is a reflection from the sun off your wristwatch hitting the kitchen wall. He notices everything.

In that first minute when we arrived at the homesite, Chuck’s head popped out of my backpack, and he just itched to jump out and have a look around. This was not the usual protocol. After all, cats are seldom welcome anywhere.

But Chuck had a distinct advantage. Smoke.

There seemed to be smoke everywhere because it was cold, cold, cold and the only way to keep warm back then was to build a fire. Which created smoke. The entire homesite sat under a gray cloud, which gave the Chuckster just the protection he needed to roam around without being noticed.

So off we went. First, the “belly boy” trotted over to a lean-to where animal skins were being laid out to dry, skins which would later be used as clothing and bedding. Sniff, sniff, sniff, his curious nose couldn’t get enough.

But I could tell that Chuck had his eye on a bigger prize--the Wampanoag had recently completed building a massive dome-shaped house covered with bark. No, it wasn’t called a teepee. Native American domiciles out west were called teepees. In the East, the proper term is a “wetus” or “wigwam.”

Chuck snuck inside, and luckily no one noticed his furry body.

Imagine a rectangular structure that extended at least twelve feet high, with a dirt floor and a large campfire placed strategically in the middle for warmth. The beds, built from tree branches and off the ground, would be placed along the edge, but facing toward the center. This “wigwam” would be large enough for an entire extended family. The interior decorators were at work.

I started coughing from the smoke. So did Chuck.

There was nothing glamorous about life 400 hundred years ago.

Outside, shivering, I asked Chuck, “Have you seen enough?”

But Chuck was already scampering over to what appeared to be the cooking area. Two beautiful ladies sat in front of an oversized black kettle, preparing what would be the evening meal.

Oh, yeah, Chuck has an eye for the ladies.

Inside the kettle was a combination of berries, pumpkin seeds, squash . . . “Did the Chuckster want to stay for dinner?”


He obviously didn’t think so. At that very moment a whiff of wind from the river blew through the camp, and the smoke cleared.

From the corner of my eye I noticed two official types “noticing” Chuck for the first time, frowning.

Oh, no.

It was true--the Chuckster had gone where no cat had ever gone before, but his idyllic trip back into the past was over.

We had to get out of here FAST.

“We’ve been spotted,” I whispered to the kid. “C’mon.”

Chuck was no fool. But, you know, what they say about cats-mighty curious.

He stopped mid scamper.

“Chuck, c’mon. We’re not welcome here.”

But Chuck had spied an authentic hand-carved canoe, or rather what the Native Americans called a “mishoon.” And at that moment, it was on fire. Yep. That’s right. No joke. It seems that the native people often used fire as a tool to hollow out a tree so they could “create” a canoe.

With no thought of the imminent danger from the “suits,” Chuck jumped on the edge of the canoe and began sniffing, careful not to burn his too curious nose off.

“That’s it,” I thought, as I grabbed him by the scruff of his orange and white neck. “You’ll thank me later when you’re not rotting in some Massachusetts jail cell awaiting sentencing from some dog loving judge.”

On our way back to the car, I asked him, “Well, Chuck, what do you think? Do you still want to live back then?”

No answer.

I had gently shoved the kid back into my backpack. Now I peeked inside. He looked to be catnapping.

Was he dreaming of a more rustic lifestyle when he could someday grow up to become Chief Chuck of the Wampanoag tribe?

Who knows what cats secretly dream about besides snacks?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Chuck Attacks the Woodpile at Plimouth

In honor of Thanksgiving this year, Bob and I and our good friends Chuck and Phyllis decided to take a ride up to Boston and visit the Plimouth Plantation. The Chuckster, of course, came along for the ride, eager to see what a seventeenth century English village looked like.

Chuckie has a very active imagination for a cat, and he decided to pretend as we arrived in the parking lot of this living history museum, that he was really back in 1627.

What harm could that do?

The museum is divided into two sections: the 17th C English village along the shore of the Plymouth Harbor and the 17th C Native American Wampanoag homesite located along the Eel River.

It was a bit nippy outside and by the time we arrived in the village--late--we had no trouble letting Chuck wander around on his own. He has a thing for sniffing the grass, sampling the vegetation, and he didn’t hesitate when it came to hopping in and out of the herb gardens behind the twenty or so timber-framed houses. No harm done. We also explored the houses themselves, eyeing the quaint (translation super small) quarters, fireplaces, narrow beds, tiny tables and sparse furniture that constituted living arrangements almost 400 years ago.

All was well until . . .

I spotted the temptation before Chuck did, but there was little I could do about it. Stacked firewood. Now, at home, the Chuckster has a thing for climbing up or jumping up on piles of firewood--outside--neatly stacked. And Chuck is no lightweight. When he hits that stack with all his weight, something is sure to go a tumbling--the wood.

This stacking of firewood was like the mother of all stacking--imagine a circular arrangement of the wood, where the wood all comes together in the center, fanning out like a beautiful fan that’s been opened.

Chuck made a run for it. And I knew, just knew what he was going to do--make a running leap and hop up on top of it.

