What I heard: that meow a cat makes when he’s in another part of the house and he’s like, “Hey, where you at?” Insistent, but not yet panicked.
What happened the day before: it is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single-family house in possession of a goodly amount of wallpaper, must be in want of stripping. The project of updating Mrs. Gardenwinkle’s 80s museum has begun, starting with the gutting of the upstairs bathrooms. The rate of progress of re-modeling projects is chaotic at best, with stretches of steady progress, interrupted by the delays of backordered tile, or returning round drains when you wanted square, or replacing uneven concrete pads for the AC units. So in the time between small disasters our contractor assigned two workers to the non-trivial task of stripping the wallpaper from every room. They started upstairs. There was this one tool that made a screeching noise, and another that got everything wet but whatever. As they worked their way downstairs the house has been transformed, from a neat-but-dated 80s museum to just the sort of sad, shabby, destroyed ranch house that might be claimed by feral cats.
After a few days they’d stripped the upstairs hall, the stairwell, and the downstairs hall. While I was out they moved on to my bathroom and then my bedroom. I wasn’t quite ready for them, but my lack of preparation for the disruption was nothing compared to Schwartz’s. He’d been locked in our end of the house for days, and though he had food and water, his litterbox and plenty of good hiding places, he must have escaped. When I got home from the barn he was locked in my bathroom, crouched on the toilet tank, angrily overlooking a river of urine that he’d left running through the soon-to-be gutted bathroom.
What happened the next day: the next day the plumbers were working on the rough-in of the upstairs bathroom, and while they’d been very careful to keep the cat out of the basement, a drain pipe got installed in a way that prevented the upstairs bathroom door from closing. So of course they went to lunch and left the door open. A few hours later, after they’d finished and left for the day, I heard the meowing.
Who should see it: anyone who didn’t get to see enough disaster photos recently. Cat behaviorists studying the way a meow changes from normal inquiry to angry shout. Problem solvers.
What I wore: pajamas, which got splinters in them.
Where I sat: on the floor by the roughed-in pipes, with the cat screaming and reaching for me with one paw.
Things that were funny: I found the cat under the newly roughed-in bathtub, frantically thrashing and howling and unable to fit through the only opening left to him.
Things that were not funny:
How I got help: the Bacon Provider decreed that pets are useless and terrible, and among the primary obstacles to his happiness, so he was not interested in helping the cat until after he’d eaten his samosa and lamb tikka masala and chicken saag. Then I realized that a solution might include removing a newly-installed floor panel and I announced to no one in particular it would be necessary to use a power tool.
Who went with me: the Bacon Provider pretended that his involvement in the cat rescue was a great personal inconvenience. But he got to use the drill, so…<\shrug emoji>
Why I saw this show: it was love at first sight. The first time Schwartz saw the gutted bathroom he fell madly in love with it. Plain plywood floors. Exposed framing. Old pink insulation. Nooks. Crannies. Places a cat must never go. He could not resist.
Things that were sad: J.M. Barrie’s opening line of “Peter Pan” is, “All children, except one, grow up.” No cats grow up. And they persistently search for Neverland.
More things that were not funny: days later, when he returned to the upstairs, Schwartz begged to be allowed back into that bathroom.
Something I ate: we had Indian food delivered. It was very good. I might go have some more leftovers right now.