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[personal profile] djonn

There is a pantry/closet in my kitchen, next to the refrigerator, in which I keep a great variety of things.  There are old cardboard boxes, decks of playing cards, boxes of papers, a small cooler chest, my collection of Christmas supplies (tags, ribbon, stockings, gift wrap, etc.), aprons, decks of cards, light bulbs, the backup paper towel supply, assorted surplus groceries (I probably have enough boxed pasta just now to last me until approximately next Memorial Day) and my vacuum cleaner.

It is, in short, very full, though not so full as to produce a Fibber McGee effect.  Imagine my startlement, therefore, when I opened the pantry door late this morning...

  ...and a cat leaped past me from inside the pantry.  I yelped and stepped backward -- though not very far, as the kitchen galley-space is not much wider than the pantry door.  The cat, being quick on its feet, was way ahead of me, having promptly fled to the farthest corner of the apartment.

A quick look inside the pantry revealed three key facts.  One, there was no longer a cat in it.  Two, the pantry's contents appeared relatively undisturbed, at least at first glance.  Three, there was no visible means whereby the cat could have gotten into the pantry, barring the literal Heinlein-inspired power to walk through walls.  (I was, for the moment, leaving aside the larger question of how it had gotten into my apartment in the first place.)

Having established that much, I turned my attention to the cat.  Though understandably skittish -- and possessed of a singularly piercing "Mee-oww!" -- it took very little coaxing to persuade it to come to me for petting and scratching, which it accepted with nearly silent but intensely vibratory purring.  It was clearly a house cat; though entirely lacking a collar or tags, it was sleek and sturdy, and its olive-gray fur was thick and silky.  Indeed, it looked vaguely familiar...

A metaphorical light bulb went off over my head.  The cat didn't object to being picked up -- a very good thing, considering that it had a full and untrimmed set of claws.  Nor did it try to get away when I opened my front door and walked out to the mailboxes...and the bulletin board next to them, on which a flyer had been posted featuring a picture of a sleek olive-gray cat that had last been seen back on Sept. 30th.  The cat (now revealed as one Ronald) and I went back inside; I left him alone long enough to collect a notepad and make a second trip outside to copy down the phone number on the flyer.  By the time I got back inside, he had disappeared, but a quick look around located him exploring the front half-bathroom.  A call to the phone number on the flyer went to voice-mail, so I spent the next little while attempting to create a cat-friendly environment -- makeshift water dish (enthusiastically accepted), makeshift lunch (almost entirely ignored), makeshift litterbox (ditto).  Ronald alternated between bouts of loud mewing, frequently accompanied by plaintive stretching toward the nearest window, and periods of complete silence, frequently accompanied by hiding in the cabinet under the front bathroom sink.

After a couple of hours, I tried a second phone call (voice-mail again) and then a quick visit to the brand new on-site manager.  The new manager was sympathetic but didn't know any more than I did already, and neither of us were sure where Ronald's humans might be.  By this time, I was almost due to leave for an impromptu family get-together, which presented a minor dilemma.  With some reluctance, I put Ronald and his makeshift cat accessories into the front bathroom -- the one place in the apartment I was confident he couldn't get out of by himself -- refilled the water dish, and went on my way, figuring that he could survive for a bit longer on his own.  I had also made up a quick flyer of my own and tacked it to the bulletin board as I left.  The call came later in the afternoon; Ronald's person was, in fact, my upstairs neighbor, and we agreed to meet as soon as I got home again and restore Ronald to his rightful place.

Cut to mid-evening, as I enter the apartment and cautiously open the front bathroom door.  The makeshift litterbox has been pushed sideways (but not used, so far as I can tell).  The makeshift lunch is still there, virtually untouched (except for one fragment of chopped-up tater tot, which has been carefully dropped in the middle of the floor).  The water dish is still there, perhaps a bit less full than it was.  And the cupboard under the sink is...empty.

Has my visiting cat walked through the wall?  This seems unlikely.  I examine the scene again, lifting the toilet cover (no Ronald), and checking the cupboard again (no Ronald).  There is also a column of three drawers next to the cupboard.  I open the top drawer.  No cat.  I open the middle drawer.  No cat.  The bottom drawer is also empty -- and half open.  Which it wasn't, before.  And the space behind that drawer is just about large enough....

I kneel down and very carefully reach through the drawer and over its back edge.  My arm isn't long enough to do more than get my fingers a little way down into the space behind the drawer, but that's enough to establish that there is, in fact, a cat there.  I withdraw my arm and pull the drawer out, intending to lift it off of its rollers so I can reach in and collect Ronald -- except that this is a very small bathroom, and the drawer can't be pulled out quite far enough because the toilet tank is in the way.  And Ronald is neither talking to me nor listening to my requests that he come out.

I call the upstairs neighbors, figuring that Ronald is more likely to emerge for them than he is for me.  They come down, and one of them does a magic trick with the drawers: he opens the middle drawer (no cat), closes the bottom drawer (still no cat), closes the middle drawer (wait - they're all closed?), and opens the bottom drawer -- which suddenly has a cat in it.  Presto!  Ronald is back with his people, and all is right with the world.

Mostly, at any rate.  It isn't clear just how much of his week's vacation Ronald spent with me (without my noticing!), but further investigation suggests that he must have been in the pantry for some time.  He doesn't seem to have actually damaged anything -- which is fairly remarkable, considering -- but I have some cleaning to do.  And as a result, the pantry is now a little less crowded than it was.

Have You Heard This?

"Changing from bad to good's as easy as...taking your first step!"

-- Kris Kringle (to the Winter Warlock)
Santa Claus is Coming to Town

August 2017

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