Clarice's Original Mother

In 1988 Thomas Harris published a novel titled

The Silence of the Lambs

, which was a sequel to his earlier

Red Dragon

. In 1991


was made into a movie and was a major success, both in the box office and critical acclaim. With Anthony Hopkins and Jody Foster one would expect that – particularly with Hopkins.

In 2003 a struggling artist named Richella was working in her studio. She rented a large warehouse space – 5,000 square feet or so. She had a cat named Fitzgerald with whom she traveled across the country to art festivals. Fitzgerald was a very large orange tabby, and he was very comfortable on the road. He kept her company while she worked all hours of the night on her pottery, her miniature collectibles fired with a Raku technique.

Richella was a very good friend of mine and I feel that she was troubled sometimes. She told us that she needed the amount of space she had in order to be able to work, due to claustrophobia. So, she worked alone in her studio surrounded by her pretty things and in the company of her cat who enjoyed nothing more than being her entire world.

At some point, though, another tabby peeked in the garage door of the studio. She gave the new cat some food and put it back outside. But, the cat came back, as cats are wont to. She took the cat in to get it fixed and if you've noticed a lack of gender-specific pronouns in this paragraph there's a reason for it. She couldn't tell if it was a boy or a girl. She thought girl, so she named her Buttercup. The vet told her it was a boy, so the name was changed to Butternut. When the vet discovered that the cat was pregnant, he used deductive reasoning to establish that she was, indeed, a she. Thus, the name Butterbean was given and finalized.

This caused a bit of an upset in Fitzgerald's life. He only had room in his heart for one woman and that woman was Richella. He could see no reason for the presence of this other cat in their life, regardless of what gender she was before she was neutered. Butterbean was street savvy and could kick any cat's ass that got in her way, so there was a bit of tension as the two got to know each other. (In all honestly, Fitzgerald never got over the betrayal.) But, the ball was rolling and there is no stopping the course of fate.

I think that it can be said without too much argument that Richella was in an unlucky phase in her life with regards to romance. She had a boyfriend at one point around this time. He wasn't much to write home about, so I tried not to pay attention. But, any person has a space in their heart for another human being and sometimes we let somebody into that space whether or not they are truly worth it. It's difficult to say what would have been appropriate for Richella. She loved the movie

The Silence of the Lambs

and all of the prequels/sequels. She also read all of the books. One might not think too much about that, except that she found it to be the most remarkable love story she had ever seen. It touched her in a place that had never been touched before. For those who haven't heard of it, the two main characters in SOTL are Hannibal and Clarice. Hannibal is a brilliant psychiatrist, and he also happens to be a cannibalistic murderer. Clarice works for the FBI and is sent to enlist Hannibal's assistance in stopping another serial killer. Thus begins their strange relationship.

So, when yet a third cat showed up to Richella's studio and it was clear that she wasn't going to go away, this new black cat was named in honor of Richella's favorite protagonist, Clarice. Clarice, the cat, was a timid little thing at the time, and Butterbean was quite the fighter. Butterbean was generally locked in Richella's bedroom, but occasionally the door was left a crack open and Clarice would sneak in to see what was in there (because what cat can leave a closed door alone?) She had her little black butt handed to her on more than one occasion that way.

There has always been something a little different about Clarice. Some cats are nervy or skittish, and that's natural. Clarice, though, has always wanted attention; she was just always a little put off by being touched – even when she requested it. She lived her life among other cats a bit like that. She wasn't certain that she wanted to be there, but there didn't seem to be anywhere else to be, so she abided. Asserting herself had only caused physical harm, so she meekly asked for attention, even though she didn't particularly like it. She spent a great deal of time lying quietly, trying to blend into the background until her need for affection overcame her distaste for it.

Years later, she has come into her own, living in our home now. (This is the same Clarice that I recently


about – our cat who has diabetes now.) She sits on her corner of the kitchen table and proudly announces that she is in need of attention. It is my job to pick her up (yes, she allows me to pick her up now!) and pet her and coo to her and tell her what a beautiful kitty she is. I have to pet the back of her head, rub her whiskers and this must go on for at least five minutes. She uses her front paws on my arm to perch up and receive her due. She closes her eyes and imagines a life without so much heartache; lets herself forget how far she's come and just live in the moment with me.

And, then it's time to put her down and we both go about our business.

