I’ve checked off every item on my list of summer projects and feel so giddy that I’m ready to fly to France and dig a new garden at Versailles. But a garden list is only a piece of paper, unless an impetuous gardener actually dusts off her shovel, trowel, cultivator, weed bucket and rake. I have hauled that stuff out of our garden shed since early May, on sunny, rainy or windy days. Without the contribution of my chief garden staffer, though, I’d still be on my knees in the flower beds, frantically trying to finish the deadheading, weeding, cultivating and composting before a delivery of tulip and daffodil bulbs arrives for planting.
Our black and brown Maine coon cat, Benjamin BadKitten, is one of two surviving members of my beloved, four-pawed garden staff. The group originally included our golden retriever, Kaylee; Old English sheepdog, Rags, and feline bossypants, Abigail. Now only Benjamin and our 18-year-old calico, Tessa the Vague, remain on the payroll, with Tessa earning emeritus status. Even on her best days, only a few of her lights have ever blinked on.
For years the BadKitten has seen himself as BBK, The Legend. He holds permanent staff records for demotions and outright firings, for he is frequently going AWOL to chase a shot at fame. He brags about his star turns in this column, and in 2016, he even considered a run for president. He once demanded a leather jacket and shades to boost his street cred whenever the poodles down the block passed our house. After a neighborhood blonde and two silver-furred cuties pursued him, he flaunted his new status as a chick magnet, until he realized the term is not shorthand for chickadee magnet.
This summer, he hit an all-time low, logging the fewest hours in the garden, ever. Because of his prolonged absences, I’ve had the most productive summer in the garden, ever. So I owe him, big-time. This week I’m rewarding his extraordinary lack of effort with a nonexistent trophy, the BBK Valerian Award, which commemorates the sprawling plant where Ben likes to nap in our garden. The fragrance of the valerian’s red flowers supposedly can help someone fall asleep quickly and stay asleep, so enough said about its significance for my chief slacker. The BadKitten also receives a decorative tea mug, depicting his cartoon doppelganger, the famous Kliban cat awake among the roses. Next year, I expect our hero to negotiate for marketing rights to his own mug: BBK the Legend, snoring among the valerians.
Sydney Craft Rozen admits she misses the BadKitten pestering her in the garden. The hard work is done now, and soon he will get off his ample backside and take his place by her side in the dirt. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org