I returned from work yesterday to discover a cat in my kitchen.
It was somewhat of a surprise. I didn’t own a cat. I’d never owned a cat. I’d never even wanted to own a cat. But there it was; thin, black, sort of tough-looking, sitting right on my kitchen table, working its way through a whole pound of processed turkey slices.
I called into the house, wondering if the cat’s owner was in there somewhere, waiting for me to come home. I didn’t know anyone who would just let themselves into my house, never mind bring their pets along for the ride, but it was worth a shot.
“Hello? Is anybody there?”
The cat ate.
No dice. The cat hadn’t even looked up at my voice, merely nosed the plastic wrapping its feast; I addressed the issue directly.
“Well, hello there.”
The cat finally looked up, pink tongue wiping stray shreds of turkey from its whiskers.
“I hope you enjoyed that turkey. I know I was planning to.”
The cat sat on its haunches and began washing up, licking its own shoulder and chest, neck working with an alarmingly boneless flexibility.
“You wait here.”
I went out to knock on doors. Up and down my street I went, asking everyone I could if they knew anything about a cat in my house. Someone had to know something. My house was locked and the fridge closed — someone had to work the doors and get that packet of turkey onto the table.
But time after time, door after door, the answer was the same: a blank look, a shaken head.
When I got back home my furry guest was curled up and snoozing on the couch — right in the butt-groove where I parked every night to watch COPS.
“Oh, I don’t think so.”
I scooped up the warm ball of fur and checked it out more closely. No collar, a little skinny, one ear a little ragged, maybe evidence of a fight. A stray, I decided. If someone showed up looking for their cat, that’s what I’d tell them. I just assumed it was a stray.
“It’s a warm night,” I said opening the door. “You’ll be fine. You’re welcome for the turkey.”
I deposited the sleepy feline on the steps, went back in and closed the door. I threw out what was left of the turkey and checked the fridge.
“Didn’t like the ham, huh?”
Shortly, I was parked in my butt groove with a ham sandwich and two beers, the cops chasing a half-naked man through Louisiana backyards on my wide-screen.
I awoke this morning to find a cat in my kitchen.
“Okay, how the hell did you get in again?”
Whiskers dripped as the cat looked up from the bowl of milk sitting in the middle of my kitchen table.
I did a quick sweep of the house, including the basement. I found no open windows, no unlocked doors, no way for someone to have sneaked the cat back in, but someone must have. That bowl and milk didn’t just get up on the table by themselves — someone was messing with me.
“I’ll get to the bottom of this later,” I told the cat as I scooped it up once more, ejecting it through the front door a little more forcefully than before. Maybe I could scare it into not coming back even if brought. I was running late now, and had to hurry to get ready for work.
At work that day I kept a quiet but careful eye on my co-workers, looking for a smirk or knowing look, something to indicate who was behind the joke. There was nothing, as far as I could tell. I stayed a little late to get ahead for Monday and went home for the weekend. I checked the front door before I opened it: locked, as I had left it. I checked the kitchen. No cat. I was surprised at my relief.
I opened the fridge and built myself a repeat of last night’s meal. I took the plate and beers into the living room, poked the television on, backed into my couch groove — and sat on a hissing, spitting demon.
The plate flew one way, the beer another as the cat, apparently sleeping until then, went ballistic, screeching and sinking some claws into the back of my leg. I shot forward, tumbling over the coffee table
I leapt to my feet and swiped the cat up by the scruff of the neck, seriously considering seeing how far I could throw it once I got to the front door, but I never got that far. My fingers sprang open of their own volition and the cat dropped back onto the couch, wide green eyes boring holes right into me. Something took a hold of me, almost as if huge invisible fingers wrapped around my ribs to either side. I was lifted from my feet and sent sailing across the room, fetching hard against the far wall, my feet dangling six inches off the floor.
I fought for breath against the pressure pinning me to the wall and watched as the cat leapt from the couch to the coffee table. The sandwich righted itself, met the plate in mid-air, and the whole mess floated over to land before the cat. It had half-finished the sandwich before the pressure slacked off and I slipped to the floor. I crouched there, catching my breath as the cat hopped off the table and stalked into the kitchen. The refrigerator opened and china clinked. There was a brief liquid gurgle before the empty milk carton flew through the doorway to strike me in the chest.
That was five minutes ago. I avoided the kitchen and went out the front door, milk carton in hand. I have to go to the store for more.
I wouldn’t want my cat to get really mad.