The Strange Case of McGuffin the Buttered Cat

The Strange Case of McGuffin the Buttered Cat

A Story by HoWiE
"

I take a stab at the science-fact behind one of the world's great paradoxes... apparently...

"
     It's not that my Grandfather is nuts, or even mildly off-kilter for that matter, it's just that, as he puts it, he's a big one for 'plumbing the depths of the uncharted corners of the metaphysical' (I have no idea what that means). My Nan calls it 'chasing rainbows'. In turn he calls her a 'silly old mare who can't mind her own business,' so there you have it. 
     
     The moment the phone rang, I knew. Something vaguely unsettling bubbled up in the pit of my stomach like a Lamb Bhuna on unending repeat. I managed to get as far as 'Hel-' before, he spoke. 
     "Good you're in. I need your help." 
     "Hey Gramps" I sighed inwardly. 
     "Be here in half an hour, I'll fire up the Soda Stream!" 
     Click.
     And that was that. 

     I arrived at my Grandfather's about twenty minutes later. My Nan merely rolled her eyes and directed me up to his attic study with a wave of her hand. 
     Words fail to describe the scene that greeted me when I pushed open the door.      "Aha! You made it!" 
     "Okay Gramps....  why are you buttering the cat?"
     "Don't worry if the police get called, I'll blame it on Alzheimer's," he said in measured tones as he carefully slavered on another knife-load of butter. "You remember McGuffin don't you?" 
     I nodded. 
     "Well give me a hand; I'm afraid he's not a great fan of being buttered." 
     Against my better judgement (and love of animals), I held onto McGuffin's forepaws. He stared at me forlornly and then blinked. 
     I have this thing, where I imagine that all animals are reincarnated from humans and therefore still possess the same rudimentary thought processes (that's why I still can't manage to go to the toilet in front of one). As you can imagine, McGuffin staring at me whilst my Grandfather buttered his back was somewhat unnerving.
     "Okay okay, again why are you buttering the cat?" I said trying desperately to avoid feline eye contact. 
     "Not the cat, but the toast upon it," he announced. "You've never heard of 'The Buttered Cat Paradox' I take it," Grandfather said. 
     I arched an eyebrow that, I hoped, explained it all.
     "Right," my Grandfather said, "the paradox you know what a paradox is I take it?"
     "Yeeeesss" I replied as McGuffin started to jerk his head round to the left and right to lick off as much 'Country Life' as he could. "A paradox as in: This sentence is false." 
     "Yes that's it... trite though it is. Well, 'The Buttered Cat' paradox is a combination of two adages, one scientific, the other a law of dynamic negativity. The first is that cats," he lifted McGuffin into the air and waggled him about, "always land on their feet when dropped. And two: that toast, when dropped, always lands buttered-side down. 'Finagle's Law of Dynamic Negatives' otherwise known as Murphy's or Sod's Law. What can happen, will happen!" 
     I stared up at McGuffin who blinked and hung uselessly and with a degree of weary resignation in my Grandfather's grasp. 
     "So you've taped buttered toast to his back. How's that supposed to work?"
     "Let's see shall we?" He maneuvered himself towards the open window. 
     "Whoa whoa whoa!!" I waved my hands in some vain attempt to thwart this madness. 
     My Grandfather winked. 
     There was a pitiful maaaaaaaaoooooouuuuuuu and McGuffin dropped from sight. 
     "Jesus Christ!"
     My Grandfather peered out of the window. "He's okay, that's the fifth drop today, I've been thinking about getting him a little crash helmet." 
     "Jesus Christ Gramps, you can't go lobbing cats out of windows willy-nilly, you'll have the RSPCA down on us like a ton of bricks." 
     "I don't suspect the Cats Protection League would be too pleased either," he murmured nursing his jaw. "Do me a favour old boy, pop downstairs and knock up some more toast." 
     Rubbing my forehead I ambled downstairs to make some toast whilst my Grandfather trundled downstairs to retrieve the cat. 
     "What are you up to Alfred?" My Nan called from the lounge. "You're up and down those stairs like a pair of w***e's drawers." 
     "Just throwing the cat out of the window dear," Grandfather said calmly, scratching behind McGuffin's ears and sauntering through. I heard Nan hrumph.
     I balanced four pieces of toast on two glasses of Soda Stream's American Root Beer (to which my Grandfather was fervently addicted) and took them up to the study. I found him standing in front of a white board, tapping his chin with a fat Magi-Marker and leaving wild blue speckling on his lower lip. "Perhaps it is relative..." He began scribbling on the board. "Perhaps it is as simple as 'QoTvWoC'." 
     I sipped my Root Beer. "What's the what?" 
     "Quantity of Toast versus Weight of Cat here, tape a new slice of toast to his back and we'll see how that works." He tossed me a roll of yellow electrical tape.
     I sighed. "Gramps, I'm not so sure I'm thinking Nan is going to be pretty pissed when-" 
     "Language." He fixed me with his patented 'mad-eye' and I shrugged. 
     "Nan is going to be pretty upset when she discovers a furry McGuffin puddle half an inch thick and three feet wide on the patio." 
     "You don't know much about cats do you my boy," he said swilling Root Beer around in his glass like a fine Brandy. "Studies done on cats that have fallen from 2-32 stories show that the overall survival rate is about 90%. Now cats that fall from less than 6 stories tend to have greater injuries than cats that fall from higher than 6 stories. This is because cats reach terminal velocity after righting themselves around the 5 stories mark. Terminal velocity being about 195 km per hour. After this point they relax, leading to less severe injuries in cats that have fallen over 6 stories. During a fall from a high place, a cat can reflexively twist its body and right itself using its acute sense of balance and flexibility. This is known as the cat's 'righting reflex'. It always rights itself in the same way, provided it has the time to do so. The height required for this to occur in most cats (safely) is around 90 centimetres. To achieve this, cats relax their ventral muscles, flattening their bodies to some extent and creating more resistance to air, rather like a parachute." Falling Cat Pictures, Images and Photos 
     "That's all well and good but we're not 6 stories up," I replied, all the while winding electrical tape around McGuffin's midriff. The toast crunched and crumbs tumbled into his fur. He stared up at me briefly before turning his head aside in disgust and as if to say, 'Yeah toast crumbs in my fur, cheers for that'.  
     "I wanted to relocate to a block of flats," Grandfather was saying staring out of the window, his eyes distant. "I could have thrown cats off balconies all day... Anyway!" He shook himself out of his reverie. "We'll have to make do with 3 stories and an old mattress as a crash mat!" He grinned. "Is he ready?" 
     I held him up. He was a champion at looking bored and absurd simultaneously with his yellow-tape striped belly and his mini toast backpack. 
     "Look a Meow-Qaeda suicide bomber!" I said.  "With his little exploding back pack..."
     My Grandfather just shook his head. 

