Carlton repositioned himself to take full advantage of the spot of sunlight that was shining on the deck on the back of the Hoffman’s house. The deck faced south and it was February so Carlton instinctively knew that the sun would be low in the sky; that was why he was where he was. Kind of a lazy day, imagine that, for a feline. Of course, in direct contradiction to the human point of view, cats did a lot more than catch voles and moles and groom themselves; in fact, Carlton knew for a fact that there was a lot going on between his ears. He was satisfied that he was in the 99th percentile in the world of cat intelligence, and he was also satisfied that there was not a thing wrong with being confident as long as one could back it up. Of course he had no proof of this belief other than that he just thought it; additionally his mate Scorpio was constantly bolstering his ego by telling him how intellectual he was. Although he was quite aware of the flattery he just let it pass through one little furry ear and out the other, figuring that it did not hurt anything and if it made his mate happy it must be alright.
As he lounged on the deck Carlton came to be in a reflective mood; he knew through conversations with other felines that a cat who could reflect was a rarity, most cats just totally relying on their instinct and not attempting any intellectuality. “Not that they could if they wanted to,” Carlton purred out loud, thinking that there was nothing wrong with a confident cat. His reflecting took him back in time two years, back to when he and Scorpio had started hanging around each other. He recalled that it was on a Caturday, er Saturday, when they had run into each other in downtown Raleigh. There was an instant attraction between the two and time flew as they went about the joy of getting acquainted; turned out that Scorpio was a budding artist and had set up a small easel in a parking lot and was painting one of the many oak trees in Moore Square. The painting set started Carlton to thinking and he told Scorpio about the sign he had seen alongside Capital Boulevard and how he thought they could have a little fun with it. Scorpio’s eyes sparkled as Carlton told her his idea and and soon they were on the bus heading to the destination. Fortuitously a passenger pulled the cord for the bus to stop; when a cat is catching a ride on a city bus he has to be pretty low key, and climbing on a seat and pulling on the cord was not exactly discreet. Where they stopped was only a block from the old bonded warehouse where Carlton had seen the sign; it was an orange sign set on a stand that said MOWING AHEAD in bold black letters. Since Carlton had filled Scorpio in she knew just what to do. The two cats were giggling so hard while she was at work it almost reached the point of caterwauling, which was indeed a rare occurrence in the cat world. When Scorpio had finished and put her paint set away the two cats stood back to look at their work, Carlton thinking how the job was a perfect blend of his creative thinking and Scorpio’s artistic talent. Scorpio had deftly inserted the letter “e” after the M so now the sign said MEOWING AHEAD. They were so taken with what they had accomplished that both of them had to just roll around in the grass beside the highway in their joy.
Carlton purred loudly and even laughed out loud, which in the cat world the ability to do so is a highly guarded secret. Then his nimble mind went back to when he and Scorpio decided to be a couple. Carlton had never heard of two cats actually having a marriage ceremony before so he figgered that maybe the two of them could, so to speak, plow some new ground. He grinned, something else that is a guarded secret, as he thought of the grand festival that had occurred in the very back yard where he was presently lying. Carlton and Scorpio had both planned the event; they had carefully picked a Saturday night when the Hoffmans, the couple that kept them up, were going to be out of town. Then they put out the word of the event and soon the number of attendees had burgeoned to over 25. Of course Carlton and Scorpio were thrilled by this large response; in the words of Carlton the wordsmith, it was “pawsitively” marvelous. Since there was going to be an actual marriage ceremony next on the agenda was to locate an actual pastor who would be willing to preside over the occasion. By a stroke of luck Carlton recalled that Rocco, a raccoon who lived at the Velvet Cloak Hotel with his drug dealing master, had recently become a minister in the Universal Life Ministry; Rocco was indeed a bonafide, licensed minister. Rocco had attained this lofty position by sending in $135.00 to the mail order church, money he had pilfered from his master. Carlton remembered how Rocco had told him about the theft; “he stays so stoned all the time he will never miss it,” Rocco had told him. For an extra ten bucks Rocco had also received a beautifully embossed honorary Doctor of Metaphysics certificate. “One of these days I’m gonna look in the dictionary and see what that means,” Rocco had told Carlton. In addition to his ministerial qualifications Rocco was a very valuable friend as was evidenced the previous year when he had saved the day at Carlton and Scorpio’s annual party. What had happened was that Carlton had scored some really good pot for the festivities and everyone was very excited until the cats realized that none of them had the ability to roll a joint; however, anyone who has been around a raccoon knows what nimble paws they have. It is rumored that a racoon can unscrew the lid off a jar of peanut butter. The fact that Rocco’s master was a pot dealer was also a factor; Johnny, the dealer, would have pot parties in his room at the Velvet Cloak and Rocco would “twist ‘em up” for the potheads. So Carlton had gotten in touch with Rocco and in exchange for an invitation to the party Rocco agreed to be the joint roller.
Carlton thought back to the night of the wedding; good ol’ Rocco had brought a lot of pot with him and had rolled up a bunch of joints, probably enough for each cat to have his own private stash. One of the cooler cats had brought a boom box and they were all listening to oldies from the sixties and seventies, which was a bit odd since none of were alive at the time; but whoever said that cats were predictable was delusory. After the smoking had gotten into high swing Carlton had noticed that a fair portion of the attendees were curled up on the deck and being very quiet. He quickly went over and gently awakened all of them; the big fun of the night was about to begin. Like most cats Carlton was an avid hunter and passed hours hunting moles, voles and chipmunks in the ivy in the Hoffman back yard; one time he had the fortune to come upon an adolescent rabbit. In his most spectacular display of feline prowess he had chewed the head off poor bunny and had drug body and head to the Hoffman kitchen door. He had hidden nearby the next morning to find out about their reaction and was not disappointed. His chest was puffed up as he heard them exclaiming about what he great hunter he was.
