Having a ball

This past week or so I have been having a ball. It has been a fun time for me from start to finish. It all started off when I was invited by long time friends to go with them to watch the performance Cinderella, in which their teen daughter was performing at the Guelph Little Theatre. Wow. What a bundle of talent I saw. There were 40 enthusiastic participants, in age groups, shall we say from a lenient over 40? – breaking all generation gaps all the way down through teens, double digit preteens, and, yes, as young as only 4 years old. Wow. What a performance.
That all brought back many fond memories of years long gone when the Little Lady and I enjoyed helping out the Guelph Little Theatre. It was at a time when the theatre still had no permanent residence and had to shift location often. It was there, behind the scenes activity, where we felt our lack of talent excelled. It was also there that we were to learn that the skit Bell, Book, and Candle was to be performed, which included a witch who needed, of course, a cat to scamper across the stage as the climax of the performance.
Fortunately, or unfortunately, the Little Lady and I were owned by a male Siamese cat that we had named Timmy. Timmy Loved the Little Lady – and he hated me. It was not unusual for him to rear up on his hind legs, shadow box, and hiss in my direction each night when I shut him down in the cellar of the farmhouse where we were dwelling at the time. That had to be done, on a regular basis, as he insisted, without fail, on walking on my face each night after I fell asleep. The Little Lady, in subtle confidence, volunteered Timmy, to play, in reality, the part of Pywacket, the cat, for the three hand-running evenings that the play was to be performed.
Animal trainers will tell you that the training of any animal is usually just an extension of its natural instincts. This being true, we started to work on Timmy. Each night at bed time when he was put to bed, I would make a hissing sound in his direction. He as usual, on descending three or four steps, would rear to his left, shadow box with extended claws, and with a loud, ungodly moan, hiss. That hissing, he at me, and I at him, was extended during daytime occasions as well, following which the Little Lady would call Timmy, in an almost inaudible voice, and give him a comforting hug. Would that work at night? On stage? In a strange place? Would time tell us that our efforts were in vain? We did not take Timmy to the practice nights as we did not want to tick him off, and we had a stand-by, cat-dressed, agile human actor, practising slinky cat moves, if his performance was to fail.
It was noted that Timmy always, without fail, reared to his left when he shadowboxed, so we knew he must enter the stage from the right. The whole stage setting had to be rearranged, and the actors reoriented, in order to accommodate that action. It was planned that I would release Timmy from his carrying case and the Little Lady, though too, as I, out of audience sight, would call him from the other side of the stage.
Timmy, as Pywacket, performed all three nights with perfection. I released him, he lunged three jumps to centre stage, I hissed, he reared up, turning left, facing the bright lights and the audience, shadow boxed, and moaning  profoundly, returned an extended spitting hiss-hiss-hiss. Then he pussyfooted off stage to indulge in his usual comforting hug in the arms of the Little Lady. If anyone deserved an award for perfect performance it was Timmy. In addition, that same family’s two fun loving daughters popped into my house on a past Tuesday night and along with their Mom, helped me to decorate my home for Christmas. That same day, too, I finished my own Christmas shopping and a friend took me over to Kitchener to pick up, from my publisher, another six boxes of my latest book, The Best of Bits and Pieces, book one.
So if you are a last minute, don’t know what to get, shopper, think books, Think Mom and Dad, Think Grandma and Grandpa. Think friend and neighbour. Think Barrie’s book, at 519-843-4544, if you want a signed copy. Think, as well, Roxanne’s Reflections, book and card shop, 519-843-4391. She has a few copies there too.
’Take care, ‘cause we care.

Barrie Hopkins