35: Smokey’s Lockout

35: Smokey’s Lockout

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Cat Did What?

Smokey’s Lockout

Everything comes to those who wait… except a cat.

~Mario Andretti

This was not how the evening was supposed to go. “Darn Smokey,” my husband Paul muttered, as he poked the wire hanger into the seam where the window met the metal. But the little Ford lived up to its manufacturer’s claims and the wire could not wedge its way against the tightly shut window. Inside the white car, oblivious to the consternation he had caused, our white cat Smokey prowled back and forth.

“Nice kitty, Smokey. Up.” Paul coaxed the restless animal to the driver’s side of the car for the umpteenth time. Simultaneously he pointed to the lock with what he hoped was a beguiling smile. But the cat, trapped in the vehicle by its own doing, refused to be courted. The animal’s pupils were dilated; the normally blue eyes bulging pools of brown. Paul tried again. And again. Each time the beguiling smile got thinner and more forced.

Paul grabbed the door handle at the sound of the lock settling in place. Too late. His black briefcase lay on the seat, the spare key safe in one of the compartments. And the little cat had no clue that anything was amiss.

Smokey had been the house kitten since he was five weeks old. The first time I laid eyes on him I knew I wanted this cuddly white ball of fur with its big blue eyes and tiny pink nose for a pet. He was cloud soft, with a hint of grey to his coat, as if he had just wandered through a haze of smoke. As he grew older, the hint of grey evolved into dark stripes on his tail, haunches, and legs, revealing his Lynx Siamese blood.

The playful cat had developed a love for vehicles, ingrained through frequent visits to the vet, the house in town, and back to the farm, where we were then. The warmth and soft seats of the car felt as cozy as the house.

Paul was growing impatient. He wanted to solve this problem and get to work in the fields while there was still some daylight. “If I can get him to press the left side of the lock, maybe he can flip it up,” Paul reasoned aloud. And so began a lesson in English, explaining the concepts of LEFT and RIGHT, with hand motions, to an increasingly bewildered cat. Not that it was without effect. Smokey followed the hand movements, pawing the lock to show that he understood. But while the switch was easy to press in the Lock position, to unlock it called for more pressure than his little paw could exert. Nor could his bemused brain fathom why the usually trustworthy Paul was not letting him out into the sunshine, grass, and meows of his fellow cats.

An hour dragged on. The sun dipped behind the trees and the cold spring air darkened into evening haze. Smokey fell asleep in the driver’s seat. Paul finally called the Canadian Automobile Association for help.

“My keys are locked in my car.” Then Paul gave his address. The ride from Yorkton to the farm in the south took nearly forty-five minutes. By the time help arrived, it would be over two hours since the lockout had begun.

“Help” turned out to be a tow truck driver, an intimidating-looking fellow of stocky build. He had not asked details about who had locked the keys; presumably it would be the driver or a passenger. A two-legged one. A guffaw burst from his lips as he took in the scene: the cat in the car, the helpless man outwitted by a “four-legger,” and a host of other felines glancing warily at their caged friend.

A red-faced Paul looked on, reassured that it would be an easy fix. Armed with an ample supply of picks for various locks, and rods with hooks to catch the locking mechanism inside the door, the driver started his work. First he placed an inflatable rubber-like item in the doorframe. Then he pumped it and the square rubber opened the door a smidgen, just enough so he could insert another rod and get the button that Smokey had punched. Every so often his face twitched. He had never had to use his skills to free a cat that had locked itself in a vehicle. This was an event he’d remember for a long time.

Fifteen minutes later it was all over. The tow truck driver opened the door and Smokey shot out, straight into the haven of an old dark shed. Sheepishly Paul reached for the ignition and rescued the coveted key that would spark the engine to life for his return to town.

~Susan Harris

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