Imagine a Ginger and White feline version of Miss Jean Brodie! Billy, Timmy and Joey graduate with honours from CHARLIE'S REALLY ADVANCED FELINE TRAINING SCHOOL ... 

Just as Garfield brought Charlie through the bewildering emotions and growing pains of his kittenhood, so it fell naturally to Charlie to take on the disciplining and general everyday education of Billy, Timmy and Joey.

He went about his duties very seriously. Whereas Garfield had been an easygoing, laidback tutor and mentor, Charlie employed the stricter approach. He’d been following the Government’s advances in new controls in education and thought a tighter rein would suit his pupils.

Billy, Timmy and Joey had lessons from early morning to late evening with few rest periods. They were put through their paces as if they were in the marines and they had to come up to Charlie’s exacting standards if they were to pass and go on through the Cat Flap - Gateway to the World and all the adventures waiting for them in the Great Outdoors.

Garfield and Biggles watched Charlie as he tutored the three little ones. He sat them down in a row and he stood in front of them, using the Welsh Dresser door as his board upon which he scribed his notes. Billy, Timmy and Joey were expected to take notes and revise daily for the tests that came out of nowhere, without warning, at any time to see if they had been paying attention. 

Garfield took Charlie to one side and gently suggested that he go a bit easier on the kittens. They were only very young, after all, and he was worried that this very strict approach would have them running away as soon as the opportunity presented itself. Charlie understood Garfield’s concerns, but told him he had been on the Internet and looked up the latest methods of kitten education by Professor Ima Nowall who had found some radical ways of getting kittens to understand basic commands.

Garfield shrugged his weary ten-year-old shoulders and left Charlie to it. He kept a vigilant eye on the three kittens to see if their welfare and well being was in breach of the Convention of Active Training Symposium ready to step in at a moment’s notice to put a halt to anything he considered derisive or derogatory to their upbringing.

Under Charlie’s strict tutelage the kittens flourished. He flew around the house rounding them up with silent whistles and a flurry of paw signals. He looked just like a sheep dog rounding up sheep, herding them into new pastures. Billy, Timmy and Joey ran from room to room with Charlie either in the lead or following behind in hot pursuit.

Biggles and Garfield just watched wearily as 3-year old Charlie zoomed from subject to subject expecting his charges to grasp the concept of his current train of thought. Garfield was beginning to regret giving Charlie such a thorough grounding in all the basic topics necessary for a kitten’s education now that he saw Charlie in action as a feline Miss Jean Brodie.

Charlie’s enthusiasm never wavered. He was not as patient as Garfield had been but he was nonetheless very thorough and competent. He was firm but fair, as he liked to point out frequently. As the weeks turned into months, Billy, Timmy and Joey blossomed into wonderful little cats, very polite and respectful to their ‘elders’ - namely, Garfield and Biggles.

They each had very definite personalities and natures and under Charlie’s relentless supervision, each carved out a niche for himself in various sections of the art world. Billy felt his future was in the new wave of feline films that were sprouting up, particularly in television advertisements. He could often be found sitting in front of the television mimicking the actions of the Whiskas cat or the Felix cat - and then dancing like the Bacardi cat!

Developing into a film star and being a kitten had its drawbacks and disappointments but Billy was ambitious. At only a year old he found a nasty lump on his back which could have been cancerous. But after much prayer and investigation by the vet, it turned out to be nothing more than an allergic reaction to his annual booster injection. This early brush with death changed Billy’s perspective on life and what was important. He changed his mind about his future in films and he talked about joining the priesthood and ministering to fallen felines and those who had lost their way in life.

Timmy was rather timid and held back to let Billy have all the limelight. He liked to sit with Mum while she read or knitted. He watched her avidly, concentrating on which way the knitting needles went and how the thing grew up from nothing. He was very impressed.

He thought he had mastered the art of knitting so when Mum had trustingly left the wool and needles on the sofa while she went to put the dinner in the oven, Timmy thought he would help her cast off. He sat there for a few minutes working out which needle went into which paw and began pulling a stitch here and there. Sure enough they all came off the needle with no great skill on his part. He was amazed at how easy it was to knit and felt quite sure that Mum would be thrilled to see how he had helped her. 

Not content to leave the knitting alone at the casting off point, he pulled the wool and was a bit concerned to see the knitting get smaller and the length of wool become longer. Surely that wasn’t how it was supposed to look!

The look on Mum’s face was a little hard to decipher at first but Timmy thought she was pleased. But then he wasn’t so sure. So to be on the safe side, he went upstairs and hid under the sofa bed. He often went there to escape from Charlie, or from when things didn’t go quite as he planned. Garfield often found him there and would snuggle under the sofa bed to have a ‘cat’ to ‘kitten’ chat with him. He loved Garfield because he was so kind, so understanding and he never lost his temper.

Garfield told him everything would be all right and it would be best if he came down to apologize to Mum. He said Mum would probably forgive him straight away because she never held a grudge, and in any case, Timmy would be able to tell, because she usually picked up the ‘naughty’ cat and gave them a cuddle and kiss - and that meant everything was all right again.

Timmy wasn’t too sure if Mum would forgive him, but spurred on by Garfield he took his life in his paws and went downstairs. He found Mum in the front room trying to unravel the knots in the wool and find the stitches which he had somehow lost. He didn’t think this was a good time to interrupt her, but Garfield was right behind him so he couldn’t back out now.

He walked nervously into the front room. He sat down in front of Mum. At first she carried on with what she was trying to do. He coughed discreetly. Mum looked down at him. Timmy tried his best smile. Then he bowed his head so that he would look sorry and contrite. Garfield put his head round the door to see what was going on and held his breath as it looked as though Mum wasn’t going to pick Timmy up for the forgiving cuddle and kiss.

But just when both Timmy and Garfield thought all was lost, Mum reached down to Timmy and picked him up. She cuddled him close to her and kissed the top of his little ginger head. She looked into his eyes and saw Timmy’s sadness that he had been responsible for causing her additional problems with this knitting stuff. He smiled a little bit and she cradled him even closer to him until he thought he was almost going to die of suffocation. Garfield hadn’t told him about death from suffocation and he wasn’t sure this punishment fitted the crime.

But Mum eventually held him at arm’s length and told him she was very grateful for his hard work but he would have to learn a bit more before he would be qualified as an expert knitter. Timmy’s smile widened until he thought his face would break. Mum looked a little worried too - are cats supposed to smile that wide?

To continue this story of how Billy, Timmy and Joey flourished under Charlie's tutelage, please click here:

Dogs Come when Called

"Dogs come when called. Cats take a message and get back to you."

"Of course, every cat is really the most beautiful woman in the room."

Edward Verrall Luca (essayist)

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