I imagined it all--some, if not all, of the stacked wood crashing to the ground below.

There was no way to stop the kid. No way at all.

I closed my eyes and waited. Secretly praying that no one else would witness the fiasco.

There was nothing. No crash. Nothing. What?

I peered out.

Chuck sat on top of the woodpile, like the King of the Mountain, and surveyed his seventeenth century kingdom.

Okay, maybe he dislodged one or two pieces.

Still, the kid was in trouble. With me.

The potential of what could have happened . . .

But he looked so cute posing up there. His big belly . . .

And, as he spied me getting closer, he knew just what to do--he jumped on down and posed on the ground.

You got to love a cat that will do what he has to do, even if it makes his mother crazy and comes this close to getting us kicked out of a living history museum!!!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Chuck Gets Introduced to Some Monkey Business

No matter where we stayed on safari, something always excited Chuck. And the few nights we spent at Camp at Siana Springs were no exception. This time it was monkeys.

Now in the United States, you are used to riding along the roads and spotting squirrels or, perhaps, an occasional deer out your window. In Kenya, you see more than squirrels. Although fifty percent of the wild animals are on preserves, fifty percent of them are not. As you drive through the country, it is not unusual to glance out your window and see an elephant in the distance or a giraffe or a family of monkeys running along beside you on the super highway.

At first, you are simply amazed at the sight. One time in particular, a mama monkey with a bambino on her back, followed by a few other family members, chased after each other in the field as we sped down the highway, so we asked Stephen to pull over so we could get some photos. And, yes, I held on fast to Chuck, just guessing he would want to leap out and “get a closer look.”

When Stephen announced that we would be spending a few nights at a camp where a very special monkey also lived, Chuck was in his glory. He just loves monkeys because he thought they were cute.

Sure enough, when we first arrived, we immediately noticed something peculiar. Monkeys seemed to be everywhere. Some were hanging out in trees; others were lounging around on pathways.

“These monkeys are smart,” Stephen said to us. “Smarter than the average monkey. Be careful.”

“How smart?” I asked, knowing that Chuckie was wondering the very same thing.

“Well, for example . . .” and Stephen proceeded to explain that one of the things that the monkeys loved to do was break into the tents and scavenge for people food. So, under no circumstances, were we to EVER leave our tents unzippered.

“Okay, I got it. Zipper the tents.”

“But, that’s not going to be enough. You see, the monkeys know how to unzipper the tents. They’re constantly on the lookout for food.”

Chuck’s eyes grew wider.

“So what do we do?”

In Stephen’s hand, was rope. “We string this rope through the zipper so we can tie it down to the ground.”

I shrugged. “No problem.”

“But,” Stephen said, “Unfortunately, the monkeys have learned how to untie the usual knots that people use to secure the zipppers down to the ground, so we’ve had to come up with a new knot.”

I lowered my voice. “A secret knot, you mean?”


“You hear that, Chuck?”

But, of course, Chuck wasn’t listening. He is the most distractable cat. No, his attention was focused to the side. What was the Chuckster looking at? I glanced over and almost fell backwards.

On a log, sitting neatly in a row, sat an entire family of monkeys. Not saying a word. No chattering. No eating. No monkeying around.

Only watching. Us. Waiting for us to tie the secret knot. I was convinced that all they needed was to see I tie it--once--and we would be doomed. They would be in our tent in a flash.


“Don’t pay them any attention, Chuckie,” I said. 

“Just don’t let them see you tie the knot,” Stephen warned.

But it was difficult to concentrate on learning a new knot when ten beady monkey eyes were staring at your back.

I literally froze. I panicked.

After Stephen left, I didn’t want to leave our tent, fearful that when it was my turn to tie the knot, the monkeys would catch on, untie our knot, and break into our tent. Chuckie worried, of course, that they would find and eat his “cat snacks.”

Now a cat’s paws are not designed for tying knots, but Chuck was determined to be helpful. When the time finally came to leave out tent, Chuck peeked his head outside the tent and motioned that the coast was clear.

But . . . darn. As soon as we unzipped the tent and rezipped it, the monkeys appeared like magic. Lined up on the same log, their beady eyes poised on us, watching, waiting.

That’s when Chuck jumped into action. He became my blocker. He stationed his belly between me and the monkeys and blocked their view.

“That’s the spirit, Chuck,” I whispered, as I frantically struggled to tie the knot.

But the monkeys were clever. They started moving in closer.

Suddenly, Chuck let forth a deep, guttural growl.

Whoa. The monkeys didn’t like that sound.

“Where is that coming from? You sound like a lion.”

Chuck narrowed his eyes. I guess the “chuckster” was capable of anything when his snacks were being threatened.

Finally, I tied the “secret knot,” and Chuck and I were able to leave our tent.

Now monkeys are cute all right, but Chuck and I both learned that even though they have a good arm when they’re throwing fruit down at you from a tree, due to Chuckie’s superior blocking ability and guttural growl, when we returned after dinner, our tent was still tied down shut. Our “secret knot” had not been broken.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Chuck and the Almost Elephant Stampede

The expression “curiosity will kill a cat” was never more true than when Chuck decided he wanted to join Bob and I one evening to watch the elephants go to the trees.

