Day 16. Hiding Places

The last time I wrote about Bartlett, I briefly mentioned his fondness for box springs; and said I’d elaborate at another time.  Well, that time has come.

He was out of the guest room, roaming free in the house.  I honestly can’t remember how long I’d had him at this point — I’d say probably no less than six months and no more than a year.  I was going away on a business trip and had my suitcase on the bed, so I could pack.  I know cats don’t like it when we pack.  I have a friend in Montreal whose Persian would pee in her luggage each and every time she was taking a trip.

So I wasn’t in the least surprised when all three of my cats (Zazu, Sundance and Bartlett) were full of nervous energy — jumping on the bed, off the bed, up and down like bouncing balls.  Climbing into the suitcase and refusing to get out again.  Burrowing under whatever clothing I was putting in.  I’d get rid of one cat and the other would take over.  When I opened drawers to get stuff out, a cat would jump in, making a holy mess.  Frustrated, I decided to let them have their fun and get it out of their systems, while I had some dinner.

Only an idiot trys to outsmart a cat.  Remember this.

Dinner over, I went to put the garbage out — I’d forgotten the next day was pick-up.  Then I hauled my sorry ass back upstairs to my bedroom, to finish packing.  Zazu was fast asleep in my suitcase.  Sundance was curled up on a pile of clothes, that were laying on my bed, waiting to be packed.  Bartlett was nowhere to be found.  Thinking nothing of it at first, I got on with the task at hand.

By the time I got to my toiletries, he’d been MIA for a while.  Too quiet.  Too long.

I looked in every drawer in my bedroom.  I looked under the bed — not just looked, by the way.  I got down on the floor, on my stomach, and literally slid under the bed.  I looked in the closet.  I looked on every shelf in the closet.  I moved on to the guest room, where I went through the identical routine.  The linen closet.  The bathroom.  The bathroom vanity.  A spare room.  Down a floor.  I checked the vestibule (there was a door that closed it off from the living room.  I thought, that maybe, when I’d gone out with the garbage he’d followed me and been left in there.  Under the couch.  Under the chairs.  On the window ledges.  The kitchen.  Under the sink.  In the pantry.  In the pot drawer.  Not claiming to be sane, even for a minute, I even checked the dishwasher, oven and freezer (mine was on the bottom).

Back upstairs, I went. I started calling his name.  And calling him.  And calling him.  Louder and louder each time.  Retracing all my footsteps.  To no avail.  I came downstairs again, screaming his name by now.  No response.  So I headed down to the basement.  I looked under the couch.  Under the chairs.  Under the coffee table.  Under my desk.  In the bookcase.  In a storage closet.  In the bathroom.  In the furnace room.  Calling “Bartlett … Bartlett … this isn’t funny, Bartlett … where are you?”

By now it was dark out.  My house was across the street from a huge park, filled with enormous, old trees.

I convinced myself that Bartlett had run out, unnoticed, when I took the garbage out.  This is probably a good time to tell you that my cats were not outdoor cats.  So I panicked and thought, he’ll get lost.  He’ll get frightened.  How will I ever find him, in the dark, in that park?  There was also an alley behind my house that ran from one end of the street to the other.

To say I was completely out of my mind by then is an understatement.  I called my business partner who happened to live just a few blocks away.  Crying, I told her that Bartlett had disappeared and that if I didn’t find him soon, I wasn’t going on the business trip the next day.

She was at my house in less than five minutes.  She repeated each and every thing I had done.  She went through the entire house, calling the little cretin’s name.  I know she thought I was missing something and she’d be triumphant.  No such thing happened.  I then did what any half-crazed (okay, fully-crazed) animal lover would do:  I grabbed a flashlight and hit the street.  I started crawling around under the cars (city dwellers rarely get driveways or garages), calling his name.  Well, screaming his name.

Hearing a commotion, neighbours starting coming outside to see what was going on.  I lived on a great street — only about 12 or 14 houses — and it was a true, little neighbourhood.  We all got along really well and watched out for each other.   So, of course, they offered to help.  Pretty soon we had a posse out there with flashlights, running around in the dark.  We divided and conquered.  A few people took the park, a few others the alley.  The rest of us covered the whole street, from top to bottom.  No success.

Even Sharon was getting worried.  Exhausted, I went to sit down on my front stairs for a minute.  She joined me.  Our backs to the front of the house, we were staring at all the activity going on around us, trying to think of what Plan B might be.  My house had two large, very long windows in the living room.  Suddenly, out of the far corner of an eye, Sharon detected a movement.

Quietly she said to me, “He’s ok.  He’s in the house.  Satan (to this day she calls him Satan) is in the house.”  I thought she was nuts, hallucinating.  She screamed at me to look:  And there, walking oh-so-nonchalantly down the stairs, was Bartlett.  Not a care in the world.  Oblivious to all the fuss.  Minding his own business.

We were totally stumped.  Where the hell had he been?  Sheepishly, I called off the search party and invited everyone in for some wine.  Sharon refused to leave until we’d solved the mystery.  Where the hell had he been???  We looked everywhere we had already looked, to see what, if anything, we could possibly have missed.  There was nothing, until Sharon crawled under my bed one, last time — and looked up.

A gaping hole in the box spring.

The little SOB had dug a hole in my box spring, and was curled up in there the whole time!  Laughing at me.

Now the minute I can’t find him, I feel around the box spring for big lumps (remember he weighs close to thirty pounds).  He’s there occasionally.  But only occasionally.  When he wants to get caught.  But he still manages to outsmart me.  Nothing he likes better than a game of cat and mouse.

Guess who’s the mouse.

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