1: The Great Escape

1: The Great Escape

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Very Good, Very Bad Cat

The Great Escape

Fun fact: It is believed that in ancient Egypt killing a cat incurred the death penalty because cats were viewed as sacred beings.

My best friend from kindergarten had become a flight attendant and lived in Boston. We were on the phone one night when she complained that she would have to work a three-day trip to Paris.

“What a problem!” I said. “I’d love to be able to get away for a few days!”

“Then come here,” she said. “Bring Kathy with you, enjoy Boston, and feed my cat. I’ll leave the key with David next door.” I wondered if it could really be that simple. My husband told me to go and enjoy myself, and my sister Kathy said her bags could be packed in an instant. We were about to have an adventure!

We had a very easy drive to Boston and felt that was a good omen. We arrived at Dave’s apartment a half-hour early, and he was waiting for us — another good omen. But he had this little smirk on his face and, as he handed us the key, he said, “Lots a luck!”

“What do you mean?” we asked.

“I mean good luck with that cat. Jackie’s my friend,” Dave said, “but I wouldn’t go in there if my life depended on it. Here’s the list of instructions and some treats. You’ll need them just to get in.” He chuckled, shook his head and closed his door.

Kathy and I looked at each other. Neither one of us cares much for cats, but that’s partially due to allergies. We had taken our antihistamines. We’d be fine.

We walked next door reading Jackie’s list. She didn’t mention the cat’s name, so we returned to Dave’s apartment.

“What’s the cat’s name?” I asked.

“Jackie calls him Simon,” he said. “I call him Psycho.”

Kathy and I tentatively approached Jackie’s door, reassuring each other that Dave was a nut. We put our ears to the door and heard nothing. We put the key in the lock, and then we heard him. The cat was purring, but very loudly. In fact, it was more of a growl than a purr. I was afraid to open the door, but Kathy urged me on. “Come on! It’s only a cat….”

We opened the door, and as the cat bounded toward us, the treats came in handy! I threw them as far as I could across the room, and the cat ran after them. I saw on a table next to the door a bag labeled in big letters: “READ THIS!” I grabbed it and slammed the door.

Inside the bag was another note along with a jar of pennies and a spray bottle of water. The note said that if Simon was acting up, we could shake the jar of coins or spray him with the water. This was not a good omen, so instead of going into the apartment, we took our bags back to the car and went to dinner.

We ordered wine immediately. I told Kathy about my last visit to Jackie’s, pre-Simon. She has a beautiful studio apartment. Every surface is covered with whimsical treasures gathered as she travels the world. The studio has an open living/dining area. Her bedroom is in an alcove with louvered, bi-fold doors that seal off the bedroom from the rest of the apartment.

We also talked about Simon’s (or Psycho’s) behavior. What we had seen in our very brief encounter was that the cat was a big ball of white fur and would have been considered pretty if not for its evil countenance and its size. I am no judge of cats, but I think this one weighed about thirty pounds. In any case, he was big. Fat. Huge. He had a furrowed brow, probably from frowning so much, and red eyes that made him look possessed.

Over a second glass of wine, we decided that when we returned to the apartment, Kathy would throw more treats at the cat, I would make sure his dish was full, and we would sequester ourselves in the bedroom.

We got back to the apartment armed for battle. Kathy held the jar of coins, and I had the spray bottle. We would be brave. I opened the door, and the cat leapt at us with a hiss that could be heard throughout Boston. Kathy shook her coins frantically. I held my water bottle aloft, waiting for an opportune time to spray. Kathy threw the treats as far as she could. I checked on the cat food, and we ran to the bedroom, slamming those louvered doors. The lock was a hook-and-eye, and I latched it as fast as my trembling fingers allowed.

We could hear Psycho eating as we got into our pajamas, laughing nervously about how silly we were. Kathy looked around, admiring Jackie’s souvenirs. She also noted long, silky hair pretty much everywhere. As we got into bed, we saw the hair on the spread and the pillow. Oh my God, I thought, Psycho must sleep in this bed. We each gulped another pill — without water, of course, because we dared not go to the kitchen.

We told each other to relax and get some sleep, but as our heads hit the pillows we heard the first whump. Psycho wanted in and was throwing himself at the door. Thank God there was a door! Whump again. And again. And now a yowl, a cat sound somewhere between a screech and a wail. How long could he keep that up? Long enough for Dave to knock on the wall and say, “I warned you.”

But then it stopped. Psycho had given up. It was quiet out there. So quiet that I could hear Kathy’s asthmatic breathing along with my own.

Then a new sound. Glass tinkling and what I knew to be treasures being knocked off the cocktail table, the desk, the TV stand, and the bookcase as Psycho rose higher and higher and nearer to the bedroom door. Then an explosion! The hook and eye gave way against the tremendous thirty-pound force. The louvered doors blew open, and Psycho flew into the room like a Super Cat, a demon, and landed on our bed. We jumped up screaming. I used my water spray to keep him back. Kathy grabbed the bags, and we ran into the living room. I pulled an ottoman in front of the bedroom door, knowing it would never hold back the behemoth. We grabbed the key and, still in our pajamas, fled the apartment.

Passing by Dave’s door, we dropped the key in his mailbox, and I swear I heard him chuckling. We got to the car and figured we could get back home by 2:00 a.m. I could see the apartment from the parking lot. We had left on the bedroom lights, but we didn’t care. I worried briefly about Psycho’s food, but figured he could live on his fat for a month. Besides, Jackie would be home in two days. I stepped on the gas and looked back to see the outline of a big, hairy cat sitting on the windowsill.

Adventure? You can have it. Next vacation, Motel 6.

~Eileen Melia Hession

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