We were on safari in Kenya, Africa, and staying at the foot of Mt. Kilimanjaro in a fenced area near a preserve.

The elephant is the biggest land mammal still alive today, and can live to be between 50 and 70 years old. They can weigh from 7,700 pounds (3,500 kilograms) to 26,000 pounds (12,000 kilograms). An elephant can eat about 600 pounds of food and drink 80 gallons of water a day.

To me, these are intimidating statistics.

If you see an elephant lying on the ground, that is not a good sign. It is almost impossible for an elephant to get up, once he is on the ground.

So, one day, Chuck asked the magic question--how do elephants sleep?

Now when Chuckie sleeps, he gets all curled up in his cat bed and sometimes twines himself around Ella (his sister) so that you can’t even tell where one cat begins and the other cat ends. He puts his paw over his nose to keep it warm. He wraps his tail around him. AND Chuckie loves to sleep in the cat beds that are near the heaters. Cats love heat and the sun.

Can you imagine elephants curling themselves in giant elephant beds?

I don’t think so.

Stephen, our guide, who owed his life to Chuck after the leopard in the tree episode, promised to take Chuckie out near dusk to watch the grand exodus of elephants across the plains to the trees.

Stephen explained. “Elephants sleep by leaning against the trees. They can transfer their weight against the trees, little man. So every night they walk across the plains to the trees to sleep. It makes their tree trunk legs feel better.”

Chuckie just blinked. He couldn’t imagine it.

The sight of hundreds of elephants crossing the plains is a magnificent sight. We were parked in the road. They crossed in front of us and behind us. They circled around us. They walked steadily and with purpose, headed toward the trees in the distance. Their journey would take hours, and they did that journey every evening.

You would think Chuck would have been intimidated by that many elephants, but he wasn’t. Perched on the ledge of the safari vehicle, he watched in amazement. But, nevertheless, I held onto him.

Chuckie was always full of surprises. The last thing I needed was a cat leaping out of the vehicle and causing a stampede of elephants. The last thing I needed . . .

That’s when it happened.

Chuckie spotted an elephant that seemed to lag behind the others. An outcast. He pointed his paw in the direction of that particular elephant.

Stephen explained. “That, little man, is the loser elephant. Every herd has one. He is no longer considered part of the group.”

Chuckie did not like that answer. Suddenly, he wasn’t interested in the elephants going to the trees anymore. All he wanted was to help the loser elephant.

I must have a mother’s sixth sense. Just as he was about to bolt out of the safari vehicle, I screamed, “Chuck, don’t you dare.”

But Chuck wanted to get a closer look at the loser elephant.

“Stay in this vehicle.”

Chuck leapt outside and landed in the dust.

The loser elephant, who’d been lagging behind, spied Chuck and now began to move forward.

I half expected Chuckie to run over to the loser elephant. But he didn’t. He meowed. He didn’t growl.

Oh, great. I imagined the worst. Disgruntled loser elephant charges the vehicle. Chuckie is crushed to death. We are killed, of course.

But that didn’t happen.

The loser elephant began to purr, a deep rumbling purr.

“Elephants do purr like cats,” Stephen explained.

“They do? I didn’t know that.”

Chuckie meowed back, even louder.

Then, the other elephants around us starting running. Not toward us, but away.

“Stampede,” Stephen yelled. “Chuck, back in the vehicle.”

Chuck finally listened to Stephen.

When it was over, I couldn’t figure out if Chuck had acted heroically by trying to befriend the poor loser elephant or if he had made the situation worse.

But one thing for sure, at the end of the day, Chuckie had made a new friend with the loser elephant. And, no, I explained to Chuckie, we couldn’t smash all the air out of the loser elephant and take him home with us. Even with the air smashed out of him, we were still talking--what--a thousand pounds of elephant skin??? Stuffed in my carry-on? And what about those tusks? Yikes.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Chuck and the Great Escape As the Cat in the Hat

Despite how it might sound, Chuck is not on the road 365 days a year. When we’re home, the chuckster likes nothing better than to lounge around with his “sibling cats” and he’ll either be chowing down at his favorite food bowl or snoozing the day away. Trust me, you want to be a cat in my house.

But like most kids, Chuck needs fun!

Every morning he rolls down the stairs with that peculiar expression on his face--his whiskers in a snarl, poised with an expectation on his lips. He doesn’t have to SAY anything. IN HUMAN WORDS, I mean. A disgruntled MEOW will suffice. He’s bored and ready for action.

Halloween was no exception. In fact, that day was worse. Chuck is no dummy. He can read a calendar. He knew what pumpkins and Mums on the front porch meant. He knew that when I lugged out the giant bowl filled with chocolate candy and set it on the table in front of the front door, who the bags of candy were for. Trick or treaters.

He wanted to know how he fit in.
 That brings me to the great escape. And the almost costume. Yeah, yeah. I thought of getting Chuckie a costume. First, I posted the question on my facebook page, hoping for inspiration. Then I went to the Chuckster himself-- Who do you want to be?

