I’d gone into the basement to move a load of clothes from washer to dryer when out pops a yellow cat I’d never seen before.
We don’t own a cat and haven’t since we put Junior down some months back. I’ve never even seen this cat in the neighborhood, though my neighbor Jennie talks about a big yellow cat she sees wandering around. If this is the same cat and it’s feral, it certainly looked well-fed, and the first thing I did is what you see cartoon characters do when they’re surprised. I rubbed my eyes. What was a cat doing in my basement, and how long had s/he been in there?
Without making a noise and without making too much of a fuss, the cat moved quickly up the stairs, and I followed, trying to look as friendly as possible. Here we were, me and a strange cat wandering upstairs, no big deal. I was going to open the screen door to let the cat out, but the thing took one look, and leaped about shoulder-height, throwing itself into the screen, which caused the door to snap open, and then the cat darted outside.
This time, I didn’t rub my eyes, but part of me felt like applauding. Obviously, the cat has some experience with screen doors — and maybe even this particular one. And now I’m wondering if it’s been hanging out when we’re gone, maybe snacking on our food, or watching cable.
Years and years ago, I left a pair of boots outside the front door of my apartment in Wichita, Kan., and the next day, I’d gone to put them on and found I had to stomp to get my foot all the way in. Something was not right, and when I took the boot off and shook it, out tumbled a slightly stunned mouse, which had evidently crawled in and hadn’t been able to crawl back out. It took a moment to compose itself, and then it, too, darted away — this time off the porch and toward the park next door.
To this day, I still empty boots out before I put them on, even though I’ve never again encountered a mouse. I don’t know. When you see wildlife — or barely-domesticated life — where it doesn’t belong, it makes you look around corners and wonder what’s on the other side. And I’ve been moving around all day waiting for that damn cat to poke its head up from the back seat, from the upstairs, from beneath the couch. So far? Nothing, but wait until I tell Jennie.