|PUSS IN BOOTS (the PC version) by
James Finn Garner. (copyright, James Finn
Garner, all rights reserved)
|In a land not so very far away lived a man and his three sons. After the father had achieved his inevitable
non-essentialness, his estate was divided among his sons: The eldest inherited the oil company, the next
eldest got the publishing and media holdings, and the least eldest got a cat. Forgetting for a moment the
hours of companionship and contentment that an animal companion can bring, the least eldest son
pleaded with his brothers not to compel him to contest the will in probate.
"Listen, brothers," he said, "while you'll be able to support yourselves with your share of the inheritance, I'll
be lucky if I can breed this cat or put it in commercials. Don't force me to sell him to a cosmetics company
just to get a return on my assets."
His brothers ignored him and told him to have his lawyer call their lawyers, but the cat obviously took
offense at these flip remarks. Later the cat scolded this cruel, short-sighted human: "It's just like your kind
to treat someone with four legs like a resource for you to exploit. We're not put here for your enrichment,
bub, material or otherwise. In fact, I'm so disgusted that now I'm not going to tell you how I was going to
make you a great and powerful persun."
More than the fact that the cat could speak, these last words sparked the interest of the ambitious yet meagerly
synapsed young man: "Oh, Mr. Puss, my dearest and most trusted friend, how did you plan to do this?"
"I don't think you want to know. You obviously haven't the foresight and fortitude it would take for a successful career in
"Oh, please," said the winningly eager young man. "I'd love to go into politics. I'm not much suited for anything else, and
my brothers might be able to give us a jump-start in the contributions area."
The cat sighed. "My heart does go out to you," said Puss, "a poor idiot left on his own. Very well, I will help you. For me
to get started, I need two things: first, a blue pinstripe suit -- Armani, nothing less -- plus a briefcase and some fancy
stitched cowboy boots; and second, a promise that you'll never make a single solitary utterance in public without my
This wholesome-looking young man readily agreed, since he never had much that was important or original to say
anyway. He took the cat to a fancy haberdasher to be outfitted properly. When this was done, the cat told him, "Go
home now and wait. Practice looking statesman-like by riding horses, playing touch football, writing your memoirs,
things like that."
"But I don't have any memoirs to write," protested the ruggedly handsome young man.
"I said practice writing," the cat reiterated, pointing a claw. "If you think you'll ever have the chance to do your own
writing, then we've got a problem already." With that, Puss in Boots left to call his first press conference.
The primaries for the senate race were only five weeks away at this point, and the field of candidates was quite
crowded. When Puss in Boots held his press conference, only a handful of reporters had the time or interest to show up.
This hardly mattered, since it was to be rather short anyway.
All the cat did was walk to the podium and say, "I'd like to announce that my employer is not a candidate for the
party nomination for the senate seat at this time. Thank you. No questions, please." Then he walked away.
And was the reaction tremendous! Breathless articles and news reports began to appear about the reluctant
candidate. Who was he? What did he stand for? What was the significance of the public groundswell that
surrounded this strapping figure of youthful vitality? With just the slightest spin doctoring and some wise use of
media time, Puss in Boots proceeded to forge the image of his human companion as a man forced into public
life by the will of the people, who were disillusioned and were looking for a white knight (colorist though such
concepts are) on a tall fiery charger (ditto heightist and speciesist, not to mention quite Eurocentric overall).
Within a few weeks and without uttering a word, the young man with the Redfordesque good looks won the party
nomination for the senate!
"Wow! I can't believe it," said the malleable candidate. "I guess I'd better start figuring out my position on the
"You do and I'll break your neck," hissed the cat. "Let me worry about your positions, as well as your beliefs and
your off-the-cuff remarks and your spontaneity and everything else. You just remember: Don't say a thing unless I
tell you to."
Now Puss in Boots began to work in earnest to get his meal ticket elected to the senate. He issued position
papers that were totally pointless yet exquisitely quotable. He had the candidate photographed shaking hands
with factory workers, retirees, and customers at luncheonettes. They challenged the incumbent to a debate and
then backed out at the last minute, declaring that such an event would be just an exercise in "politics as usual."
Their optimistically simple campaign slogan -- "It's Time For a Change!" -- seemed to strike a chord with the
optimistically simple voters.
Throughout the frenzy of the campaign, no one noticed or commented on Puss in Boot's lack of credentials. In fact, seduced by
his easy and apparently candid manner, no one ever noticed that he was of feline descent at all. It just demonstrated the
commentator's observation, "In the land of the optically challenged, the monocularly gifted individual is first in line at the trough."
Election day drew near, with all the mudslinging and innuendo you could imagine. Puss in Boot's candidate, however, with his
easy confidence and glint in the eye, seemed somehow to rise above the fray. This might have been due to the fact that he
was still forbidden to speak his mind (or what there was of it) in any way, shape, or form. Puss in Boots, on the other hand, was
always available to the media and ready with a charming, folksy anecdote or some evidence that their opponent had
undergone electroshock therapy to stop the temporary lapses into dementia that made him want to release all the criminals
from prison with a $50 gift certificate and an automatic pistol.
