Even after forty-three years of marriage, I am still astounded by Sara’s ability to make herself small when she is startled. She pulls her legs up under her, wraps her arms around them, tucks her head down, and hunches her shoulders. I can almost pick her up, squeeze her into a SuperValu tote, and carry her away. It is quite the talent.
We had just settled into the lounge after a dinner of shrimp and andouille sausage gumbo over white rice. It was lovely, if I do say so myself. Sara was in position at her end of the couch with her needlepoint in hand. Lucy was curled beside her sleeping soundly. I cracked open the window behind the couch – it was a lovely warm evening – sat in my spot on the other end of the couch and picked up my book. Matlockwas on the television. A half hour or so passed. Lucy was chasing birds in her dreams, kicking her hind legs in a running motion. Domestic bliss, really.
That’s when Sara shouted, “Jimmy, there’s something in the house!” and made herself small. “I think it’s a rat!”
I was thinking, this is probably not the time to compliment her on her posture, when Gidget popped her head up over the side of the couch. Gidget is one of the cats from next door. I jumped up and chased her around the room until she leaped through the open window and took off for home. I closed the window.
Lucy never woke up.
To be fair, Gidget has become quite fond of Sara. About once a week, Sara takes baked goods to our neighbors. Elly, their little girl, especially likes Sara’s chocolate buns – cupcakes to those of you in the U.S. To return the favor, this past week Gidget brought Sara a mouse as a thank you.
I checked around the lounge in case Gidget had brought another present. All clear. Sara uncurled herself and we settled back down. Lucy rolled over.
That’s when we heard a thump from upstairs.
“Dammit,” I thought, “it’s Cleo.” Cleo is the other cat from next door.
We both jumped up. Lucy finally stirred.
“Shut all the doors down here,” I said. “I’ll open the front door and chase her down here so she can escape.” I ran up the stairs.
Nothing in the hallway. Nothing in the small bedroom. Nothing in the master. Only the guest room remained.
And there she was, under the bed.
“Scat,” I shouted, because that’s what I supposed you should say to cats who are holed up in your house. “Scat!” I repeated, a little more frantically.
Cleo raced past me, out the door and down the hall.
“Go downstairs,” I yelled. “Good cat.”
Cats do not follow directions well. Cleo sped into the small bedroom that I use as my bath and dressing room, leaped across the dresser and onto the window sill, and turned to face me, the double bed between us. She hissed. And bared her fangs. Rather large incisors for such a small cat, I thought. I flashed back to watching a leopard gnawing on an impala carcass a few years ago in South Africa. I can still hear the bones cracking. Such things are best viewed at a respectful distance and now I was a little too close for comfort. If Cleo can leap through an open window, I thought, she can probably leap across this double bed. I backed off.
I would not be described as a “cat person.” I tolerate them and do not judge people who keep them as pets. (Well I do, but I feel badly about it.) I mean, they are fine in their place, as long as their place is not the windowsill in my dressing room.
“You better go get Emma,” I shout downstairs to Sara. Keeping a close eye on Cleo, I back out of the room and close the door.
A few moments later, I see Emma trotting down the lane that runs between our houses. Through the glass doors to the lounge I can see Lucy perched on the chair furthest from the doors. She looks perplexed.
“Oh my god, I am so sorry, Jim,” she says as she reaches our front door. “Where is she?”
“Upstairs in the small bedroom,” I answer. “Top of the stairs, on the right.” I back away from the door – we are social distancing – and Emma rushes past me.
I hear hissing and snarling from upstairs. Cleo also sounds upset.
A few moments later Emma comes down the stairs, holding a bewildered Cleo at arms-length in front of her. Emma is still apologizing. Cleo doesn’t say a word but gives me the stink eye.
“Think nothing of it,” I say as I close the door behind them and run back upstairs to check for mice.
We finally settle back down in our assigned spots, after I open the window on the other side of the room. The one we can see. Perry Masonis about to start.
“So, what’s for dessert?” I ask.