A dog? That was the obvious undercover choice. Chuckie shook his head.

Felix the Cat. I figured a popular cartoon character would be a possible fit for the chuckster who often saw himself on the big screen. But Chuck shook his head. PETULANTLY.

The Purina Cat Chow mascot, I offered next, thinking that starring in commercials and seeing your face on cat food cans and bags was a worthy choice for a Halloween costume. But Chuck again shook his head.

I put my hands on my hips. Okay. I had to try harder. Maybe Chuckie was thinking more high brow--literary cat character. Grimbold, the black “prince of cats,” I explained to Chuckie, making my voice sound inviting, who led a goatherd on many cool adventures in Grimbold’s Other World by Nicolas Stuart Gray, but even as I said it, I could see it was way too obscure for my modern Chuck.

Okay, okay. How about Bagheera? A PANTHER.

Now here, Chuck’s eyes lit up.

He was in Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book, I added for good measure. Some interest because Chuck paced the great room, but when he returned, he plopped down in front of me, disappointed still.

Eureka, who was Dorothy’s cat in the Wizard of Oz. You love to watch the Wizard of Oz on television, I reminded him.

He eyed me suspiciously.

So what? So what if she’s a girl? Does that really matter?

It did. Macho Chuck was not about to put on a girly cat costume.

I had one more idea. Okay, Chuck, this is it. You like to wear hats, right. How about DR. Seuss’ Cat in the Hat?

Yes! He went for it. And . . . all went well, the trick or treating part, the wearing of the hat part, until he was recognized.

Well, let me back up. Chuck donned his costume. He went out trick or treating around the neighborhood. As the Cat in the Hat. Then he was recognized. Not as Hot Blogging Chuck. Oh, no. As a CAT dressed up as the Cat in the Hat. The mere fact that it was a CAT trick or treating and not a KID, threw the rest of the KIDS into a near state of panic.

The tiny trick or treaters started chasing Chuck down the street. They wanted a closer look. Chuck dropped his candy and lost his hat. The poor kid, I mean CAT.

It all happened so fast I wasn’t even able to snap a photo for the blog.

Later, after Chuck calmed down, he agreed to pose with his favorite Cat in the Hat book.

Needless to say, no more trick or treating for the belly boy.


Sunday, October 23, 2011

Chuck Is A Hero-Spots Leopard Up A Tree

Chuck has been getting on my case lately. He thinks I make him look bad. Unheroic.

So . . . in the interest of fairness, and to keep my little or ah, hum, well, he’s not quite so little anymore, my chubby, well, chubby, isn’t exactly the right word--plump? Okay, to keep the “belly boy” happy, I’m blogging this week about the time we were on safari and Chuck saved Stephen’s life and, perhaps, all our lives in the safari vehicle--because of his . . . and I’m not exactly channelling here because the kid is looking right over my shoulder as I type and practically dictating this blog--because of his superior eyesight and extra-sensory sense of smell.

That’s right, the typical meow may only have the intellect of a two year old child, (I am not referring to my Chuck, of course), but the common house cat--not that Chuck is common by any means-- makes up for their childlike intelligence with their natural inborn skills.

Case in point. We were riding along on the plains of Kenya. And if you can imagine miles and miles of open land, with nary a tree in sight, with elephants roaming around us and other assorted wild animals. To stay alive, we were told to stay in the safari vehicle. There would be no hopping out to catch a closer glimpse, say of a baby hyena--if you haven’t had the good fortune of reading that adventure, please follow the link: http://averyolive.blogspot.com and read all about how Chuck has a near death encounter with a babysitter hyena when he impulsively decides he just has to meet two adorable baby hyenas. Anyway, Chuck now understood the dangers involved.

But it was nearing lunch time and Stephen, our driver, knew of a good place to have our picnic lunch--smack in the middle of the plains--under a big giant--what Stephen called a “sausage tree,” because what hung from the branches of this lone tree looked like, yeah, you guessed it--sausages.

So we drove for what seemed like twenty miles and pulled alongside of this “sausage tree.” Now, Stephen does not carry a gun with him. Let me make that perfectly clear. Even though we are on safari, it is against the law in Kenya to kill an animal. We are only there to photograph the wildlife. So, literally on the plains, you take your life in your hands. But Stephen is a professional and as we were driving to the tree, he was scanning the area on the look-out for any living, breathing creature that might cause us harm, because the idea was that we were all going to embark from the vehicle and eat our picnic lunch under that tree BECAUSE IT WAS SHADY.

Stephen believed the coast was clear. He jumped out of the vehicle.
All was well.

But, of course, it wasn’t.

That’s when Chuck sprung into action.

My Chuck.

Because he just happened to be awake and not “cat-napping,” which is what was usually the case on our long safari rides. And he just happened to be intrigued by what looked like sausages hanging from that tree.

Chuck glanced up, and he saw a leopard with his kill--some poor defenseless gazelle which was now hanging limp over a branch. A gazelle that the leopard had dragged up the tree. A big tree. And now that we--seven humans and a cat had arrived below the tree, this leopard could only assume that we were there for one thing--that gazelle.

