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The Cat Became Charlie - De File
Does Collecting Make You Feel Dirty?
The Cat Became Charlie
The tape drawer I was organizing tonight also contained some 3.5" diskettes, shoved way in the back. Most contained only duplicates of files already on my hard drive. But I found a few useful documents. And, on a disk submitted by two students in my Honors Program seminar from the fall of 2002 -- they were and remain a couple -- this amusing item, which was intended to fulfill the weekly assignment I'd given the class to find and interpret a "literary artifact":
ENGL 495b
Literary Artifact

Champ was the first cat we named. Champ wasn’t really a stray. He belonged to the nine-year-old neighbor girl. This little girl refused to let her mother mercifully put her kitty to sleep after a dog had snapped its back. Because its back was broken the kitten was incontinent, so our wise neighbors decided that it would now be an outdoor cat. That’s how we met Champ. Champ got about amazingly well for being paralyzed. He’d run as fast as he could with his front paws and swing his back half around corners like he was in some 1970s car chase. He would crawl up on the porch, trailing cat shit behind him and meow for food or just a little chin scratch. To name him Champ was a juvenile attempt at using irony to make light of his obvious shortcomings. But the utterance/vocalization of his name had a way of making his horrible condition seem better. Champ was really a sweet, sweet cat. We took him to the vet and had him put to sleep about a month later.

The little girl, unable to find her kitty, demanded a new one. Within a day a five-week-old kitten was meowing for food and affection on our porch. That night the kitty became Boo and found a new home with a friend of mine(I just found out he was named after Boo in To Kill a Mocking Bird while rereading this response. Her other cats are Scout and Atticus ). What had disturbed me even more than stealing kittens from little girls was the act of naming it such a horribly mundane cat name. If we were to use our God-given right to name the creatures in our world, couldn’t we create names that please us? Who could deny that Steve or 2X4 would not be inherently a better name for a cat then the precious Boo? The next cat belonged to me, or at least its name would.

Some time before the spring of 2002 a new stray cat started showing up around my house on Third Avenue. Mine. What about naming the cat after a professor from the English Department? I’m not in the English Department but my girlfriend is. Haw, what a funny this would be. This would have the advantage of allowing H____ to pull her professors down from academic loftiness to purrirific cuddliness. The cat became Charlie Bertsch.

Introductions were made when my roommate got home.

“Roommate, this is Charlie Bertsch.”


“Charlie Bertsch is an English Professor.”

“Aren’t you the cutest little thing, Mr. Flufers?”

Today there are two camps in my house. The first addresses the cat as Mr. Flufers. The second is me.
While those were hardly halcyon days for me, I still look back on them fondly, the way upper-crust Europeans regarded 1910 from the far side of World War I. And I continue to be honored to have had a cat named after me, even it was done under the sign of irony.

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12 comments or Leave a comment
siyeh From: siyeh Date: October 10th, 2006 04:51 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
My cat is also named Charlie, but he came with that name, and it was before I met you.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: October 10th, 2006 05:05 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
I remember learning about Charlie's name not that long after learning of that other "Charlie Bertsch," so it's comforting to know that there's no connection between me and the former.

[Nice edit, BTW. I'm always impressed when someone takes the time to get the phrasing right.]
siyeh From: siyeh Date: October 10th, 2006 05:12 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Just trying to distance myself as much as possible from someone who would do that :)
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: October 10th, 2006 06:12 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Oh, it didn't bother me. It's weird looking back on that document after all that subsequently transpired with those two. But it amused me at the time.
siyeh From: siyeh Date: October 10th, 2006 06:51 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
I tend to get weirded out whenever students do anything that seems to me to be too personal, unless I feel like somehow I have authorized a personal relationship with them. This student came up to me the first day of class and gives me a "high five" and exclaims "you're sassafrass!" I, for some reason, did not like this anymore than I liked how close he was talking to me. I hate close talkers.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: October 10th, 2006 07:00 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Good point. I guess the naming of the cat was problematic at the time it happened, since I didn't really know either of them. But I didn't find out until I'd been teaching them both for a month and seeing them all the time in the ambit of you-know-who.
chefxh From: chefxh Date: October 10th, 2006 05:05 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: October 10th, 2006 07:36 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Better a cat than an aardvark, right? :-)
celebrian_3 From: celebrian_3 Date: October 10th, 2006 07:24 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)

I am as amused about the cheeky impertinence of the delivery as I am about the actual naming--if only because it's interesting to comtemplate the personality of someone who would not only name a cat after someone they know (and presumably should respect) but would actually inform them of that naming--in the form of a writing assignment for the person in question, no less.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: October 10th, 2006 07:35 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Yeah, he was -- and no doubt still is -- pretty cheeky. But his affection for people outweighed his tendency to push the envelope.
elizabeg From: elizabeg Date: October 11th, 2006 06:09 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Or especially if it was done under the sign of irony?

One of the 826 kids has attached herself to me. I keep working on the instructive reinforcement of distance. It doesn't often take. A few weeks ago I acquired three cats in the story we got her to write only by first taking a bunch of digital pics of her with these stuffed cats and then asking her to narrate the pics. I acquired three cats without irony. The pic of "the lady with cats" is a picture of her but when I asked if we could name the lady for the story she named herself me.

I'm allergic to cats.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: October 11th, 2006 07:04 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
I think this is an allegory.
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