     Before I knew it, I was stood by the window a stopwatch in hand as my Grandfather hurled McGuffin from the window again and again. It was a long time before I could finally stop picturing his baffled but vaguely resigned visage dropping from view. Dutifully, I scribbled notes:
 
     "2.43 seconds." 1xT(B)vWoCvWS4kp/hSSW. (1 piece of Toast (Buttered) versus Weight of Cat versus Wind Speed 4 kp/h South South Westerly).  
     "2.52 seconds." 1xT(M)vWoCvWS6kp/hSSW. (1 piece of Toast (Margerine) versus Weight of Cat versus Wind Speed 6 kp/h South South Westerly). 
     "3.27 seconds." 2xT(B)vWoCvWS4.5kp/hSW. (NB: Slower decent could be due to gusting wind round patio area or application of second slice of toast, as yet unproved). 
     
     Grandfather did become excited about the difference in drop times that more toast seemed to provide, but I wasn't convinced. I'm not too sure McGuffin was overly enthused either although, in truth, he seemed rarely to show any emotion other than utter indifference. Maybe he was shell-shocked, I don't know (I refuse to use the pun catatonic for obvious literary reasons). 
     It was not long before my mobile started buzzing in my pocket to the tune of 'The Imperial March' from Star Wars my girlfriend's ominous theme tune.
     "Gramps, that was Mouse, I'm going to have to split. If I start spend any longer with you she'll think I'm having an affair." 
     He sighed. "Well, McGuffin I suppose you get to get the rest of the day off now our assistant has decided to take off" 
     "It's not like you're paying me is it." 
     "You get free toast and Soda Stream! Besides, think of the recognition when this research goes global." It staggered me that Grandfather viewed chucking a cat out of an attic window as 'research' still, I was hardly well-placed to argue. I bade him and McGuffin, who had taken to rimming himself momentarily, farewell and headed back home. 

     Two days later, I was busy lazing in front of the TV, when my mobile buzzed. It was Mouse. 
     "Are you watching the telly?" 
     "Yep."
     "The news?"
     "Erm no I'm watching 'When Animals Go Bad 5' there's this monkey who's throwing shi-" 
     "Oh my God, put Sky News on!" 
     I searched for the remote, it had slipped down between the cushions indeed it would have been far quicker to sit up, stretch and turn the channel over by hand, but I'm not that kind of guy. 
     I hung up the phone.
     
