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Chuck Jones: Johnson the Cat

Chuck Jones: Johnson the Cat

“He moved into our house that morning, bag and baggage.  The bag was that cat bag all cats live in, one of the few characteristics he shared with other cats.  He sat fat and walked thin like other cats, but the resemblance to other cats stopped there.

“His baggage was what appeared to be a very old, very used tongue depressor, fastened securely about his neck with a bit of tarry string, bearing in violet indelible ink the crude inscription: JOHNSON.  Whether this was his name, that of his former proprietors, or his blood type we were unable to determine, since he discussed his past not at all and responded to the name Johnson as well as nay other, which was not at all; actually going in response to that name only to my mother and then only when she offered him grapefruit.

“For it cannot be denied that Johnson was a patsy for grapefruit.  Many a battered mouse owed his life and his continued livelihood to an unknown grapefruit offered to Johnson by my mother.  Johnson would leave a Bismarck herring, a stick of catnip, or a decayed sea gull for a single wedge of grapefruit.  For a whole grapefruit, he would have committed fraud or practiced usury.

“…but Johnson insisted that she misunderstood his needs.  After a brief conversation in different languages, my mother reluctantly offered Johnson the remains of her grapefruit.

“…There was a sudden electric blue crack in the atmosphere like those preceding a tornado, as Johnson went at that innocent grapefruit like a tangerine-colored buzz saw:  as the stripped shell of the fruit spun slowly to a stop like a twisting coin, Johnson sat staring dreamy-eyed, dreamy-grinned at Mother.  As the reamed-out grapefruit rind whirled to a long loping stop, Johnson’s lox-pink tongue tenderly flicked a final golden drop from a whisker and whispered to Mother the single English word he knew: “More.”

*From James Joyce’s Ulysses, but Johnson said it first.

[excerpt from Chuck Amuck by Chuck Jones]

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