One of my favorite movies is Albert Brooks’ (one of my favorite Woody Allen-style writer/ actor/directors) Defending Your Life. It’s sort of a complicated plot but there’s one scene thrown in that’s pure slapstick fun … showing a movie reel, essentially, of all the ridiculously stupid things main character Daniel Miller has done throughout his life. Falling off the roof of his house sorts of things. I Love Lucy getting your head stuck in a trophy stuff.
Some of mine over the years include getting into the wrong (unlocked) car in the local CVS parking lot, sitting at the wheel, realizing my mistake (when the key didn’t work), grabbing the bag on the passenger seat along with my pocketbook, then ‘breaking’ back into the other car to return their bag of produce I robotically grabbed from my first breaking and entering!
And who hasn’t waited at the wrong restaurant location for their take-out order, getting angrier and more frustrated with the long wait?
Just this week, I’ve been driving a loaner car – a Mercedes, at that – which didn’t seem to be driving so smoothly. My husband test drove it for me, concluding, “It drives fine, once you take the parking brake off.” But that’s another story.
The little story I want to share now is one my daughter Jamie (and, apparently, her cat, Abigail) have been requesting for a while. A tale of great heroics or utter ridiculousness … I’ll let you decide.
Jamie came home about six months ago with her two cats. As always, it’s a pretty wild scene as it brings our household cat count to four – with the ‘home team’ cats not necessarily enamored with the visiting team.
Abigail is cute beyond description, but a … how should I say this … HOLY TERROR when she’s uptight or uncomfortable in her surroundings. I’m talking swiping, howling, screeching, snarling, hissing, biting mad. And that’s just toward her ‘mama’, Jamie – lol.
Anyway, it’s taken a while for her and I to warm up to each other, but we were finally bonding quite a bit on this particular visit and I was definitely falling in love with this little tabby cat … though carefully, on my part.
When it came time for Jamie to pack up for home, I was working in my bedroom/home office, as it was a Wednesday afternoon. I suddenly heard some commotion in Jamie’s room down the hall, both of which are on the second floor of our house. It seems when she was trying to put Abigail* – a.k.a. Piglet, Pigeletto, Smidgen, Snippet, Trinket, Teacup (why do we all have such weird silly nicknames for our pets???) – in her carrying case, she snuck into Jamie’s closet. Jamie came into my room sobbing – ah, the joys of working at home. And Jim was marching angrily downstairs after he and Jamie had had some words about Jamie keeping her closet door and crawlspace entry open to Piglet (as she’s most often called).
You see, the cat had gone through a small square opening at the bottom of the back wall of the closet to enter the unfinished area beyond. We tried bribery in the form of food, treats and toys … all to no avail. We tried calling out sweetly in unthreatening tones. We tried yelling and scaring her out.
No luck and actually we couldn’t even see where she was. Time for me to take charge, I thought. Totally disregarding Jim’s warnings not to enter the ‘dangerous’ crawl space, I – quite Lucy Ricardo-like, I later thought – went in for the rescue.
It was hot. It was dusty. I was coughing and choking from the pink insulating foam that was permeating the air. With a small flashlight I demanded from Jamie, I was trying to locate this pesky little cat when I finally spotted her … of course, in the farthest reaches of the area, past the part where there was no floor to speak of. She was locked in place, just glaring at me.
I decided I needed to go past the ‘safety zone’ to save this little cat and allow Jamie to head back home. (For most of this time, her other cat Clara was howling from her cat carrier in Dan’s room.)
With my head a little big with the ‘heady’ mission of heroically solving the issue at hand, I got down on my hands and knees, flashlight in hand, coughing and wheezing, scaling the thin wooden beams with pink insulation in-between and with my clunky size 10 wide feet. At one point, Piglet moved, frightening me off balance, sending my clunky size 10 wide left foot crashing through the pink insulation and causing expletives to explode from my mouth.
Abigail came flying past me, out the small square cut-out to Jamie’s room, me screaming, “Cover the hole, block the door!” lest she get back in. I would worry about me getting out later.
Mission accomplished — no harm, no foul, short of some continued hacking, a scraped knee and some minor body aches. Or so I thought. Piglet was still within the confines of Jamie’s relatively small room, door shut. But capturing her for the final carrier send-off proved even more difficult – imagine, going into the lion’s cage.
She started running like an absolute maniac on Jamie’s Formica furniture and screeching in, I’m not kidding, blood curdling ‘yells’. I was so determined, but it didn’t matter. She was tougher.
We did finally get her in the carrier, somehow … the trauma of it all has weakened my memory. But Jamie’s room looked like a war zone. There was all the stuff Jim had originally taken out of the closet and thrown randomly around the room to try to find the escape artist cat-in-the-closet. There were overturned and broke trinkets everywhere. There was a puddle of wet I unfortunately put my hands in. Jamie said “Oh, she probably knocked her water dish over.” No such luck … she had peed all over the place in her frightened fury too. If memory serves, number two byproducts were also in the ‘crime scene’ scenario.
In the midst of all this, I had texted my boss (at a job I had started just a few weeks before) saying I had a “slight family emergency. Everything is o.k. but I won’t be reachable for about 30 minutes.”
Heading downstairs, I was feeling beaten up but accomplished … telling Jamie, dad didn’t even need to know what we just went through or how I went into the dreaded crawl space (making reference to our Lucy and Ethel-type adventure). Again, no real damage. Again, wrong!
Jim was working at his computer in the dining room and visibly upset (to put it mildly) … actually that kind of mad where you can’t even really speak to someone. He said, in very quiet, measured tones, “Have you been in the family room?”
This couldn’t be good. And it wasn’t – my size 10 wide foot had gone through the ceiling when it crashed through the pink foam. I guess I should have known. There was a foot-square or so hole and ceiling debris all around. Being at the start, and height, of the pandemic, we didn’t want anyone coming in to do repairs right away … or even yet … so we have a little reminder of the whole crazy incident.
In hindsight, it’s a funny enough story and everyone came out (basically) unscathed. But I honestly wasn’t looking to add ‘foot through the ceiling’ to my ‘ridiculously stupid’ acts. Even if this one may have been in the name of brave cat rescue heroics.
*Jamie must have immediately sensed the mischievous nature of the stray kitten she found on her doorstep – naming her Abigail after the rabble-rousing character in the Crucible.