92: The Cat Who Came to Dinner

92: The Cat Who Came to Dinner

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Cat Did What?

The Cat Who Came to Dinner

We do not quite forgive a giver. The hand that feeds us is in some danger of being bitten.

~Ralph Waldo Emerson

We were a young family with three children under eight years old, two Collies and two cats. We also had an adopted family member — actually one who adopted us. I think many families experience this. This person is always the husband’s good old buddy, who is either single or recently divorced. Our addition was still single.

Even though all the subjects in this little tale have long since passed away, I will change our guest’s name. And “Charlie” was a constant guest. He would invite himself to every meal he could possibly attend and then include himself in our evenings watching TV, going to a movie or even bowling. It was as if he had no life away from our family.

When the kids started calling him “uncle” I told my husband that he simply had to have a word with Charlie. It wasn’t that he was rude or obnoxious in any way. He was very nice. It was just that he was always there. We had no private time and in reality, he ate as if each meal was his last. It was breaking our already tight budget. My husband agreed, but found it very difficult to bring up the subject with his pal. How do you tell someone you really do like that enough is enough? It was quite a quandary.

The dogs liked him. The kids liked him. Even the cats liked him. If fact, it was how much one of our cats liked him that solved our problem. Johnny was a small, black and white cat that was basically a homebody. Even though I kept a window open for the cats to come and go, he preferred the indoors to the world outside. On the other hand, Ringo, our huge, gray tabby tomcat, loved the outdoors. He was a proficient hunter and was well known in the neighborhood for his skill. I was even offered quite a bit of money to sell him to a neighbor when he saw how good Ringo was at catching the gophers that plagued his vegetable garden.

One Sunday afternoon in the fall, I was making a pot roast dinner complete with homemade apple pie for dessert. Naturally, good old Charlie was already seated in our living room watching TV, waiting for the feast. I’d pulled my husband aside and told him that there would definitely be no leftover roast for his lunches the coming week, and that he really must talk to Charlie about being at every dinner, every day — without an invitation.

“I can’t hurt his feelings.” It was the normal reply I got from my dear husband.

“I’m not going to be the bad guy in this. Charlie is your friend,” I always replied. He said he promised to talk to Charlie — maybe tomorrow. I sighed and started setting the kitchen table for dinner.

There was a sports show that both my husband and Charlie wanted to watch on television, so they opted to eat in the living room. They sat on the couch, using the coffee table for their plates and drinks. The girls and I ate our dinner at the kitchen table that evening.

Halfway through the meal, a commotion broke out in the living room. I assumed that some great event had happened in the game they were watching. Then the hollering became louder and turned into a male version of screams of terror. It was Charlie.

At the same time, my husband was laughing so hard, I was afraid he’d choke. I rushed to the doorway between the kitchen and living room. The girls scrambled from the table and huddled behind me, stretching to look out at their father and Uncle Charlie.

A giant, dead, bloody rat was lying in the middle of Charlie’s pot roast. Gravy was spattered all over the table, Charlie’s trousers and shirt. Some even made its way onto my husband, who was now so red in the face from trying to choke back his laughter he looked like he was ready to have a stroke.

Ringo was sitting on the back of the couch, purring loudly and rubbing back and forth against Charlie’s head, proudly viewing the “gift” he had given to his friend to eat. To the cat, nothing on earth could possibly be better than a nice, fat, fresh rat. He had killed it, brought it in through the open window and hopped onto the back of the couch carrying his gift.

Charlie was hunched over his plate, his eyes on the TV screen. Ringo simply crawled onto his back and dropped the rat over Charlie’s shoulder, directly onto his plate of pot roast. Then the cat retreated to the back of the couch to watch his friend devour the feast he had provided.

“Look, Mommy,” my oldest girl said. “Ringo really loves Uncle Charlie. He brought him a present.” I couldn’t help it; I burst out laughing too.

Charlie was now on his feet and waving his arms frantically. He gulped a few times then took off running for the bathroom. Sounds of him heaving up his dinner almost drowned out the television.

“I’m sorry, hon. I couldn’t help laughing,” I said to my husband. “But, you were laughing first. You’re not innocent. You’d better go help him.”

My husband got up and went to see what he could do for Charlie. I got a paper lunch bag, a bottle of spray cleaner, and a massive wad of paper towels and went into the living room to wipe up the mess and deposit Charlie’s dinner and extra condiment, into the bag for the trash bin outside.

Ringo watched me with puzzlement. How could anyone trash a delicacy like that? He jumped from the couch to follow me. My oldest grabbed him, put him in the bedroom and closed the door.

Charlie and my husband came back into the living room. Charlie was cleaned up as much as possible. I explained to him how Ringo really thought he was doing something great. It was an honor, actually. Charlie didn’t see it that way, but he accepted it. “Yes, we’re all used to Ringo’s little gifts,” my husband added.

“He does this all the time?” Charlie stammered.

“Sure,” my eldest daughter said. “But, this is the first time he ever thought anyone but us was good enough to get a present. He must really love you, Uncle Charlie.”

I offered to heat up a new plate of food for Charlie, but he seemed to have lost his appetite. He suddenly remembered someplace he needed to go and even refused a slice of apple pie to take with him.

Needless to say, my husband never had to have “that uncomfortable talk” with his best friend. And Charlie never showed up for dinner uninvited. When he was invited, we always assured him that Ringo would be kept in the service porch to avoid any future gift-giving during dinner.

~Joyce Laird

More stories from our partners