“So he had to make two trips,” Dave Hoffman had exclaimed in wonder. Roberta Hoffman was equally impressed and even thought of taking a photo of the rabbit and sending it to the N. C. Wildlife magazine but Dave suggested that the picture might be a bit much and reminded Roberta that the magazine was dedicated to the preservation of wildlife and not the glorification of the survival of the fittest. Carlton had invented a game he called “mole tossing”. He had introduced it the previous year at one of their parties and it had been a huge hit. Carlton would toss captured moles up in the air and see how long he could keep them airborne; one day he was tossing a recently captured mole and having a very big time when he noticed that Scorpio was rolling around on the deck giggling. He stopped and asked what was so funny and that was when she told him her idea.
“For our next party why don’t you capture a lot of moles and we can have a mole tossing jamboree,” Scorpio explained. She went on to tell Carlton how it would be done; she had noticed a ping pong net in the Hoffman’s basement that had not been used for years. She explained that they could suspend the net about a foot off the ground and turn the moles loose; “it would kinda be like a volleyball game,” she said, “and then when we get tired of mole tossing we can snack on the moles. Will save a lot on the catering bill,” Scorpio said, stifling a giggle. Carlton had agreed to the idea and had immediately begun an avid mole hunt. The first mole tossing festivities had come off greatly, and Carlton recalled how the second one, on the night of the wedding, had been equally fun.
Of course the big event had been the ceremony and The Right Reverend Rocco did not disappoint; he arrived decked out in tuxedo pants and a collarless black shirt. This outfit was left over from when he had assisted a friend in a catering. He topped it off with a wide brimmed Monseigneur type hat that he had found in the trash behind the Velvet Cloak Inn. He had rehearsed the nuptualizing couple the day before, so everyone was on board. When he raised his hand pontifically a quiet descended upon the group. He positioned his righteous ass in the center of the Hoffman back yard and on cue Carlton and Scorpio had rounded the acuba bush at the side of the deck and came to stand before the pastor. Rocco had a delightful high baritone almost tenor voice so he started the ceremony off with a lovely a capella arrangement of “Chances Are” by Johnny Mathis. When Rocco hit the high note at the end of the song the bunch of cats erupted into a chorus of caterwauling as had never been heard by any cat present. Even Carlton was impressed, and that was saying a lot because “Chances Are” was his signature arioke song. That set the ceremony off to a great start and just a little while the vows had been said and Carlton and Scorpio were married.
Carlton interrupted his reminiscing and started back on what he had planned to do that day; from time to time Carlton would have spells of entrepreneurial meanderings and that what was occupying his mind on this particular day. Over the last couple of years Carlton had tried a few different business ventures, but none of them had caught on very well; for example, the time he had come up with the idea of an elixir called “Catatonic”, a product patterned after the old fashioned patent medicines. Carlton and Scorpio had set up a cottage bottling situation in the Hoffman’s shed off the deck and before you knew it they were selling one hundred bottles a week, meow of mouth being the best advertisement. Unfortunately, the business came to a screeching halt when several cats were admitted to the emergency vet clinic off Glenwood Avenue at Coley Forest with alcohol poisoning. This prompted a chemical analysis by local druggist Summey which revealed that the liquid had an alcohol content of 50%; seems Carlton had secured a quantity of white liquor from another local entrepreneur, none other than the infamous Joe Costner, and that was what he was using as the base of “Catatonic”. Fortunately Herr Hoffman was able to smooth things over with the locals and Carlton escaped with a mild slap on the paws.
Carlton stood up and stretched and repositioned himself on the deck. He began worrying that he was putting way too much pressure on himself. “I’m probably just a late bloomer,” he deduced and immediately began to feel better. To bolster this assertion he recalled what he and Scorpio had read just a few days back. It had been a rainy day and the two cats s found themselves in the Hoffman’s attic. They were poring through a box of books when they ran across Mr. Hoffman’s senior high school annual. “Dallas High School” class of 1968 it said on the front in gold letters on a black background. “Apparently their mascot was some kind of a bee,” Carlton had told Scorpio. After pawing through a few pages they deduced that the bee was indeed a yellow jacket, thus the picture of the red haired girl who was announced to be “Miss Stinger”. As they looked through the senior pictures one stood out; “I think this Reid girl is prettier than that stinger girl,” Scorpio exclaimed, and as Carlton perused the picture he decided to agree. “Probably just a popularity contest,” Carlton said. But what really caught their attention was Mr. Hoffman’s senior picture. The way it was set up was that there was the picture, a little saying underneath, and then a list of accomplishments, or lack thereof, of the student. Hoffman’s record was somewhat less than stellar, being composed of a smattering of club memberships. But the eyecatching thing was the saying under the picture; this was chosen by the members of the annual staff. Carlton read it out loud to Scorpio.
“He lay beneath the stars
He basked beneath the sun
He came with lots to do
But left with nothing done.”
“That’s it; he was a late bloomer also,” Carlton purred triumphantly. “And now he is financially comfortable and has a great house; maybe even approaching upper middle class,” Carlton had told Scorpio there in the attic.
Carlton squirmed happily on the deck, realizing that the pressure to excel was off, at least for the present, and let his fertile mind go back to more entertaining thoughts, like mole and vole hunting.