Thursday, February 6, 2014


Children, I’m afraid the time has come for me to tell you the very unfortunate story of Milkshakes, the cat.  It’s almost the anniversary of his famous space voyage on the doomed vessel, Artemis, so the time is right.  Gather round and bring your Kleenex…the task of telling the tale has fallen to me, your Grandmother.

The famous space program, NASA, used to be a secret agency that worked off by themselves in that strange corner of the country we call Florida.  We hardly knew they were up to anything until we heard that the Russians were trying to beat us into space.  That’s when this whole country got in a big hurry for them to put a man into space. 

Before they could do that, they had to make sure that man could survive not only space, but the terrible trip into it and the trip back home.  NASA decided to start working with animals to see if they could withstand the pressures before they asked a man to do it.  

There were dogs, sheep, monkeys, and cats.  Among the cats there was one named  Milkshakes, who especially clever and cuddly and furry.  He was a brown tabby cat with bright green eyes.  He actually got his name because he loved to taste the milkshakes that the scientists bought from the cafeteria, so they found it appropriate to call him Milkshakes.   

Because he was a cat, Milkshakes had never really thought about the future before he got to NASA.  Once he was there, he realized that this world is a dismal place without dreams.  Most of the people working at NASA had dreamed of being scientists and now their dreams were coming true.  Milkshakes realized that dreams were good things, so he began dreaming of being the first cat astronaut. 

He imagined himself flying into our space, in a small kitty spacesuit where he would become weightless and live for days on freeze-dried sardines. 

Alas, it was not meant to be. 

As you all know, cats can’t be trusted to be astronauts.  NASA first realized this as they tested various animals.
“Doctor Went, do you think this dog is smart enough to go into space?”

“No, the dog is not smart enough to go into space.  He is too trusting and will try to follow you once he is strapped in the space capsule.”

Milkshakes was brought in, and many of the scientists told Dr. Went how well he had been doing in the tests.  

“Dr. Went,” the NASA engineers asked him.  “What about this cat?”

“No, no, definitely not,” Dr. Went answered.  “That cat is far too clever for its own good.  It must not be trusted in space with this valuable equipment.  Let him be a nice lap cat to someone.  Someone far away.”

Dr. Went and the NASA engineers decided to put a collection of monkeys and chimpanzees into the space program (if you don’t believe me, ask your parents).  They made a college intern named Ken put Milkshakes in a blindfold and drive him to a helicopter pad, where he was airlifted to Killiniq Island, off the coast of Canada.  There he was dropped on the beach, lonely, cold and depressed.

A family called the Copperfields found him, still blindfolded, while they were vacationing there. 

“Can we keep him?” the children asked, with excitement.

“Yes,” Mr. Copperfield answered and brought him inside where the children promptly dressed him in pajamas.  That night, as the whole Copperfield family slept, Milkshakes made a plan. 

“I bet if I had a simple rocket set-up, I could still get myself into space,” he thought. 

Once the family returned home to their regular house, Milkshakes pretended to be a normal family cat.  

Mr. Copperfield fed him from small tins and bags and Milkshakes ate what was put in front of him.  Mrs. Copperfield made funny faces at him and spoke in a high, lilting voice and Milkshakes purred and rubbed against her leg. The children dressed him up in doll clothes, and Milkshakes went to their tea parties.  

In reality, all Milkshakes thought about was breaking out of the atmosphere. He was always scanning the house for rocket-like machines.  At first, the vacuum seemed promising; then the washing machine, but Milkshakes soon figured (using his extensive knowledge in physics and mathematics) that they would not fly.

One Saturday, Mr. Copperfield started the lawn mower and Milkshakes looked up. 

“What is that sound?” he thought.  “What is that glorious sound?”

He escaped past the children, past Mrs. Copperfield and ran out to the front yard, where Mr. Copperfield was pushing this machine around the yard.  Upon closer inspection, Milkshakes could see that it could very well propel him forward somewhere and with great planning, it could be a rocket-ship.

From that moment forward, Milkshakes planned how he would turn the lawnmower into a spaceship.  He knew how, after all he had seen all of the tricks that NASA engineers had done.  He could duplicate them… at least he could try to with his paws without thumbs.

Children, this is the part I have been told not to elaborate on.  To tell you the truth, I don’t really know myself how Milkshakes got that lawnmower off the ground.  What I do know is that several police departments and the CIA responded to emergency reports made by folk on Killiniq Island, that the sky was being mowed by a cat. 

Milkshakes was successful in orbiting his neighborhood!  He was elated that night as he went to bed; HE HAD DONE IT!!  He parked the lawnmower back into the garage as if nothing had ever happened. 

The following day, Milkshakes named his doomed spacecraft Artemis.  He fashioned himself a space suit made of flame retardant tent material he found in the garden shed.  He pretended to be excited about being a guest at a doll’s tea party that afternoon, but inside, Milkshakes was getting ready to fly!

That night, children, Milkshakes was seen opening the garage, starting the lawnmower and flying out into space in the direction of the Draco constellation (you know it, the one that looks like a dragon, off of the eastern coast of the island?)   He was seen there, with a tail of orange fire following him.

Unfortunately, the one who reported seeing Milkshakes flying away in a lawnmower spaceship, was Barney Geerigaard, the neighbor of the Copperfield's who used to belong to the circus.  He had quite a reputation for drinking too much lighter fluid in his vodka, so no one really believed him.

What I do know children, is this:  the next day the Copperfields found their garage door open, their lawn mower gone and Milkshakes nowhere to be found. 

Some people say that the Artemis could never have survived reentry, and I suppose I agree.  What I do know, children, is that Milkshakes had a dream, and we all know the saying: BEWARE THE CAT WITH A DREAM.

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