Why is it that things can go terribly, terribly wrong when my wife is out of the picture? Time and time again, I am beset by misadventures of my own doing when left alone. Does this mean I fit the mold of the Hopeless Husband/Doofus Dad sitcom character? Sadly, yes.
My wife Lee was out on an overnight mission of mercy. Our oldest daughter was out of town on a business trip longer than expected. My wife volunteered to stay overnight and cat sit. She was delighted to do so. Lee is most decidedly a cat person. Everyone who knows her believes that if I were to shuffle off this mortal coil before her, she would morph into The Crazy Cat Woman. You know, the woman who lives alone with 63 felines under foot.
The evening passed without incident. I had dinner with a couple of friends, fed the animals, watched a documentary on my computer and toddled off to bed. I had no trouble getting to sleep. All was well.
At 3:22AM, I awoke with a start and intense chest pains. Cookie, the Golden Retriever, a solid sleeper if there ever was one, was panting heavily. Riley, the mutt who considers himself to be the patron saint of the three house-cats, was very agitated. I heard a maddening cry of a cat in trouble. I assumed the two male cats (brothers) were in a knock down drag out in the next room. I got up and followed the sound. It was coming from the front porch. I turned on the outside light and saw the back of a tuxedo cat hunched, spitting and, I suppose ,glaring at another cat in the shadows at the bottom of the stairs. All of our cats are tuxedos…mostly black with white paws. Could that be one of our cats? Impossible, I thought to myself. None of them ever go out and there is no way I could have been that careless.
“Really?” the little voice in my head asked. “Better be sure.”
And yes, I really needed to be sure. If I lost one of the cats, I could expect to be slowly poisoned by my wife…that would be the best case scenario. I pushed the dumbass dogs out of the way, opened the front door and stepped outside. I was natty dressed in a pair of grey boxers. I hoped they would pass for bicycle shorts if viewed by an insomniac neighbor. The furious feline dashed across the porch and into the night. I didn’t get to see the cat’s face. The agitator at the foot of the stairs was the friendly grey cat from across the street. I retreated into the house.
It was time to count noses. All I had to do was find the three cats and then I could do something about this chest pain.
The search began sanely enough. I flicked on the lights in each room and called out for the trio of cats to show themselves. Costello, the one most likely to attempt an escape from the confines of the house, was the easiest to find. The other two were nowhere in sight. I had a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach.
Oh, and the chest pains got worse.
I rifled through the pantry and pulled out a bag of kitty treats. The sound of the shaking bag was the trick that always brought the cats out of hiding and racing to the kitchen. But not this time. Abbott appeared but Nook, the small female feline did not show.
Okay, now it was time to panic. Clutching and shaking the bag of treats, I ran through the house. The cats and dogs, consumed with self interest and not the emergency at hand, kept to my heel. I was the Pied Piper of begging animals. And there was no sign of Nook. In desperation, I set the dogs off into the back yard, hoping that they would find the lost Nook and bring her home.
The Golden Retriever wandered off to relieve herself and strolled back to me keeping a keen eye on the kitty treat bag. And so, it was up to the cat loving mutt, who was at least part border collie, to hunt down the missing Nook. After a few fruitless minutes, Riley returned. Abbott and Costello were waiting at the back door. They weren’t worried and they weren’t happy either. All of this running around in the middle of the night and still no treats? Outrageous.
I made it back inside without losing another cat and continued my high speed panic attack search of the premises.
If the little cat was still inside, where could she be? Why couldn’t I find her? The entire house was blazing with light. It was probably visible from the space station. I had looked everywhere: the kitchen, the bedrooms, the living room, the basement, the storage area.
“Really, you’ve looked everywhere?” the irritating head voice snickered.
That’s when I spied the giant flashlight on the kitchen counter. Everywhere was a big place. It was time to get on all fours and check under beds, easy chairs and dressers. Fools errand I thought. Little Nook was outside being harassed by things that go bump in the night and it was all my fault. Still, I had to cover all the bases. The first place I shined the light was under my bed. And there she was. The bitch.
“Thanks,” I whispered. I stood up, made my way to the kitchen, pitched a few treats to the cats and dogs and put the bag back in the pantry.
It wasn’t Nook out on the porch hissing and spitting. Our little girl was snug as a bug next to a rolled up rug under the bed.
I checked the clock. It was 3:45. The entire manic escapade took 23 minutes. There was no going back to sleep for at least an hour. Well, there was no me going back to sleep. The dogs did not have that problem. I wandered through the house turning off lights as I went. Wide awake now. My buzzing brain and unrelenting chest pains made sure of that. But I hadn’t lost a cat to blackness of the night. That was a good thing. I could die happy now.
I briefly considered pouring myself a glass of wine and toasting my grit and good luck in resolving the crisis. Of course, had the wife been home, she would have tracked down the three cats in under a minute. With that in mind, I settled for a glass of water instead and dropped into a nearby easy chair. The tasteless beverage proved to be therapeutic and the chest pain finally abated. It was my old friend acid reflux and not a widow maker heart attack. Bonus.
Even though I was sitting quietly in the darkened house, it didn’t take long for the Golden Retriever to find me and collapse at my feet. Thirty seconds later she was snoring like a truck driver. Very ladylike.
Oh, what a night.