Tag Archive | cats

Character Study: Beanie

This is the fifth post in a series about the key characters in “These Foolish Things,” discussing their origins and inspirations. Beanie is Liz Gardner’s cat.

It may be a head scratcher to some people as to why I’d go in depth about the character of a cat. Especially one that doesn’t talk or do anything other than be a cat. Beanie is important to the story. Before Ty Hadley comes on the scene, he is her closest companion and his arc is a catalyst of the action.

Beanie is a cat who found Liz as she was in treatment for breast cancer. He was a stray on the grounds of the hospital whre she was being treated, jumped into her bag and hitched a ride home with her.

This is the inspiration for Beanie:


He knew he looked adorable.

His name was Toulouse (aka Loosey). A friend of mine was vacationing in Florida when a friendly stray cat approached her outside her hotel. She petted him on the head and went back to retrieving her bags from the rental car. When she got the bags into her hotel room, Toulouse popped out of one of them. She said he was skinny, filthy, covered in fleas and mites, but so charming she couldn’t resist. Given his markings and lively personality, he was at least part Turkish Van.

Loose eventually became one of my cats when he came for an extended visit and bonded so tightly with my cat, George that the two moped when they were separated.


George is the orange one.  Squirrel watching was one of their favorite pastimes when they weren’t wrestling. The term coined for the two of them was “Bouncy Cat Boys.”

Toulouse was one of the smartest cats I’ve ever met and I’ve never met a dumb cat. He figured out how to open cabinets and doors, knew how to charm the neighbors, and if I was eating something he thought was interesting, a white paw would reach over and gently guide my hand with the spoon to his mouth. Or try. I didn’t let him win very often. He really did learn “Get your furry ass out of there.” That all-black tail of his seemed to have its own little control because it was always in motion, especially when he was figuring out something naughty to do.

One January night in New Hampshire (and it was bitterly cold), Toulouse dove out the front door during a Chinese food delivery. I searched for him and couldn’t find him in the dark. The next morning, I was outside with a bag of cat cat food and the little bugger popped right up and came in as if nothing had happened. He spent the next two days sleeping.

Loose went from being a Florida cat to Virginia to New Hampshire and finally out to California. I lost him on May 28, 2003 to kidney cancer.

As I was writing “These Foolish Things,” I had “help” from Toulouse (and George and Cookie and Sam) and it seemed natural to include a cat in the story. Writing Beanie was easy because I was just relating Toulouse’s antics.

As I said, Beanie acted as a catalyst in the story and as comic relief. The name came from the old Beanie & Cecil cartoon.


The name seemed like a good one; it just popped into my head. As Liz was an attorney (or an aspiring one), it seemed natural to come up with a link to law for him and I worked backwards to make it short for “Breaking & Entering.” Beanie’s inspiration, Toulouse, was a master of cat burglary.

I will not put spoilers here, but Beanie’s story isn’t completely happy. I miss his inspiration, Toulouse, every day.

If I could inspire readers to any kind of action, I would tell them to go adopt a cat from the local animal shelter or volunteer. Toulouse was proof that there are wonderful, loving, entertaining animals out there just waiting for a home. Go find a Beani of your own.

The Post With Cat Hair in It

Actually, they all have cat hair in them. I live with a cat (he’s not mine, but he likes me). He’s an independent fellow, indoor/outdoor guy, not much of a lap addict. Hell, he doesn’t even like catnip.

Udacity study buddy

Yes, this is Exhibit A: the Hummingbird Hunter

(the hummingbirds are now safe. The feeders were moved to a new location. He can watch; can’t touch)

However, he hears the computer booting up or the keyboard clicking and suddenly, my desktop becomes his very favorite place in the world.

2013-07-07 11.13.37

Cat happiness is keeping a human from non-cat centered activities.

I have Microsoft Arc wireless keyboard and mouse. Exhibit A likes to sit on the keyboard. If we are chatting online and you get a weird burst of characters from me; chances are he sent it. As for the mouse, I frequently have to reach between his legs or around his stripey orange butt to use it.

Last night, I was on a writing hot streak (If you have read or are reading These Foolish Things, I am hard at work on the prequel. And having seen the compression factor by Create Space squish a digital Word file of 417 pages to actual book format of 278 pages, if you guys want something substantial, don’t hold your breath. This is going to take a while). Anyway, I had to periodically pick up my keyboard and wait while His Majesty did his kingly desk sprawl (see above). I thought I’d gotten clever at one point by sitting at the desk and giving him the clear space on the desktop by using my lap desk to rest the keyboard. Suddenly, that became the more desirable real estate. Cats and real estate agents: Location, location, location.

how people with cats eat

This also applies to home computing

Somewhere along the line, maybe during all the hours they sleep, feline internal software got a new version or a patch or an upgrade and they are now programmed to seek out the space between the human being and the computer screen especially if the human is trying to do something. That has to be the answer; Mr. Independent here couldn’t be buggered unless I am focused on what I’m doing. And then, his attitude becomes “You know, we don’t spend real quality time together.” (And right now, I am working around cat butt, head rubs that mash my hands into the keyboard and DON’T CHEW ON THOSE WIRES! DAMMIT! YOU ARE NOT A PET RABBIT!!!!)


I took this picture 30 seconds ago. That’s this blog post on the right.

The dog, God bless him, is normally a Velcro animal, very emotionally needy and doesn’t handle high def TV all that well (He will bark-at dogs, horses, camels, 70 year old still photos of cattle from a Ken Burns documentary and last week, people moving sand from an archaeological dig in Egypt. You heard me; he barks at sand). He will quietly lie on the rug gnawing on his toys or snoozing (when not growling and woofing at horses in a John Wayne movie). He doesn’t insist on getting in my lap, on the desk or under my feet (if he did, Exhibit A would punch him in the face for stealing his act. I’ve seen it).

2013-07-21 08.57.03

Background: The Dog’s Bandanna.

Foreground: The Dog’s Banana (seriously. It has a mustache).

When I wrote my first book, I was sharing my home with 4 cats:

George, Toulouse, Cookie, Sam

 George ,Toulouse, Cookie, and Samba.

Sammy Cat hated everyone else. That’s why she’s on the other side of the bed.

I did not have the “let’s get on the desk and drive her nuts” action that I have going now. Cookie (the Blue Point Crab), would get on a corner of my desk and sit next to the monitor while I worked, but she didn’t interfere.  The boys would be on the floor either rolling around chewing on each other or just lying with bellies up in the breeze from the fan. (SamCat would lie on the futon and just glare at everyone else. As far as she was concerned, they were a bunch of dopes) I would stay up late at night typing away and listening to Sandra Harris on WHOM 94.9. If I got up to get a drink of water or use the bathroom, I would have a furry escort trying to get me to go to bed. I could almost hear little annoyed sighs when I turned around and went back to work (face palms would have been muffled by fur). Some time between midnight and 1 AM, they’d just give up and go to bed without me.  As you can see from the photo, they made sure there was little or no room for me. They snoozed, I losed. Lost.

But those were the cat models of a decade ago. Like I said, the current models have gotten a software patch that better guides interference. Technology doesn’t sit still.

Mark Twain was  a great fan of cats, having a sizable clowder (technical term for a group of cats. Mine preferred to be known as a pride). I’d be willing to bet that Beelzebub, Sour Mash, Blatherskite and Zoroaster tried to “help” him write (The Adventures of Tom Sawyer was the first novel written completely on a typewriter.  I’m sure there was a lot of batting at the keys and the ribbon going on. And probably some choice words from Mr. Twain).

And I’d be willing to bet that he turned in a few manuscripts laced with cat hair.