Question Answered

Mr. E.
Mr. E.
The question has been asked, “Isn’t it frivolous, self-indulgent, and downright asinine to expend precious time, effort, and bandwidth on cats?”

William of Orange

William of Orange
William of Orange
William of Orange has graced us by becoming the latest member of the family. Unlike Mr. E., whose true name is still unknown to us, William announced his royal status right off the bat.
We were not surprised. His regal bearing, discriminating air, and sense of entitlement bespeak a noble birth.
When offered the title of Assistant to the Head of Townhome Security, he declined, saying he would accept nothing lower than First Secretary, with benefits.  Appointment awaits creation of the sinecure.
Meanwhile, he lounges about the castle, disappearing every afternoon for a siesta. We suspect he’s under the bed. Efforts to rouse him are fruitless unless accompanied by the rattling of silverware. His state is kingly, and we only stand and wait.
And yet questions remain.
William sometimes fails to display the dignity expected of the high-born.  The very night of his arrival, he engaged in a reenactment of the Indy 500. On the bed. For about four hours straight. Without headlights. We weren’t sure whether he was chasing Mr. E. or Mr. E. was chasing him. Granted, Mr. E. is probably Earl Grey parading as a commoner, and as such is an acceptable companion to a king.
But when one is playing the part of the racetrack, one does not welcome such a Glorious Revolution. We were not amused.
Certain other lapses, as well,  give pause–the perching on chair backs, the thinly veiled attempts to engage Mr. E. in combat, the Jesse Ventura-like deportment as he and Mr. E. roll about the floor. Certainly not the stuff kings are made of.
And not once when we’ve put our arms around him has the BBC accused us of breaching etiquette.
In fact, we suspect that, since he is actually a cream tabby, the putative William of Orange is, in truth, William of Orange Cream Soda, Pretender to the Throne.
Nonetheless, in the meritocracy to which he now belongs, William of Orange doesn’t need to pretend. In possession of full rank and title, he reigns–jointly, of course, with Mr. E.–supreme.
William of Orange. Official Portrait.
William of Orange. Official Portrait.
 P.S.  William of Orange, like Mr. E., came to us from Austin Pets Alive!  A lot of his friends there need homes.

The Best Girls in the USA

When I was in third grade, I joined the Brownies. I had visions of hiking in the mountains, starting a fire by rubbing two sticks together, and purifying water by boiling it over a campfire.

I don’t remember the leader’s name, but I do remember standing in her front yard and doing our yell: “To look sharp, be a GSA / To feel sharp, be a GSA / To be sharp, be a GSA / They’re the best girls in the USA!” The object was to yell louder than the Cub Scout troop yelling in a front yard down the street. I always suspected they were having more fun than we were.

The high point that year was the hat show. Each girl had to come up with a hat related to the theme “Outer Space.” Alan Shepard hadn’t yet made his flight, but orbiting chimps had been in the news.

Armed with an idea, my mother went into action. She covered a tube pan with aluminum foil and extended a red plastic tube from the center. Then she raided my toy box and came up with Jocko, a little stuffed red-and-white gingham checked monkey. She wrapped Jocko’s arms and legs around the plastic cylinder. Somewhere on the contraption, she attached a sign reading, “Moon or Bust.”

I loved it. So did the girl who wore it in the show. I was home with the chicken pox. Or maybe it was the measels; I had them that year within two weeks of each other. We also didn’t get the hat back. I was sorry to lose Jocko. Mother had to buy another tube pan.

The next fall, I transferred to another troop. I was glad, because my best friend, Vicki, was in it. Mother was glad because she hadn’t been much impressed with what I’d learned the previous year, which was mostly how to sing the adapted Gillette razor blade song.

 The new troop met at the Scout Hut. We were supervised by a sweet eighteen-year-old senior scout named Edwina (“Please don’t call me Ed-weeeeena“), who appeared to be the leader of record’s permanent sub.

This troop was more active than the last. We spray-painted glass jars yellow and tossed glitter and sequins at the wet paint to make vases for Mothers’ Day gifts. We sat on the patio and listened to Pam’s British aunt tell us everything she knew about Princess Margaret and the Royal Wedding. We sat on the side steps waiting for Edwina to arrive and admired Nan’s bra, which her mother bought to keep her from chapping.