The time it would take that leopard to leap down from the tree on top of Stephen could be counted in milliseconds. We learned that later.

Chuck growled and pointed his paw at the leopard. Then he let loose a blood curdling screech, which caught Stephen’s attention. Stephen whirled toward us.

Someone shouted, “Leopard in tree.”

Stephen hopped back on the safari vehicle. He was shaken up, clearly aware of what could have happened because in this one instance he’d forgotten to look up the tree.

The leopard crept down the tree, and he waited in the bushes, eager to defend his kill.

Stephen made an executive decision. We started the engine and went to find another tree, but not before Stephen came to the back of the safari vehicle, grabbed Chuck, and gave him a big hug. “Thanks, little man.”

No doubt about it--Chuck was a hero that day.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Chuck Gets Faked Out - The French Way

The kid never seems to stop thinking. Or plotting may be the best word. After our little jaunt to Deauville, where Chuck impressed the girls with his “mussel opening” trick, Bob and I decided to do something for ourselves--or so we thought. I wanted to see Giverny--the luscious place where Monet had lived and painted and been inspired to do some of his loveliest impressionistic paintings.

I had no idea, whatsoever, that Chuck was into Monet.

Sure, I have Monet prints hanging around my house, but who expects a rascally cat like Chuck to notice, who seems to be more in tuned to watching Jersey Shore or the Kardashians on TV?

Well, he had noticed, and it seemed Chucky boy had been harboring a secret wish to see some of these paintings in person.

Now if you have ever been to Giverny, you know what a mob scene it can be. Tourists galore cram the place--milling about the beautiful grounds--admiring Monet’s gardens, the waterlily pond, and especially his house. Everyone wants to go inside the house and see how the great painter lived.

And Chuck had heard that Monet had one room completely filled with tons of his paintings. That’s the room that Chuck wanted to see.

Now this wasn’t going to be easy because as in most touristy places--NO CATS WERE ALLOWED. I would have to be super sneaky if Chuck was going to be able to stick his head out of my shoulder bag and see anything!

Of course, as soon as we arrived, we headed straight for the house. Chuck would have it no other way. Up the front steps and through the center hallway. He had no interest in seeing the kitchen or the exquisitely decorated dining room. And he was very squirmy, a bit pissed off that he had to keep his head hidden when if he were a dog, he could have most likely trotted into the house and barked his head off, and no one would have said a word. Yes, it is true. In France, the French people love their dogs and take them everywhere with them--drugstores, restaurants, etc. But that’s another story.

Anyway, here we were hurrying through Monet’s house because Chuck seemed about to burst inside my bag when we finally made it into the “painting” room. Strange, but I expected to see guards with machine guns or heavy guns at the door to the room. There were guards all right, but they stood around holding cell phones, with a kind of bored expression on their faces, as if they didn’t much care if someone stole one of the paintings.

Chuck peeked out and from that first instant, was mesmerized. I had to keep moving around the room, of course, and I felt sorry for the kid. He just wanted to stop and stare at one painting after another, as if he could get lost inside the picture. He seemed truly awestruck that he was face to face with a genuine Monet.

A stranger tapped me on the shoulder. “What you got there, a cat?”

I nodded. “He’s really into Monet.”

“Nice,” he said, reaching out his hand to try and pet Chuck, which was not such a smart idea. Chuck wouldn’t bite him or anything, but when Chuck is into something, he doesn’t like to be interfered with.

“He’s impressed,” I said to this total stranger. “You see, he’s never seen a real Monet before.”

The stranger laughed. “Yeah, right.”

Instantly, I detected something was wrong.

“Real Monet, you say? Is that what this little guy thinks?”

Chuck whirled around at that moment, and you could see it in his eyes. He knew something was up. He knew something terrible was about to be said. His bubble was about to be burst.

The stranger said, “These aren’t real Monets.”

I gulped.

Then he waved his arm around the room, as if he needed to further illustrate his point. “I mean look. Do you see any armed guards anywhere? If these paintings were real, we’d be talking millions of dollars.”

I heard a sniffle coming from my shoulder bag. Poor Chuck, I thought.

The stranger reeled in on me. “You should be ashamed of yourself for deceiving this poor little guy. Letting him think he’s looking at the genuine article. These are all reproductions. Can you say that word, little guy? Reproductions.”

But Chuck had no intention of saying anything. He snarled, then disappeared like a puff of French cigarette smoke into my bag.

I stepped back away from the stranger and made a bee-line for the door. “Sorry, Chuck. I don’t know what I was thinking.”