As the campaign came down to the wire, and with his heartland-born-and-bred candidate lagging in the polls, Puss knew it
was time to stop playing footsie. He called another press conference and this time announced to the media, "Our campaign
honorably requests that our opponent step down from the race, so that we won't have to disclose possible evidence we may
have found that might link our opponent to an experimental, gender-reversing medical procedure he may have undergone 23
years ago in an undisclosed overseas country, where the majority of the population speaks Swedish. Thank you. No questions,
This insinuation, as you may have guessed, turned the entire campaign around. Rumors flew about the type of evidence Puss
and his boss may or may not have had. Their opponent repeatedly denied accusations that he had once been a wommon now
trapped in a man's body, or that he was now a man trapped in a wommon's body with a penchant for cross-dressing -- not that
there is anything wrong or unnatural, certainly, with any of these lifestyle choices.
As usual, emotions rather than reason carried the day, and after all the ballots were counted on election day, Puss in Boots
and his ruddy, exuberant human companion had won by a comfortable margin.
At the victory party, Puss pulled the new senator aside and said to him, "You see? I told you I could be useful to you. You may not have the wealth of your brothers yet, but you
soon will have, and even more clout, if you play your cards right. There is even some talk -- initiated by me, of course -- that you're going to run for president in the next election
because the country's problems are too urgent and your ideas are too big to be penned up in the senate. What do you think of that?"
"Oh, my skillful, cunning cat," he said, "I can't thank you enough. Please accept my apologies for ever contemplating selling you to perfume researchers."
"Just do as I say," said Puss in Boots, taking a sip of his designer water, "and instead of the stealth candidate, they'll be calling you . . . Mr. President. Now you better get up
there and give them the victory speech I wrote for you."
The beaming politician entered the crowd to cheers and applause and pushed his way forward to the podium. "To my family, friends, and supporters," he began, "I want to
thank you all for your hard work and dedication, and I'm pleased to tell you I have just received a phone call from my opponent conceding the election!"
Applause, applause, applause!
"He was a worthy adversary and fought the good fight, but this campaign was not about issues or ideology, or even ability or brainpower. It was about the plain and simple
message: It's time for a change!"
Applause, applause, applause!
"And now, if you'll let me, I'd like to depart from my prepared comments." From the wings came the sound of a glass shattering the a low, painful groan. He continued, "I'd like
to thank someone without whom this victory wouldn't have been possible: my campaign adviser, my confidante, and I'm proud to say, my cat -- Puss in Boots!"
Applause, applau ... silence.
Had they heard him right? This Kennedyesque young man, their bright and shining knight, their hope for the future, had let his cat run the campaign? Not that it was
unprecedented -- other non-human animals had held high appointed positions for years -- but why had he kept it a secret? What kind of man was he to hide such information,
and what else was he hiding?
"Puss," he said, "come out here and take a bow."
Puss in Boots just stood in the wings, shaking his head, his paw over his eyes. He had had his doubts, but he never wanted to believe his master was so cerebrally
undercapitalized as to spill the legumes at his own victory party.
The people in the crowd grew angry, even the cat lovers. They felt they'd been deceived, cheated, jilted, cuckolded. They started to boo, tear down banners, and pop balloons
as they began to look for payback. The new senator had to make his escape through the rear behind the rostrum. He looked for his cat everywhere with no luck. Then, over in a
corner, he saw a group of reporters and cameras gathered around, and there was Puss in Boots right in the center of them.
By the time the senator got to where the press had clustered around Puss, all he could hear was his cat saying, " . . . to apologize to everyone who worked on this campaign
and put their trust in this candidate, and also to you, you hardworking reporters. Had I known this pathetic schemer to be so ... unstable and ... duplicitous, I would never have
become involved with his campaign. I hereby resign from his staff before any other damage is inflicted on the electoral system, or on the hearts and minds of the public. Thank
you. No questions, please."
The reporters ran off to file their stories. Puss in Boots walked slowly up to his former employer and said, "If only you'd stuck to the script. Good luck in office, if you survive the
"But I don't understand," said the beleaguered senator. "No one figured out you were a cat before now?"
Puss looked him straight in the eye. "Do the words 'credibility problem' mean anything to you? Nobody really cares that I'm a cat -- not on the record, anyway -- but now
because of your slip of the brain, it looks like a big cover-up. Fraud, nepotism, interspecies exploitation -- your squeaky-clean image is kaput. If you had to tell them, a weepy
confession would've been much better than a bungled disclosure. That's Spin Doctoring 101, but you're working with such low wattage, it slipped right by you."
Puss in Boots bid the man farewell and walked away. He wrote a few magazine articles to tell his side of the sordid story, then got a job as a television pundit based in the
capital. The senator barely survived the inevitable recall vote, but questions about his judgment lingered and impeded any effectiveness in office he might have had over the
next six years. Almost from the day he was sworn in, he was treated like a non-ambulatory waterfowl, something Puss in Boots reminded him and the rest of the country about
every time the pundit cat went on the air.