There’s a lot of things I like about this picture.
A) It reminds me that spring will come again. Look at that green grass, I could eat it about now.
B) The handle of the Nerf Gun sticking out of the backpack. Did he take that to school? Because that’s a one-year expulsion, dude, no questions asked.
C) Happy the Cat. The longer I stare at her, the more I think she’s the one packing heat.
And so this is a perfect time to introduce Happy… she is the cat who will tolerate pretty much anything the boys will dish out… and purr the entire time. She is the cat who never has much to say but will listen to every word. And she is the cat who inspired the following picture-book story, written for my boys:
Happy the Cat Goes Camping
Happy is small and gray. Her fur is long in some spots and short in others. It looks as if she’s never given herself a bath, but she’s coughed up enough hairballs on the couch to prove it.
Happy owns two small, sometimes wicked, boys. They pull her tail and she scratches their faces, and, despite what their mother thinks, they have a very good time together.
“Pack for vacation boys!” Mother was again talking loudly with no results. The boys were dismantling their room, throwing toy trains at each other and considering how large of a hole a bat would leave in the wall.
“Boys!” Mother screamed this at least six more times before Happy gave up the hope of a nap. The mother’s hair looked worse than Happy’s. She had two backpacks open and had wrestled the boys against the dresser. “I’ll pack your clothes, you pack your toys,” she negotiated.
“Where are we going?” they asked.
“Camping,” Father bellowed from the other room.
“Camping,” Mother said, rubbing her eyes with the palm of her hands.
“Can she come?” The boys presented Happy, purring, by the neck.
“What if we lose her in the woods?” Mother looked hopeful.
“Please! Please! Please!” The boys made such a noise that Mother made for the door. The oldest boy stuffed Happy in his backpack. Happy didn’t protest. She wanted to see where this would go.
Upon arrival at the campsite, the boys unpacked. Mother freaked out. And Happy purred.
“Where will we keep her?” Mother cried. “Cats and tents don’t mix.”
Father pitched the tent anyway.
As they were setting up camp, Happy wanted to see if she could swim.
Mother introduced the power of a fishing net during the swim lesson. The boys dried her with one of her “good towels.” And Happy purred.
After lunch, Happy wanted to see what the porcupine did in his tree.
Mother bandaged her wounds. The boys turned the picnic table into an ICU. And Happy purred.
After starting a campfire, Happy wanted to see why the skunk looked so fancy.
Father, avoiding Mother’s eyes, went to the camp store for tomato juice. Mother washed Happy in a bucket. The boys stuck a ladle in it and pretended they would eat her as goulash. And Happy purred.
After dinner, mother made a lot of noise about getting to bed early. When they finally turned in quite late, they tried to sleep, breathing through their mouths.
“Doesn’t that cat ever quit purring?” Mother whispered in a quiet, desperate sort of way.
Father didn’t answer, feigning death.
When they awoke in the morning, Father packed the car without being asked. On the ride home, Happy climbed into Mother’s lap. Happy looked up and Mother looked down. Happy’s purr filled the car.
Someday Mother would learn how to make the best out of a bad situation. Until then, Happy thought, she would show her the way.
THE END…. and here’s a photo my friend Tami Evans sketched after she read it! That would be me, about to kill Happy for touching my sweatshirt.