And I thought back to what my husband had said back in Deauville--that it was humiliating that we, no I, was no smarter than a cat.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Chuck Plots to Meet French Girls

         The jaunt to see Paris from the top of the Eiffel Tower didn’t work out, and by the time Chuck was back in our hotel room, we should have known he would already be plotting his next move, but as he was resting peacefully on the bottom of our bed, we didn’t give it a second thought.   
         The next morning we had plans to travel to Deauville, a charming seaside resort town two hours from Paris--very picturesque--and we decided it would be a good way to end our trip to France, as Chuck’s nerve were shot after the Eiffel Tower debacle.  
        Or so we thought.
        That evening as we were getting ready for dinner, we noticed that Chuck was acting strange.
        “Where is he?” I asked Bob.
        “Gazing out the window.”
        Chuck was no sightseer, and if he had his nose pressed up against the panes--looking outside-it was for one reason only--he was either gazing at food or pretty girls.
        Sure enough--our room happened to be on the second floor, overlooking a small restaurant.  Couples were sitting outside at quaint tables, drinking wine and eating from what appeared to be silver buckets filled with some kind of black shell fish.  
        But Chuck wasn’t looking at the couples.
        One table was occupied with girls gathered around a number of these silver buckets.  
        “Chuck, what are you looking at?”
        Of course, Chuck never answers direct questions.  
        “I see,” I said, but of course I didn’t.
        Was he looking at the girls or the buckets?  Or both?  What was this rascally cat up to?
        Bob sauntered over.  “So what will it be?”
        We got one of the last tables, and by pure chance landed a waiter who spoke one word of English.
       “Mussels,” the garcon said by way of explanation.  
        We ordered a bucket of steamed mussels, and I have to admit that when they arrived, they smelled delicious.  There was only one problem.   
       “We need some kind of knife to open these mussels with,” I said to Bob.
       “Do you speak French?” Bob said, hoping to make a small point. 
        Just as I was about to say something smart back, Chuck sprang into action.  He hopped onto the table and scooped a mussel out of the bucket and somehow managed to crack it open using pure brute strength.  Then he took the shell from the broken mussel and using it as a tool, pried open the second mussel.
       “Wow,” I said.   “How did you learn to do that?”
       Chuck pointed.
       Sure enough, most of the smarter French people around us were doing the exact same thing, even the very chic French women.
       Then one of the girls at the table near us saw Chuck, and yeah, you guessed it, it took exactly two seconds for Chuck to hop over there and perform the same cat trick to their girlish amazement.  
       Chuck became the instant hero.
       “I just don’t know how he does it.”  
       “Yeah, it’s humiliating,” Bob said, “when you know you’re not even smarter than a cat.” 

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Chuck Gets Culture - He Sees the Mona Lisa

     Chuck has a reputation to uphold. On safari, he is a tough cat. And he likes to pretend he isn’t afraid of anything. Chuck has faced the hyena and the lion, the elephant and the giraffe, and although he may snuggle down a bit farther into my shoulder bag, he’s one fearless little soul.
    But I wanted Chuck to be well-rounded.
     So when we went to France, I thought it was time that Chuck got some culture. I had an idea. In Paris, Bob and I decided to spend half a day at the Louvre, and we made a list of what we wanted to see there. Of course, we didn’t mention this to Chuck. He doesn’t much care for statues and paintings and such. He only agreed to come to France because he wanted to see the Eiffel Tower, and he wanted to taste the mussels, which he’d heard from some of his cat friends were delicious.
     Getting Chuck into the Louvre would not be easy. The museum is crowded and has high security. And Chuck is smart and exceedingly observant. If we tried to sneak him in, he would realize what we were doing.
     We had to trick him.
     Our plan was simple. We told him he couldn’t go. We told him we didn’t think he was old enough or mature enough to see the Mona Lisa.
     In the hotel, he crinkled his nose at us. “Who’s that?”
     We told him about the painting. Not everything. Chuck has a limited attention span. Only the most salient details--that it was the most famous painting in the world, painted by Leonardo da Vinci, 500 years old, and now behind bullet-proof glass. And then we told him about her eyes, how they seemed to follow you wherever you were in the room.
     That did it. Chuck was in. He wanted to see Mona Lisa’s eyes.
     The next day we bought the tickets. Chuck was stuffed into my coat because I couldn’t bring a backpack into the museum. We headed straight for the painting.
     It wasn’t easy. Hundreds of tourists milled about in the tiny space where the painting was hung. And the worst part was--the painting was on a wall far away from where you were supposed to stand, behind a rope, and it was small.
     For such a famous painting, it should have been bigger.
First, Chuck had trouble seeing the painting because people rudely stood in front of us. Then he wanted to move along the rope and have her watch him with her eyes, but you couldn’t stand still, you had to continue to move down the line.
    But I could tell he was impressed.
    For one moment, he purred, which is Chuck’s way of showing total contentment.
     As we were leaving the Louvre, I had to ask him, “Well, what did you think? Was it worth it?”
     He licked his paw, then gave me a snarky half smile. “I supposed so, but can we go see the Eiffel Tower?”