     "- and fire officials have so far been unable to talk him down. Reports suggest that Mr Alfred Seeger, a town resident in his 80's gained access to the roof via an unsecured workman's access."
     
     "What the f**k?!" 
     
     "- appears to be a bread tray... and a bag of cats -"
     
     "Ohhh you have got to be kidding!" The Cutts-Lacklund building was about 15 minutes away. I made it in 4, well okay 10, but it was still pretty quick. 
     After much arm-waving and shoving and cries of 'That's my Grandfather up there!' the Police cordon gave way and I was permitted into the building. Inside, I found a pale looking police negotiator with his head in his hands. "I don't think I can do it I don't think I can talk him down." 
     I steeled myself and set my jaw in a determined and heroic fashion (I like to think). "Leave it to me." 
     "But you have no training for this!" The man rasped. 
     I fixed him with my own 'mad eye'. "For this, there is no training." 

     The roof gravel crunched underfoot. 
     "Aha, you made it then!" My Grandfather grinned, his white hair going crazy in the wind. Worryingly, he was sat on the edge of the building, his feet dangling in the fresh air. The sight made my stomach turn over on itself.
     "Gramps what are you doing mate?" 
     "I didn't tell you before because I knew you would try to stop me." 
     "Come away from the edge Gramps please." 
     He grinned. "Come on old boy, have a little faith." He shifted to his left to reveal nine cats tethered to a plastic bread tray, McGuffin at the forefront, a tiny crash helmet perched on his head. Each cat sported three pieces of buttered toast taped to their backs. 
     "I've cracked it," he called out over the swirling wind. "The quantity of toast was directly proportionate to the weight of the cat. So this time I've gone for nine cats, three piece of toast on each - twenty-seven in all, it should do the job. It's cheaply ironic; nine cats, nine lives and all that they may well need them!" 
     "I don't understand!" 
     "I've proved the paradox!" He shouted. "The scientific law and Finagle's Law cancel each other out. McGuffin achieved anti-gravity at 8.15 last night. Three pieces of toast counteracted his righting reflex!" 
     "What do you mean anti-gravity?" I was astounded and horrified at the same time, edging forward, my hand outstretched.
     "He dropped about 3 feet, slowed and hung there for a moment in mid-air before rotating slowly so that the buttered-toast side was facing downwards. Almost immediately the righting reflex kicked in and he rotated round to feet first. He didn't fall, he continued to rotate. You see the conflicting laws nullified Newton's Law of gravity." 
     "Gramps, I'm sorry mate but that's bollocks it's ridiculous." I shouted. 
     "If at first an idea's not absurd, there's no hope for it; Albert Einstein!" He called out. 
     "They'll lock you up for animal cruelty." 
     "Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity; Einstein again! He was on to something you know." My Grandfather shifted and settled himself into the plastic tray, his knees up under his chin. He gripped the sides with boney fingers. 
     "Einstein didn't hoof trays of cats off roofs to prove a theory Gramps, it's nuts!" 
     "I know." He nodded, staring down at the pavement. 
     I relaxed slightly. 
     Then he looked at me and winked. "That's why I'm going with them." 
     A helmeted McGuffin cast a glance at me over his shoulder, his expression bland but resigned at the same time.
     I screamed and lunged forward, my fingers grazing the wool of my Grandfather's jumper as he shuffled forwards and slid off the side of the building.

     Maaaaaaaaoooooouuuuuuu x 9.

