Delmore the Unforgiving Cat

My local library had a book sale this past weekend – I went there with the intention of picking up a couple of used books and left with a box of books.

Hi, my name is Becky, and I’m a book-a-holic.

I suppose I should be embarrassed at not having any self-control, but I picked up a literal BOX of books for $21.50 and supported my library, so, you know, win-win. My favorite of the bunch was one I tossed in the basket after only a quick flip-through….

And it turned out to be the best of the bunch.


I’m not usually one for non-fiction books.  I mean, I want to like them, but I read to escape and I usually can’t fall into non-fiction books the same way I can Hunger Games, or Lonesome Dove, or whatever.

That said… if you can find a copy of this book, buy it.  It’s had me in stitches all weekend. I’d explain what the book is about, but the title kind of says it all.

Also, I don’t know if it’s… legal?  Moral? Non-piracy?  to share a letter out of the book, but I figure if I point out that the whole book is this funny and if I recommend buying it, it’s not a bad thing? Seriously – the whole book is this awesome.

For reals though – of we ever get another cat, I want to name it Delmore, provided it’s not prophetical.

And now, without further adieu… I present to you: Delmore the Cat

In 1961 John Cheever and his wife, Mary, were asked by their friend, writer Josephine Herbst, to take care of her cat. Cheever and the cat hated each other.  

The cat was a male whom Cheever named Delmore for the lugubrious poet Delmore Schwartz, and when the day came that Delmore began spraying the walls, Cheever promptly took him to the vet to be neutered.  After two years with Delmore, Cheever decided it was time to write Herbst an update.  

Dear Josie,

It’s been years since we had anything but the most sketchy communication….I’ve long since owed you an account of the destiny of your cat and here we go.

The cat, after your leaving him, seemed not certain of his character of his place and we changed his name to Delmore which immediately made him more vivid.  The first sign of his vividness came when he dumped a load in a Kleenex box while I was suffering from a cold.  During a paroxysm of sneezing I grabbed for some kleenex.  I shall not overlook my own failures in this tale but when I got the cat shit off my face and the ceiling I took Delmore to the kitchen door and drop-kicked him into the clothesyard.  This was an intolerable cruelty and I have not yet been forgiven.  He is not a forgiving cat.  Indeed he is proud.  Spring came on then and as I was about to remove [one of] the clear glass storm window[s] from Fred’s room, Delmore, thinking the window to be open, hurled himself against the glass.  This hurt his nose and his psyche badly.  Mary and the children then went to the Mountains and I spent a reasonably happy summer cooking for Delmore.

The next eventfulness came on Thanksgiving when the family had gathered for dinner and I was about to carve the turkey there came a strangling noise from the bathroom. I ran there and found Delmore sitting in the toilet, neck-deep in cold water and very sore. I got him out and dried him with towels but there was no forgiveness.  Shortly after Christmas a Hollywood writer and his wife came to lunch.  My usual salutation to Delmore is: Up Yours, and when the lady heard me say this she scorned me and gathered Delmore to her breasts.  Delmore, in a flash, started to unscrew her right eyeball and the lady, trying to separate herself from Delmore, lost a big piece of an Italian dress she was wearing which mary said cost $250.00.  This was not held against Delmore and a few days later when we had a skating party I urged Delmore to come to the pond with us.  He seemed pleased and frisked along like a family-loving cat but at that moment a little wind came from the northeast and spilled the snow off a hemlock onto Delmore. He gave me a dirty look, went back to the house and dumped another load in the kleenex box.  This time he got the cleaning-woman and they remain unfriendly.

This is not meant at all to be a rancorous account and I think Delmore enjoys himself. I have been accused of cruelty and a woman named Ruth Hershberger keeps writing Elizabeth Pollet, telling her to take the cat away from me, but Delmore contributes a dynamic to all our relationships.  People who dislike me go directly to his side and he is, thus, a peace-maker.  He loves to play with toilet paper.  he does not like catnip mice.  He does not kill song birds.  In the spring the rabbits chase him around the lawn but they leave after the lettuce has been eaten and he has the terrace pretty much to himself.  He is very fat these days and his step, Carl Sandburg not withstanding, sounds more like that of a barefoot middle-aged man on his way to the toilet than the settling in of a winter fog but he has his role and we all respect it and here endeth my report on Delmore the cat.



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