A sketch of Richella demonstrating her art

Pieces of my art


The other night I was sleeping. I had been reading and then got too sleepy for that, so I rolled over, turned off the lamp and that act woke me up just a little bit, so I settled in under my covers and relished how wonderful it was to be in bed when I'm tired and sleepy and wanting really to continue conscious for a while so that I could appreciate how wonderful it feels, but without realizing it I was drifting off to the pleasant thoughts of security and peace.

Then I was reminded that I own cats. The scream from the other room followed by, and overlapped by, the crash of something breaking on the tile floor jerked me awake and upright in bed at the same time. I've grown accustomed to them screaming at the cats outside the window after I'm in bed, but that is not generally accompanied by the sound of breakage. So, I got up and ran into the other room, because after all I do have neighbors upstairs and if I can hear every step they take I'm certain that they can hear my cats screaming at the tops of their feline voices and destroying everything I own. The thing was, the crashing and breaking kept going. It wasn't just one thing falling to the ground, it was a series of crashes. One of the cats came running past me into my bedroom with a plastic grocery bag following behind her as if it were chasing her the hell out of its territory.

In my room the cat (Raku) was under the bed, of course, so I had to pull it away from the wall to get at her, just to make sure she wasn't being strangled by the handles of the bag. I was only able to hold her long enough to get the bag off of her leg and make sure she was not dying, then she squirmed out of my hands and back under the bed. Then I had to find the other two and make sure they were okay. Carmela, the special cat, was watching with her crossed eyes huge in dismayed interest, standing – not sitting – with her nose in the air, looking around to see what was going on. Anastasia wasn't so easy to find, and honestly I don't remember where I did find her. But, she was fine and so it must have been only Raku who was having issues.

This is where it gets very confusing. I have no idea how all of this happened, even after I figured out what did happen.

My next job was to see what had broken. It was pottery, not glass. Good, less danger of sharp things to cut my feet. Then I just had to pray that it was from an artist who was still alive. (My cats have a fondness for breaking things that I can't replace.) I picked up the shards and collected them in my hand. They started on the other side of the living room and continued all the way to my bedroom, and there had been a couple of pieces in the bag that I freed Raku from. I recognized the art and the glazes, but it was late and I had been woken up and I couldn't figure out who it was. I was convinced that they had gotten into the closet and into a box and broken a Richella, but as I looked at it I realized that it – at least – wasn't one of hers.

Little by little I began to place the glaze with Michael Obranovich, a Dallas artist. It's from his Obsidian collection. I have a set of his plates and two coffee cups (had two coffee cups) and a few casseroles. I LOVE them. I could tell from the pieces of handle and the curve of the others parts that it was one of my coffee cups, though I could not for the life of me figure out how it got to a place that it could be broken. I'm certain that I did not leave it lying around in a plastic grocery bag. If it had been on the kitchen counter, how did the majority of the broken remains end up three feet away in front of the spare bathroom? I can tell why there was a trail of pieces across the room and why I kept hearing crashes. The cup was in the bag and as she ran it kept crashing against the tile floor, startling her even more. The bag was shredded and pieces were falling out as she ran. She must have screamed because the bag was attached to her and she couldn't get it off. But, where was the bag (I don't leave them around because cats can strangle themselves with them) and where was the cup and how did the cup get inside the bag?

Even having slept and looked at the situation from an awake state of mind I cannot figure it out. But, here are the pieces, next to its partner – still intact.

I'll write more later. Until then I remain,

Yours truly,


P.S. If you would like to see Michael Obranovich's work you can visit his website here.

Vorakit Chinookoswong


Here's a piece of art I own. The artist is Vorakit Chinookoswong, otherwise known as Chin. I tried to take a picture of it on the bookshelf next to my beloved books, but the light wouldn't cooperate. So, since I had to take it outside I decided to show it next to a brilliantly green potato vine. 

I don't know Chin incredibly well, but I believe he is originally from Thailand, and was brought up to learn Japanese. (I learned this on the same evening we were in the back of my friend's [Namless] van – singing Abba songs from a Mamma Mia soundtrack.) As an artist, I believe he has been throwing pottery for about 294,794,742 years. (This has not been verified.) My artist friends and  my artist groupie friends all seem to have his work. I was whining about this heavily for around a year before Nameless finally broke down and got me a piece for myself.

His glazes have evolved through the years. I like the more subtle colors of his best. I especially like this one; it looks like it's old and worn off in places. He described the glaze to me once and it didn't stick in my brain, but I do know that he had to go out of his way to achieve that effect. 

All in all I like this piece. It makes me happy. 

More later,

e A r n i e

My Chin ceramic pot with his signature frog

P.S. I guess I should mention that Chin has a website: If you go there tell him eArnie sent you.