A Stranger in the House


Copyright 2002 by Jon Bondy, All Rights Reserved.

You may send copies of this to individual friends, but you may not publish this work without permission

Jon Bondy, jon@jonbondy.com


Since I moved to Vermont, I have had a series of pet cats.  The first, a Maine Coon Cat named Einstein (because of the initials of MCC [or MC2] was quite a character. He loved to sit right next to me, on the arm of my chair, as I worked on the computer.  I actually bought a smaller keyboard so that he had room there.  He would sit with his paws falling just over the edge of the chair arm, with his paws crossed, somewhat regally. 

He also loved to walk in the woods, much as one would do with a dog.  I would say “Let’s take a walk”, and he would go to the door.  We would stroll around, slowly, making as little noise as possible, looking everywhere.  Some of us sniffed everywhere.  I often saw things I never would have seen without him, since he could sense smells of which I was unaware.  He was a unique cat.

At some point, he wandered off, never to return.  This is the way of cats who live out in the woods.  Whether they wander off to visit a neighbor, and live the life of Reilly there, or whether they become somebody else’s dinner, there is no way to say.  I prefer to think that Einstein is still making trouble somewhere, but part of me knows that this is more wishful thinking than the considered opinion of a naturalist.

After Einstein stopped coming home, things were pretty slow here for a while.  Then, one day, I went down to the kitchen, and noticed that the things on my kitchen counters were not as I had left them.

Now, those of you who know me well will ask “Jon, how could you ever tell whether your counter tops had been re-arranged?”  A good question, indeed.  I am the reigning King of Clutter, and, to a lesser extent, a Dignitary of Dust.  Nonetheless, what some see as chaos or excessive entropy, I see as groups of objects with a long and honored history.  You may not know why the salad bowl is full of activated charcoal, but it is all part of my Master Plan.  Silicone Sealant where the condiments belong?  So long as I know they’re not condiments, all is well in My Kingdom.  A cardboard box full of brown dust?  Just the Kiwi ripener, awaiting a new allotment of Kiwi fruit.  Bunches of torn up cardboard pieces stacked near the sink?  Fodder for Tiger (an African grey parrot) for his nightly forays into the sink, where he turns cardboard into chad.

So, while Sherlock himself could not have discerned the difference, I knew immediately that something was afoot. But what?  After a few hours pondering, the only thing I could come up with was a stray cat.  My theory?  That a stray cat had mustered up the courage to enter the house during the night, and had been up on the counter tops, looking for food.

The cat door that I had installed for Einstein had the feature that you can set the door up to open in and out, or just in, or just out, or not at all.  I set it up to open in, but not out, and bided my time.

A few nights later, I woke up to a thudding sound, and the frustrated cry of a cat.  I went downstairs to investigate.  There, in front of the cat door, was an orange striped cat, very worried to see me approaching.  Satisfied that I had figured the situation out correctly, I reached for the door (the people door), to let him out.

This proved to be too much for him.  Fearing certain death at my gentle hands, he skedaddled past me, and on into the vast bulk of the house.  This was not going to be as easy as I had imagined. 

I tried to herd him back towards the front door, but when he saw the stairs, that seemed like a good idea to him.  Up on the second floor, he saw the stairs, and headed up to the third floor.  As I went up the stairs to the third floor, he began to realize that there was only one fairly small room up there.  He was trapped.  With a loud cry, he skittered past me on the narrow stairs, back down to the second floor.  Moments later, we were on the first floor again, and headed back to the cat door, and the front door.

There was just one thing.  I had not opened the front door.  So, there we were again, with me reaching for the door, and him screaming past me at mach two, back into the main part of the house.

With a grimace of annoyance at my stupidity, I opened the front door, and went after him again.  One more round trip to the third floor, and he was out the door.

He never came back to visit again.  I wonder why…