Condos and Kittens and How We Almost Killed George
Our Baby Cats
Condos and Pets
My wife and I lived in a condo for a number of years before we decided we'd had enough of the Condo Association Police. It was nice enough, though nothing really special. There were four units in our building, two up and two down; ours was on the second floor. There was just the two of us, being empty-nesters, and life was good. Every now and then, however, we thought it would be nice to have a pet—a kitten or perhaps a small dog—but there were rules against having pets, so it was just one of those subjects that came and went.
An Unexpected Turn of Events
One day, my wife called from the small consignment shop where she worked and asked me to come down there. She wanted to show me something. I figured someone had brought in an item that had piqued her interest and she wanted my opinion on it. This was not a good sign because she usually only wants my opinion on expensive things. When I arrived, there was a tall cardboard box by the counter and my wife and the proprietor were taking turns looking down into it, making motherly cooing noises. I heard a mewing sound, put two and two together, and realized we were going to have a kitten in our condo and to hell with the Association.
I was wrong. Staring up at me from the bottom of the box were four big blue eyes and two bundles of orange fluff. They were dusty and scared. One of them kept mewing-we would name him Dakota—and his sister, Celine, just watched him, occasionally looking up at us fearfully. The box was waiting to be picked up by someone to be taken to a farm outside of town. When I halfheartedly objected, saying maybe we could take one, but two would be harder to hide, my wife smiled sweetly and told me to decide which one would go to the condo and which one would go to the farm and get eaten by an owl. I'm the practical one; my wife follows her heart. We took them both and broke the rules.
Cat Personality . . . Times Two
Even as tiny kittens, they had distinct personalities: Celine is a princess, and Dakota is a little s**t. We bonded immediately, which is a good thing for Dakota because I do believe I didn't sleep through a single night for years trying to make sure the neighbors didn't hear anything. He was into and onto everything, knocking things over, digging stuff out, getting into cupboards and anyplace he wasn't supposed to. We had to get rid of all our plants. We tried spraying him with water when he misbehaved but all we got was a wet, pissed off kitten and soggy carpeting and furniture. It wasn't that he was a devil all the time-- he has a lovable streak that melts the hardest heart—but he gets bored at night. Celine usually just watches the whole show in a bemused, we-are-amused sort of way.
One night, Dakota managed to push the small television in our bedroom off its stand and it crashed to the floor. It was 3:30 in the morning. Our downstairs neighbor, a retired widower named George who we didn't know very well, asked me about it the next day—it had nearly given him a heart attack—and I apologized, telling him we'd rearranged things and I'd knocked it over in the dark.
The months went by and Dakota kept up his antics. I realized that part of the problem was because we were so sensitive to being found out. One summer morning I was out on the deck having coffee and I noticed George below on his patio. He looked like death warmed over. When I asked him if he was all right, he looked up at me with haunted, sunken eyes and said he couldn't sleep at nights—he kept having nightmares of huge rats in the walls, hearing them running around, sometimes seeing their red, glowing eyes peering out at him. He thought he was going crazy. I told him how sorry I was to hear that and hoped the nightmares would stop soon. Then I went inside and told my wife that we were killing poor George. We discussed our options and decided that we couldn't live with ourselves if George died, but we weren't going to give up our cats. If worse came to worse, we'd move. Yes, we'd become crazy cat people.
Mischievous and Curious
I went downstairs, steeled myself and knocked on the door. George opened it and said hello. The man looked even worse up close. His eyes were bloodshot, his skin sallow and sagging. I thought of running away but then took a deep breath and let the chips fall where they may. Did I mention he was a retired chief of police?
“George? Um . . . George. You're not going crazy. We have two cats and that's what you've been hearing at night.” There, I'd said it. I waited for my neighbor's just anger.
Instead, his eyes brightened and relief flooded his face. “Oh, thank God! I'm not hearing things! It's just cats.”
“You're not angry? I know we're not supposed to have pets . . .”
“Hell no. I don't mind cats . . . oh it's such a relief. You've made my day.”
Peace at Last
And so we made peace with our neighbor—actually, we became friends—and got to keep our cats and our condo. We checked in with George periodically, especially whenever Dakota had a particularly boisterous night and I slept a little better, but not much. We ended up moving out a few years later, anyway. The Association Police didn't like the state of my deck, and it was just the sight of one of their functionaries with her clipboard (she'd forgotten her armband) standing on the grass below, pointing out my deficiencies that put us over the edge. We bought an older house where the kids, I mean cats, could do whatever they pleased. And I slept like a baby.
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© 2012 David Hunt