Sunday, September 25, 2011

Giraffes in the Wild

      Chuck gave me no peace after I kissed Daisy.  For if the truth be told, I think he fell in love too.  When you’ve been kissed by a giraffe, or if you are close enough to watch someone being kissed by a giraffe, it is as if you are hit by a bolt of lightning.  Things are never quite the same.  We were in Kenya, Africa.  Chuck, Bob and I.  On a safari.  
      After Nairobi and the giraffe sanctuary, we headed south to stay at a camp in the central part of Kenya in the mountains.  And we had one more opportunity to see giraffes.
      Our guide, one late afternoon, told us, as he pointed toward a trail that led up a winding mountain that if we wanted, he could take us up to see the giraffe.  He knew where they would be hanging out at dusk.  So we hopped into the safari vehicle and traveled up the rocky trail until we reached the top of the mountain.  We dismounted and began to walk in the tall grass toward the spot where Stephen said the giraffe tended to congregate every night.  
      My heart was pounding.  It was one thing to be in a sanctuary and to watch the giraffe frolicking in the field in front of you.  And granted, it was pretty cool to kiss one.  But to be out in the open, in the wild, knowing that giraffe were out there somewhere, fifty feet or less from you, and that any minute you might see one--well, that was something I had never experienced before.  
      Even Chuck was excited.  He stuck his snarky head out of my bag and sniffed the air.  He pointed his Chuck paw toward the trees in the distance.  Stephen motioned us to stop.  Luckily, we were down wind.  We needed to be very quiet.  Sure enough, as our eyes adjusted to the dimming light around us, we picked out first one, then two giraffe--munching on the leaves of the trees.  Casually.  Contently.  Feeling relatively safe in their home environment. 
      Then we saw even more.  An entire family of giraffe had gathered together, like they do every evening.   
      This moment was like magic.   
      I smiled at Chuck.  He smiled at me.  
      Stephen motioned that we could move closer, and as we sidled through the tall grasses, our gaze glued to the giraffe, I couldn’t help but think how lucky I was to be seeing this sight.  I knew I would never forget this place or this moment for the rest of my life.  
      And in the quiet calmness of the oncoming evening, with only the sound of wind rustling through the trees, I could hear Chuck’s purring beside me.  The Chuck was mesmerized, enthralled by the sight.  
       Being out in nature like this was better than reality T.V.  
        It was so purrfect . . . until . . . I felt a rustling.  I was so intent on watching the giraffe, so intent on capturing them on film that I had taken my attention off of my usually rascally cat, Chuck.  He had somehow managed to slip out of my bag.  Now on the ground, at my feet, he was proceeding to stalk toward the giraffe, determined, as only Chuck can be, to get a closer look.
        But, of course, he paid me no mind.
        “Chuck, get back here,” I hissed, afraid that his presence would scare the giraffe off.
        He must have heard my anxiety for he stopped, mid-step, and began moon-walking backwards, but very slowly, trying, I think, to savor every last darned minute of being a “bad boy.”  
         When he was finally close enough, I swooped him up and stuffed him, head first, back into my bag.
         “Yikes,” I heard him yell.
         “You deserve it.”
       Later, back at our tent, we kicked our heels back, poured a few glasses of wine, and drank a toast to those giraffe, and tried to forget Chuck’s little act of misbehavior.  He had almost ruined the moment, but when you travel with a cat named Chuck, you can never let your guard down . . . never!  
       Do you agree??  Can a cat like Chuck be trusted?  Do you have a cat like Chuck?