That year’s high point was the slumber party held at the Scout Hut. Edwina, our only chaperone, crawled into her sleeping bag and lost consciousness at a reasonable hour. Since I’d been under the impression that teenagers stayed up all night, I thought that strange. The rest of us tried to amuse ourselves, something that turned out to be impossible. I was tired and cold and miserable and couldn’t fall asleep when I tried and was so happy to see our two-toned green Chevy Bel Air out front the next morning. I went home and fell into bed and slept for twelve hours. Then I ate supper and slept another twelve. 

Our Flying Up ceremony was held in mid-May. We were supposed to wear the Brownie uniforms most of us had abandoned months earlier. When I tried mine on, I remembered why I hadn’t been wearing it. My mother almost had to cut it off me. Part of the problem was the side placket; I haven’t seen one of those since, and I don’t want to. Wearing a black-and-white gingham checked dress reminiscent of Jocko’s outfit, I received my wings and waved at the audience as I walked across the dais. 

Two weeks later, my family moved to a town that had no Girl Scout troop. My career as a GSA had ended.

I never got to hike in the mountains or start a fire with sticks or boil the heck out of amoeba.

But if you want to know anything about slumber parties or Princess Margaret or Nan’s bra, I’ll be glad to tell you.


Bill Waller, circa 1943-1944
Bill Waller, circa 1943-1944

My father, Bill Waller, was stationed in Scotland for several months before the Normandy invasion. While there, he had his picture taken wearing Highland dress. As a child, I was amused at the photo of my daddy wearing a dress. Since then it’s occurred to me that if his ancestors had stayed home rather than emigrating, he might have grown up wearing the kilt.

Since he rarely spoke of his experiences during the war, and I thought it best not to inquire, I have few details about his service. After watching a PBS special on the Big Bands, I did ask whether he’d seen Glenn Miller while he was in Great Britain. He said no. For something like that, he’d have had to drive long distances at night with no headlights. As much as he liked music, Glenn Miller wasn’t worth the effort or the risk. As my mother said later, he was there to do a job, not to be entertained.

In the ’70s, when Anzio was in the television line-up for the first time, his brother’s step-son commented that he couldn’t imagine how soldiers got off those LSTs and hit the beaches under fire.

“There’s nowhere else to go,” said Daddy. That’s the only remark I ever heard him make about actual combat.

Regarding the invasion, he had two advantages: he hit Omaha Beach on June 19 rather than June 6, and he got to drive rather than swim.

He didn’t watch Anzio or any other war movie. I was surprised, therefore, that he never missed an episode of M*A*S*H*. I asked once  whether the Army was really like that. Instead of saying no, as I expected, he grinned sheepishly and his eyes began to twinkle.


At first I thought he’d given the answer he thought I wanted. Then I realized he was telling the truth. Despite all the things he didn’t care to remember, the Army had been like M*A*S*H*.

Because he’d played the part of Hawkeye.


I wish I could write as mysterious as a cat.–Edgar Allan Poe

Mr. E.
Head of Townhome Security

Mr. E.  is the new Head of Townhome Security. He arrived complete with  medical records, microchip, belled collar, and his own personal demon.

The first week, he lived under the bed. We lived on the floor, tossing a toy mouse and slowly pulling back the string. On the seventh day, he emerged and explained the New Order. He is nobility; we are serfs.

The belled collar is a boon to us. Otherwise we wouldn’t know where he was until we heard the crash. He should have come complete with Neosporin and Band-Aids. He respects the castle and furnishings, but his subjects are dotted with puncture wounds.

In another six months, however, the demon will have flown. By New Year’s, we’ll be pining for the halcyon days when he was kitten-cute. If we can’t hold out that long, we’ll google for an exorcist.

Mr. E came to us from Austin Pets Alive! While we cuddled him, Kristin, his foster mother, told us about his background and personality. He’s a darter, she said, so watch out when doors are opened, and he loves to play with other cats. She even gave us her telephone number in case we had more questions.

The only question we have now is one even Kristin can’t answer: what’s his name? Edward? Ethelred? Earl Grey, perhaps? He’s not talking.

As he goes about the business of securing his domain, detecting intruders and rooting out crime, we’ll become become better acquainted. Then maybe he’ll follow the lead of Colin Dexter’s Inspector Morse and tell us what the E. stands for.

At this point, however, he’s all mystery.