44: Let the Cat into the Bag

44: Let the Cat into the Bag

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

Let the Cat into the Bag

Lettin’ the cat outta the bag is a whole lot easier ’n puttin’ it back in.

~Will Rogers

Skunk was six weeks old when I picked him up from a friend. He was tiny, with black and white markings — a dark black fur coat with a white stripe bib and stomach. He looked like an inverted skunk, had some of the same mannerisms of a skunk (minus the smell), bobbing his head as he sniffed at his new surroundings, padding around my apartment.

But Skunk was all kitten. He’d race around, climb up the curtains, chew on shoelaces, claw at the couch, chairs, mattress and anything else he could get his paws on (including my hair as I lay in bed).

A few weeks after I got Skunk, a census-taker showed up at my door. “I’m here to complete the remainder of the long forms, as was explained in the package we sent out to you,” she stated.

When I looked puzzled, she flipped over a sheet on her clipboard and showed me the appropriate form, pointed out the appropriate box. “You agreed to this follow-up, when you ticked that box there.”

So I had.

I always try to help out my country when it comes to statistics. And since they weren’t tax forms, no balance owing, I showed the young woman inside.

Her name was Abigail. She looked to be in her early twenties, the part-time census job probably a way to help pay for college. And being in her “serious twenties,” she hid her nervousness about questioning strangers in their homes behind a cool, brusque air of efficiency.

I showed her to a chair at the dining room/card table and asked if she’d like something to drink. “Soda? Water?”

But she was all business. “No, thank you.” She placed her clipboard down on the table and took a pen out of her purse. “I won’t take up much of your time.” She put her purse down on the carpet.

I took a seat across from her at the table.

And that’s when Skunk made his appearance, poking his furry head around the hallway corner and looking into the dining alcove. When he saw the new person in the apartment, he instantly narrowed his big yellow eyes, raised his head and sniffed at the air, his wet, black nose twitching.

And then he spotted Abigail’s purse on the floor — a large, off-white canvas kind of bag — and his eyes widened again. Something new he could really sink his claws into!

He hopped forward on his little legs, over to Abigail’s purse. He sniffed at it, tentatively swatted at it, playing it cool cat. Then he grabbed onto the side with his front paws, rolled onto his back and kicked at the bottom with his back paws.

“Oh, I see you have a cat,” Abigail commented, looking down at Skunk attacking her purse.

“Skunk,” I replied. “I mean his name is Skunk.”

“Hmmm. He’s, uh, quite playful, isn’t he?”

She reached down and kind of poked at the air with her pen, trying to shoo Skunk away from her purse. He happily jabbed back at the pen.

I nodded. “Yes. He’s only nine weeks old.”

Abigail frowned, Skunk not taking the hint. “I used to have a cat… when I was a child.” She said it like pets were something you outgrew as you matured.

She brought her pen back up to the census forms and looked at me across the table. “Anyway, we’re just about done,” she said seriously, bearing back down on her rather boring work.

But Skunk wouldn’t be put off. Because the only thing more fun for a kitten than getting into mischief is getting into mischief with an audience. Skunk enjoyed putting on a show.

Skunk put on a show, growl-mewling at Abigail’s purse and chewing on the canvas as he clutched it with his front claws and pedaled with his back claws.

Unlike me, Abigail was not amused. She reached down and grabbed her purse off the carpet. Skunk rode along with it, clinging to the side and bottom.

Abigail glared at me, holding up the purse and the attached kitten accessory. I grinned with embarrassment, half stood up, reached over and grabbed onto Skunk’s furry little torso, and pulled. He held onto the purse with teeth and claws.

Abigail tugged on her bag in the opposite direction I was tugging on Skunk. The bag and the kitten held together, suspended in mid-air. Until, finally, detachment was achieved with a rendering sound like Velcro as claws were torn off canvas.

“Sorry about that,” I said, holding the squirming kitten against my chest.

“Well… I guess there’s no harm done,” Abigail said dubiously, patting the slightly striated and pinholed side and bottom of her purse.

Abigail looked at me. I knew what I was supposed to do. “Bad Skunk,” I said sternly.

She carefully placed her purse on the seat of another chair under the table, for safekeeping. I dropped Skunk back down to the floor with a plop. The census taking proceeded, in a most professional manner.

“Thank you again for your assistance, sir,” Abigail concluded soon after, meticulously aligning the forms on her clipboard. “Your government appreciates it.” She stood up.

“And I sometimes appreciate them,” I joked.

She stared at me.

I escorted her over to the door. She left.

I blew out my cheeks and looked around the living room for one small kitten. No Skunk in sight. Probably off burrowing around in the fresh laundry I’d put away/dumped on the floor of my bedroom closet.

I stretched out in my easy chair to watch some football on TV. I was only mildly surprised Skunk didn’t come racing out to jump and claw at my socked feet when I smacked the button on the side of the chair that shot out the footrest. That particular sound seemed to be practically Catlovian.

Ten minutes and two series of football plays later, Abigail suddenly reappeared at the screen door. I scrambled to my feet.

She was actually smiling when I opened the door. “I’m afraid I accidentally took something of yours with me when I left,” she said.

I didn’t understand.

She gently swung her shouldered purse around to the front and opened up the top. A little black furry head with tiny ears and whiskers popped out.

“I was at one of your neighbours,” Abigail explained, “when I reached into my bag for my pen and felt something… lick my hand.” She blushed, carefully plucking Skunk out of the warm, cozy confines of her purse and handing the purring kitten back to me. “I don’t know how he managed to jump up that high — onto the chair, and get into my bag.”

“He likes you.”

Abigail’s grin widened. “There, um, aren’t any other friendly kittens from Skunk’s litter still available, are there? It gets pretty lonely in an apartment all by yourself.”

I grinned back at Abigail.

Skunk happily batted at the twist-ties on my sweatshirt, and then gnawed on them.

~Laird Long

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