Because I have a teaching course soon, the next post will be on or before Wednesday 1st November
FATTY PULLS IT OFF
Here is a story to warm the heart and we all need one of those on occasion, don’t we (at least one a day in my case, during a grey and pitiless UK winter in my former pan Cumbrian existence, that is). It concerns a gentleman called Fatty Arbuckle but not the one you ‘re probably thinking of, the silent comedy US film star Roscoe Arbuckle (1887-1933) mentor of Chaplin and discoverer of Bob Hope, whose career ended in disgrace when he was accused of the rape and accidental manslaughter of an actress called Virginia Rappe at one of his parties. Even though eventually acquitted and with a written apology from the jury, his films were banned and he had to assume an alias to get any work. He died in his sleep of a no doubt stress induced heart attack aged only 46.
I write at length about someone not the subject of my story because the other Fatty Arbuckle has had a similarly sorrowful at times pitifully bleak sojourn through his young life. The other Fatty is an outsize grey and white stray cat who has been well known to me for the last 4 years in the Kythnos port here, and it was I who gave him his name in a fit of untypical inaccuracy. Parenthetically Greeks don’t give names to even their domestic cats and they certainly don’t give them to the strays unless they are exceptional and strikingly handsome to the eye, as is my old pal Asproula (it means Little Whitey and she is also known as Riri and Ririka) the beautiful white cat who used to sit every day on my lap outside the now defunct Glaros Café. I blithely give names to damn near every stray in the port and they have extremely unGreek ones like Dexter Parnaby, Tiddles McGroaty, Fanny McCorquodaile, Winnie Warbelow, Gus Golightly, and Horace Bachelor (qv the Radio Luxembourg football pools ad circa 1961 if you are touching or over 60 years old). I dubbed Fatty Arbuckle so when he wasn’t really fat at all, more just a big lad, a hulk of a feller, an approximate cross between a smallish dog and a miniature cow but with a very stark and uncompromising feline face. He looked rather like a roughly executed cartoon as drawn laboriously and effortfully by someone like me, who of course cannot draw…
Fatty was and is remarkably well hung, with impressive progenitorial rotundities, each about the size of a Cadbury’s Cream Egg. Being innocently unaware of what he looks like, and the objects of his attentions likewise oblivious of his debatable glamour, he has always been a most perfervid and pressing ladies’ man. His always flawless amorous technique is to sneak up behind the ones who catch his fancy, then leap on their backs, thus effectively pinning them down, finally roughly biting their necks despite all vocal protests, then having his forthright way with them. Ugly as his bluff and ad hoc sexual etiquette is, it is entirely typical of his male peers, half of whom because of the competition for the port beauties have a missing eye or a pair of torn ears or rank and hideous wounds along their backs and feline thighs.
Then 3 years ago seemingly tragedy struck. One day I noticed Fatty pitifully staggering about as if drunk, but no it was worse than that, because he had evidently been hit with force by a speeding car and his nervous system was now seriously affected. His balance was completely out of cock, and he did odd little elliptical staggerings, and his head ever since has stayed at a queer leftward inclination. I was filled with pity as well as anger at the brainless desperadoes who fly through the port as if it were the Nevada desert at dawn, and I also thought it likely meant the end of Fatty and he would be dead within a week or so. From then on, he was to struggle hard to get on his usual perch of the canvas roof of the Glaros, sometimes tipping heavily backwards, despite which his nervous system seemed miraculously adaptive as after a few days he was managing to scale it and to stay there mournfully surveying the kingdom where his mistresses roamed rather more carefree than previously. In those days I was feeding the port strays with luxury cooked ham and if ever Fatty with his sadly cocked neck came down from his perch and started begging, I always gave him 3 times what I gave the others, and if they tried to steal from this quizzical looking invalid I shouted and shooed them out of the way.
So it was that Fatty slowly and gradually got over this major calamity, and he kept on bravely going on, kept on foraging for food, kept on squatting on the Glaros roof, kept on enjoying a rampant if chronically insensitive sex life none of whose offshoots, his sons and daughters that is, were seen to walk about with cocked and interrogatory necks like doughty old pops. Fatty carried on heroically like this for the next 2 years, until one day I saw him outside the Paradisos Cafe looking uncharacteristically sorry for himself, and with very good reason. He had evidently contracted some nasty ocular infection, most likely from scouring for scraps inside the rubbish skips, as his eyes were horribly inflamed and he was whining at low volume with a subdued but definite distress.
I looked at him and my throat contracted and my eyes glistened and I felt great anger as well as pity. What right had this poor little bugger to be afflicted not only with a partial paralysis but with cruelly burning eyes that were killing him in an even more demoralising way? Where was the justice in such pointless and undeserved suffering and especially in the case of an animal, not a human, for at least the biblical patriarch Job afflicted with a plague of boils and everything else, at least he had the comfort of his unswerving faith, which never once wavered whatever crippling misery his God chose to strike him with.
I thought at one stage of taking the invalid home, but soon gave up on that as Fatty unlike many other strays had no sense of compliant docility or of understanding human affection. Plenty of the strays in the port will let me pat and talk to them, and some will even jump on my knee, but Fatty quite wisely always keeps his distance, as many a Greek, both young and old, having no time for strays in general have nil patience at all for one who might arguably be described as ugly as sin. All I could do was talk tenderly to him and shower him with cooked ham which thankfully despite all his grotesque afflictions he managed to gulp down.
A year passed and one day I realised I hadn’t seen Fatty for at least 3 months. After his eyes had become his latest and hardest trial, I had seen him once or twice wandering with his gammy little neck down by the rubbish skips on the harbour, but it was September 2017 now, and I hadn’t seen him since at least the start of June. I concluded that he must be dead, the old lad, the old plug ugly Casanova, and there was a raw lump in my throat, because if a cat is not seen for a few weeks much less months it is invariably the only explanation. But then by way of powerful distraction a few days later my daughter Ione arrived for a fortnight’s holiday, and we visited nearby Martinakia beach almost every afternoon. On one of those visits I told her about the passing of Fatty Arbuckle who she also had known since the days of his youth and his once unimpaired mobility. She was as sad as I was, especially when I filled her in on his appalling conjunctivitis and we spent a few consoling minutes telling each other the best of our Fatty anecdotes from the good old times.
The day after that we were back on the deserted beach, sunbathing and lazily chatting, when suddenly there was a hideous feline shriek to our left on the path back up to the village. Ione is as daft about cats as I am and so we raced towards the uproar and saw it was very young female was squawking and running away from the graceless importunities of a crudely predatorial male. The victim raced over the edge of the Martinakia path which drops down to big sharp rocks and is quite steep and hazardous in parts. The assailant tom for very good reason refused to follow his reckless beloved over and into the gaping abyss, if only because his stilted and peculiar movements were noticeably thwarted and especially in the region of his neck and his head.
“It’s Fatty Arbuckle,” gasped Ione and the two of us immediately threw up our arms in a paroxysm of joy. “It’s Fatty Arbuckle with his knackered jiggly neck and his poor scabby red eyes, and yet here he is and he’s still chasing the women, just like the old days.” Fatty, standing 2 yards away, had his neck cocked at both of us, obviously hopeful of the luscious historical ham as Ione turned to me with a look of wonderment and added. “He’s not back from the dead, then, is he? Because he’s never been away from his women in the first place…”