     There was a great cry from the assembled crowds below. 
     I buried my face in my hands and waited for the wet crunch of old man and feline meeting concrete. It never came. 
     I heard an ooooooooohhhh from the crowds below. 
     I continued to hear discordant mewing. 
     And unbelievably, I heard my Grandfather chuckle. 
     Daring myself to look, I opened my eyes. Sure enough 10 feet below the edge of the building sat, floated, hovered, levitated my Grandfather teetered on a plastic bread tray supported by nine fairly unhappy rotating cats. He waggled a finger into the air as he began to drift away. "Oh ye of little faith!" 
     The cats had begun to simmer down to an almost melodious purr as they turned.
     I punched the air, he had done it!
     My Grandfather hooted, banking his craft left towards the park. "I've gone from Cat-a-moron to Catamaran wouldn't you say!" 
     It was a dreadful pun and to this day I am still glad that they were not his last words. 
     Then, the Catamaran, began to wobble. I heard my Grandfather shouting, "No Hemmingway no!" 
     Hemmingway, a sullen looking Birman, seemingly bored with this new pastime had stretched out and had started gnawing industriously on the rear section of McGuffin's anti-grav-toast. McGuffin wriggled and in turn began to tug at his own tethering; perhaps in realisation and fearing for his own safety. From there, things began to get rapidly out of hand. The Catamaran began to list heavily and my Grandfather was hanging on for grim death. Suddenly it all unraveled, the toast came away from McGuffin, McGuffin came away from the Catamaran and started to plummet. Hemmingway began to squabble with McCavity, a bad-tempered looking Calico. Two other cats worked loose and hung in the air spinning dejectedly. My Grandfather peered over the edge of the bread tray at me and mouthed one word: "Bugger." 
     I stood transfixed as the craft disintegrated before my eyes and my suddenly glum-looking Grandfather began to spiral downwards. At some point on the way down he caught up with McGuffin, who had flattened his ventral muscles (as purported) and was falling rather contentedly. Man and helmeted cat came eye to eye briefly. My Grandfather waved a fist at him. "Bloody cat! I should have bought a sodding do-." 
Plymouth Herald Headline dated 10/10/08:-
-Miracle Cat survives fall from 39 stories owner, not so lucky-

funny Pictures, Images and Photos

© 2010 HoWiE


Author's Note

HoWiE
Apologies for the poor layout (idents, italics/bold etc), but the text editor was playing up - I'll fix it ASAP. Cheers!! ;-)

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Featured Review

This story was such an amazing read!
Your dialogue is brilliant and it draws the reader in sentence after sentence for comedy from the mundane. The honesty and realism with which you present your characters and yourself in this piece is hilarious and very effective. I found myself laughing from beginning to end. Fabulous read, thanks.

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 11 Years Ago


3 of 3 people found this review constructive.




Reviews

Oh dear GOD man ... this should have come with a warning. I read this in PUBLIC and people looked at me as if I were mad (I mean more than normal). It took some fast talking to get the woman next to me to put the mace away. I should just know better by now Howie.

Posted 7 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

This was hysterical! Grandpa is such a wonderful character! I would love to assist him in crazy experiments. Loved the story, and as usual, you told it exceedingly well. You never disappoint. :)

Now, being the owner of 9 cats (that includes a calico - I'm completely serious), I must go to the store! I have bread and butter to purchase! ;)

Posted 9 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Definitely Hilarious!!!!! I was laughing the whole way through! The only one thing I didn't like was the language, but I'll ignore it, it was most entertaining and funny great job!

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 10 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Congrats on another great winning story

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 10 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

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.
' I steeled myself and set my jaw in a determined and heroic fashion (I like to think). "Leave it to me."
"But you have no training for this!" The man rasped.
I fixed him with my own 'mad eye'. "For this, there is no training." '

and ' Maaaaaaaaoooooouuuuuuu x 9. ' - lol

This was a very funny and well though of story will a lot of details and great imagination ... The end is very funny, and the story as a whole conveys a lot of messages ... i also love the type of character used for Alfred and the quotes from Einstein used.

Great work
I Love It
~Kavish~



This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 10 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Great story. Sabine*

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 11 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

I tried to copy the code, but got nowhere...
http://i5.photobucket.com/albums/y177/CyberMoi/GIFS/antigravity.gif

Simultaneously hilarious and heart-warming! Your characterizations are spot-on, as always, and the relationship between you and your grandfather deftly drawn without being cloying. I particularly love how you toss in the referential headline as an epilogue...

This is the first writing I've read since the whole site crashed last year, and it was a lovely welcome back!

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 11 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

another great Howie story yet again. loved it....
Carla

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 11 Years Ago


1 of 2 people found this review constructive.

LOL This was great! I was transfixed from the beginning! Very inventive and descriptive, and I love the narrator's voice, whimsical, satiric and entertaining. Nicely done!

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 11 Years Ago


2 of 2 people found this review constructive.

This story was such an amazing read!
Your dialogue is brilliant and it draws the reader in sentence after sentence for comedy from the mundane. The honesty and realism with which you present your characters and yourself in this piece is hilarious and very effective. I found myself laughing from beginning to end. Fabulous read, thanks.

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 11 Years Ago


3 of 3 people found this review constructive.


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Added on October 27, 2008
Last Updated on April 29, 2010
Tags: cats, McGuffin, Howie, science, gravity, paradox
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HoWiE
HoWiE

Plymouth,, Devon, United Kingdom



About
Well, I'm back - it only took 8 years to get over my writer's block! Now 47, older, wiser and, for some reason, now a teacher having left the Armed Forces in 2012. The writing is slow going but .. more..

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