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Kissing Daisy - the Giraffe

     Chuck’s promise to give up wine did not last long. He loves his milk.  What cat doesn’t.  And he’s also a little too partial to Bloody Mary’s.  Hey, I’ve seen the “belly boy” down two or three glasses in a sitting, lapping them up from his designated bowl before I had a chance to say--whoa, boy.  But that’s another story for another day. 
     A while ago Bob and I decided to fly around the world to Africa, to Kenya, to be exact and go on a safari.  I had this idea in my head that I wanted to see giraffes up close and personal.  Now, if you ask me, they are the most beautiful of all the wild creatures roaming the plains.  Tall and elegant.  Good natured.  But never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that I would have the unique opportunity to kiss one. 
     Now, I could blame Chuck.   After all, when someone offers you a chance to do the unthinkable, common sense usually intrudes.   And I am a sensible person.  I could say--if it weren’t for Chuck, I never would have kissed that giraffe.  
     Let me tell you the story and let you decide.
     Bob and I were in Nairobi visiting a giraffe sanctuary.  Now we don’t have giraffe sanctuaries here in the states, but in Kenya, these places are very popular.  They are unique habitats where giraffes live in semi-wild places, protected  environments, which mimic a giraffe’s own natural habitat.  But with the added benefit that naturalists, etc. can study the giraffe, and visitors (this is where I come in) can see and interact with them.  The sanctuaries offer the usual gift shop (believe it or not), but they also offer a large platform that visitors can stand on which enables them to be eye to eye with the giraffes who are frolicking out in the field. 
    So imagine many visitors on this platform and then suddenly everyone leaves to go to the gift shop.  But Bob and I and Chuck, who is hidden in my smart bag, stay behind because I just love giraffes and I have no interest in the gift shop.  Suddenly, one of the attendants asks--quite out of the blue-- “Would you like to kiss a giraffe?”  
     The idea is so preposterous sounding, I immediately say no.  Of course not.  I cannot even imagine it.  First of all, even though they are beautiful, their heads are gigantic and when you are as close to them as I am, a bit scary.   And second of all, although I have been feeding them, giraffes have the longest and slimiest of tongues that I have ever seen.  Pitch black.   And they seem to move like lightning.
     We lure the giraffes from the fields with the promise of food.  Small pellets which we hold in our hands.  The giraffes lap them off our palms or nibble them from our fingers.  So I have felt that tongue on my hands and fingers.  
     Kiss a giraffe?
     “Are you sure?” the attendant asks again.   
     Now this is where Chuck comes in because he is poking his head out of the bag and he gives me that Chuck look which I know all too well.   That disappointed look.  He would like to see me kiss a giraffe.  Make his day!
     “Well, what would I have to do?”
     Now the attendant gets excited.  “It is so easy,” he says.  “Put a pellet of food between your lips.  Like this.”  He demonstrates.  “Then Daisy will come up and remove the pellet.  Her lips will touch yours.”
     Ah, I realize, that will be the kiss.
     “Do not worry, giraffes have the cleanest mouths on the plains,” he says to reassure me.
     “Do it,” Chuck whispers.  
      OMG.  Do I dare?  I finger the pellet of food and then place it gingerly between my lips.  My knees are shaking.  And my hands.  I glance over at Daisy.  She is mooning about, waiting for more food. 
     “Now lean over so she can see you have food,” the attendant directs.
     I hesitate.  
     “Chicken,” Chuck meows.
     I lean over the rail, and Daisy swoops in.  I ram shut my eyes, petrified, aware only of what is about to happen.  I expect to be slobbered, but I am so wrong.  Her lips are like a gentle wind as they touch mine and extract the pellet.   
     When it is over, I smile from ear to ear.  
     I have kissed a giraffe.   Her name is Daisy.
     Chuck smiles too.  
     I think I am in love.
     So what do you think?  Should I have kissed that giraffe????


Sunday, September 11, 2011

Meet Chuck - The Rascal Cat

     I know who you were hoping for.  Some big hulking hunk of  a guy.  The usual Chuck kind of guy.  Not a luscious orange and white tabby cat.  But trust me, Chuck is a rascal.  A bad boy of the first order. And Chuck has been traveling with me on every trip for the last few years.  He has gotten used to being stuffed into my carry-on, even though it was way easier when he was the cute kitten of yesteryear.
     His twelve pounds of hulking weight could have put me in danger of going over on my luggage weight.  After all, he has the nickname of "Belly Boy."  But he prefers to be stuffed into my carry-on.
     You might be wondering how all this got started--this unusual travel arrangement.  Chuck's idea, of course.  He was snooping in my travel diary and happened to notice Bob and I were booked to fly to Italy and Chuck, being a "gourmet," decided on the spot he just had to taste cat food "italian style."
     Which brings me to the night in question.  We arrived and did some touring, which Chuck did not participate in--he is into food and not into cathedrals and churches and statues and such--but he was getting bored in the hotel and decided to shrink down and come with us when we went for our nightly "passegiata," which is Italian for walk.  He was in my shoulder bag, snuggled in nice and comfy, his nose protruding just enough, so that if we wandered by anything that looked good enough to eat, he'd know about it, when hubby and I heard music--rock and rock--from a live band.
      We followed the music in this teeny tiny Italian town called Aquilla, which means the eagle, and we stumbled onto a party.  A slew of Italians were partying in front of a school, not far from the town square, celebrating the graduation of a young man from university.  His brother was the superintendent of schools and welcomed us over as if we were long discovered lost relatives who had just flown in.
     Now Chuck doesn't speak Italian, but he does appreciate a good wine, and he didn't mind hopping out and lapping up that luscious dry red wine from the plastic cup which was provided.  In fact, he had a bit too much to drink, but he behaved himself and became quite the hit of the party.
     A little known secret--Chuck can dance when he puts his mind to it.  And he did--with a gorgeous Italian college girl who he spotted the minute she waltzed over.  Yeah, what can I say?  Chuck loves his twin sister Ella to death, but when he's on the road, belly boy is a mover and a shaker.  And Chuck, under the illusion at times, that he was named after Chuck Berry, the original "Let's do the twist" guy that goes all the way back to the swingin' sixties, actually can do the twist, and if I had had my wits about me, I would have snapped that shot, but I didn't.  Unfortunately, I, too, had had too much wine to drink.  Bob and I had spotted literally cases of wine bottles sitting in the corner--that Italia for you--and these lovely Italians were cracking open another bottle--one a minute, it seemed to me.
     What I did see was Chuck, cuddled in the arms of this girl, swaying to the music one minute and the next, he had hopped down onto the pavement and was twisting away.  Not easy for a cat, despite what you see on cat food commercials.  Chuck managed to propel himself onto his two hind paws, stand erect and twist.
     The next morning, the poor cat had a hangover.  In fact, we all had hangovers.  Chuck blamed the wine and swore off all drinking--except for milk, of course.
      Chuck when he was a bit younger.  Courtesy of www.katelutter.com