Bertha and the Blueberry Country Club for Cats

Some ideas spring unbidden, leap into consciousness with indelible impact, embed themselves so resolutely as to be impervious to the ordinary tidal pull of memories saved and memories lost.

Such was my experience in overhearing a seemingly competent woman release a torrent of vituperation toward a person named Bertha, apparently the owner or manager of an enterprise known as The Blueberry Country Club for Cats. Propriety demanded that I quietly withdraw from the blast zone, lest my uninvited observation of the dismembering of Bertha’s character add even greater impetus to the roiling disaffection for Bertha and, I supposed, her disgruntlement with the Blueberry Country Club, and perhaps with cats.

I longed to know more of Bertha’s betrayal; had there been simple mismanagement of cat care, an unhappy encounter with a particular cat or band of cats? Surely the misstep, Bertha’s I guessed, had been singularly egregious to warrant the amount of venom sprayed in the few seconds of immoderate recrimination I had witnessed. I longed to eavesdrop until the details of the battle became clear. Stories are all about us; I am shameless in appropriating stories and sensed that at least two or three could be tapped from title, “Bertha and the Blueberry Country Club For Cats”.

I could take the obvious path and invent a story about a sensitive girl from Nebraska, young Bertha, daughter of hardworking beet farmers, simple folks not afraid of hard work and fond of beets. I could give her kind and loving parents, well-meaning but unable to imagine a world beyond the confines of farm and vegetables. Chafing at the strictures of life on the prairie and comforted only by her cat, Blueberry, and the books she’s found at the local library, the clever girl finds herself in Lincoln, a graduate of the University, poised and at ease, she thinks, in the company of the city’s elite. Invited to balls and galas at the snazzy Husker Club, Bertha delights in the amenities a club affords, abandoning her parents and her once-beloved Blueberry.

I haven’t decided what indignity Blueberry has to suffer in order to signal Bertha’s perfidy, but something nasty separates girl and cat. Borrowing heavily from every teen film ever made and with a tip of the hat to the Disney bathos factory, I could put Bertha in a painful scene in which her new-found friends reveal their mocking contempt for her small town wardrobe and values, leaving her weeping bitterly and longing for the comfort of true friendship. Racing back to her apartment, Bertha intends to set things right with Blueberry, but Blueberry, anticipating Bertha’s distress, has set out to find her at the country club. It’s not much in the way of irony, but the third act needs some suspense. Yadda yadda, reunion, reconciliation, tears and promises, a wiser and better Bertha turns the tables, makes a fortune, and rewards Blueberry by building a country club for her and for cats of all every size, shape, and color. Happy ending, sniff, sniff.

I am aware that this may not be a story worth the telling; it could be seen as more than familiar and not all that instructive. There are bigger concerns in a complicated world, concerns, for example, about the essential and innate characteristics of cats. Let’s just leave Bertha out of it.

I am fond of animals in general including cats, but I avoid Cat Whisperers, My Cat From Hell, and Meowmania. I choose not to search for blogs such as “Des Hommes et des Chatons”, “Dressing Your Cat”, “Popular Songs Performed by Cats”, and “Rowdy Kittens At Play”. Have I visited “The Infinite Cat Project”, in which cats watch each other? I have not, although the chain of cats has now passed two hundred and fifty, which is an impressive number of cats watching cats.

Questions are bound to arise when I introduce “Des Hommes et des Chatons” (Of Men and Kittens), a site which pairs cats with hunky men who most resemble them. I don’t want to get into any aspect of that enterprise, even as I recognize the hours of research its authors must invest in order to keep the pairs well matched. Keep your questions to yourselves, or hop on whatever hunk/guy/kitten chat room you frequent and let them fly.

No, it was the Country Club aspect that got me. Would I have been as puzzled by a Country Club for Dogs? I think not.

In the first place, dogs would be inclined to join a club; a pack is essentially a club without a golf course. Cats don’t travel in packs; they are independent and … well, let’s leave it at independent. Yes, Lions hunt in prides, but they are the only felines that do, and they aren’t hanging out together as pals. Take away the advantages of bagging zebras and heartebeasts as a pride, and lions go their separate ways.

Then, dogs are pretty much always associated with sport. Big lumpy dogs gambol through meadows and marshes not just to put something alive, or recently alive, in their mouths but because they find snorkling along fun; it amuses them. Smaller dogs harry, or chase things up trees, or stuff their snouts in burrows. Dogs fetch and catch frisbees; toss the ball and you have a friend for life. Try tossing a ball for a cat and see what you get. Dogs compete in a variety of athletic contests, enjoying the challenge and rising to the competition. And what do they hope for as their reward? A pat on the head or the toss of another frisbee.

Dogs and sport make sense.

Cats do not compete. They hunt and disembowel things; they leave heads and body parts on the doorstep. Silent stalking and lashing tails bring the pounce of the carnivore, but the hunt is hardly sport; cats don’t wander home after a day of not killing something content with the thrill of the hunt.

Cat. Mouse. No contest. Where’s the sport in that?

The closest a cat comes to sport is in toying with prey, allowing them just enough room to start an escape, only to find they are playthings in the paws of a sadistic predator. There may be a club for that sort of diversion, but that’s a story for another day.

I have to be content with the mystery that clouded the Bertha and cat outrage; I’m certain the real story is far richer than any I might imagine, so I walk away, grateful for a world that continues to offer surprise and wonder.

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