This week's chapter is a collaboration, so "Thanks, again, Jen, for your help."
It had been a quiet few weeks up on the mountain. We were starting to really like being there, and weren't looking forward to heading back to the city. The weather was getting cooler, with just the slightest hint of color change in the leaves. Yes, life at 5500' elevation was pretty good.
The Lutefisk Case, as Arianne had started calling it, came to a resounding conclusion; or rather, our involvement in it did, after I had a dream insight. In my dream, I was standing at the edge of a yawning chasm filled with the most noxious fumes imaginable.
And then I woke up to find the cat inches away from my face. Only problem was, we don't have a cat. Turned out I had left one of the sliding glass doors open a little bit, and the cat had come on inside to check things out.
After I put the cat outside and shut the door, I started thinking about the lutefisk that was stinking up the mini refrigerator in the basement recroom. I was wide awake after that whiff of Stygian cat butt air, so I went on downstairs to ponder. As I made the last turn on the stairs, I thought that cat had gotten back in, because I was getting that whiff again, but as I walked into the room, I saw what had happened. Either that cat had opened it somehow, or one of us had left the minifridge open.
I was leaning towards the former - because we had consumed a couple of bottles of some of the lesser wines in the cellar, and had both been feeling a bit giddy before we went to bed. We had also built a fire in the downstairs fireplace and had roasted marshmallows. Near the end of the evening, Arianne had mentioned how "mashmellows and wine were nice together, particularly at a time like this!"
I went to nudge the fridge door shut and, there on the floor beside it, I saw the dish where Arianne had been keeping the evidential lutefisk sample, now licked clean.
I picked up the empty dish and carried it out to the trash can, then came back in and decided to go ahead and empty the minifridge, because the smell had permeated the whole thing. I carried it outside to air for a while and went back to bed, thinking that was the end of that.
We were eating breakfast the next morning when Arianne saw the cat on the deck, looking in through the sliding glass door and pawing at it.
"Look at that," she said to me, "isn't that a cute kitty?" I told her what had happened the night before, with the door being open and the cat eating the lutefisk, and she decided that, since the cat had found food once, we were now obligated to care for it.
I explained that the cat probably belonged to one of our neighbors, but Arianne rightly pointed out that we had met all the neighbors, and none of them had a cat matching the one now sitting and staring at us through the plate glass.
I conceded the point, Arianne got up to open the door, and we became cat owners. The cat went straight for the recroom, but when she saw that the minifridge was gone, came back up the steps and sat in the kitchen, looking from the main fridge to us and back again. This was some pretty impressive behavior, Arianne and I agreed, but it was nothing compared to what happened over the next couple of weeks or so.
A couple of days later I realized that Felicity - the name seemed to fit - was getting larger, and I mentioned this to Arianne.
"Well, she's just eating better, is what it is."
"No, I mean she's getting larger. Eating better doesn't make a cat's legs grow longer and head grow bigger. Look at her."
"Huh. I do believe you're right."
By the end of Felicity's first week with us, it became obvious that something abnormal was going on. When she had found her way into the house that night, she had been an average sized housecat. She was now closer to the size of a mountain lion.
That was strange in and of itself, but what began happening next made us forget all about the growth spurt.
Felicity began reading books.
I walked into the study one afternoon, and there she was, sitting in the desk chair, a copy of Gray's Anatomy open in front of her. I had been at the desk a few minutes earlier, taking care of some insurance paperwork, and Arianne had gone to the supermarket. And then maybe the post office and bank. In any case, she was out of the house and I hadn't put the tome on the desk.
When I walked in, Felicity looked at me... and then politely moved out of my favorite seat, picking the book up in her mouth and carrying it over to the better light by the window. She laid it down and, as I stared dumbfounded, continued reading. Turning the pages and everything. By the time Arianne got home, Felicity had finished Gray's Anatomy and was reading Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time.
Things were getting pretty surreal in the vacation house on the mountain, let me tell you.
Especially the next morning when Felicity looked at me while Arianne and I were having breakfast and said, matter-of-factly, "Hawking has some good ideas, but his presentation leaves a lot to be desired."
"Honey," I said to Arianne, "did you hear what I just heard?"
Arianne just nodded, staring in shock at the now wolfhound-sized feline.
Felicity then sat back on her haunches, put her front legs up on the table, looked at each of us in turn and said, "I can not believe that some of you humans are proposing that John McCain person for president. I've heard of some dumb things, but... but... that would be like nominating Simon Cowell for Supreme Court Justice!"
We could only agree.
That afternoon, Felicity asked if we could set her up a lab in one corner of the recroom. By this point, I was just rolling with it, and agreed. I wondered how she would use any of the equipment, but then I noticed that her front paws had changed. The dewclaw had lengthened and now looked like a functional opposable thumb, and her toes had lengthened into what were nearly fingers... albeit ending in sharp claws.
Using the proceeds from an auction of some of the artwork that really hadn't done anything for either Arianne or me, I purchased some basic lab equipment and had it delivered, and set Felicity up as best I could.
A couple of nights later I was sitting by the fireplace, enjoying the latest Dean Koonz detective novel, when I heard Felicity muttering, "Well. We'll just have to integrate around the singularity." I looked over at her, and saw a man standing out on the deck. When he saw me, he turned to run and, in the moonlight, I noticed that he was the same man who had grabbed the stolen package of lutefisk and taken off without saying a word.
The next morning there was a strange van parked just down the street from our driveway. We had seen it in the neighborhood, often parked in front of a house that we knew was empty for the season. And we knew it didn't belong to any of our neighbors who lived nearby full time.
As I was looking out the window at the van, wishing I had my surveillance kit - which was at my office back in the city - Felicity walked up and said, "They're after me. They know I ate that lutefisk. I've got to get out of here, because you and Arainne are in danger as long as I'm here."
I looked over at her - not down, as she was now standing on two legs - and replied, "Well, you can't just walk out the door. A two legged cat-woman? In fact, you shouldn't even be standing near the window. Let me figure out how we can get you out of here, and you think on where we should take you.... We could hide you inside something... I have never wished that I played the tuba more in my life."
"I'll figure something out, Guy," Felicity said, handing me a slip of paper. "See if you can find some place like this."
I read the note she handed me, briefly amazed at the excellent handwriting from someone who, a week before, didn't even have hands, and began thinking while in the background I could hear Felicity rummaging through one of the closets.
She was looking for a place at the end of a rural road; literally a dusty backwoods place chock-full of peace and quiet.
"I've got it!" I cried, turning to tell Felicity of an old mountain cabin I had seen about an hour from nowhere, but I began laughing instead as I saw her standing there, dressed in one of my shirts, Arianne's jeans, and a big floppy hat.
"So, here's what we do," Felicity said after calling Arianne into the room and filling her in. "Guy, you go out and check out the van. If they are watching the house, they'll have to leave when they see you coming to talk to them. They can't do anything to you in broad daylight in front of your neigbors, after all.
"And, as soon as they leave, Arianne and I take off in the Woody, and she drops me off near that cabin. Then, sometime in the next week or so, you bring me my equipment."
"We should pack you some food and such, Felicity," Arianne said, but Felicity flashed her still sharp carnivore's teeth and said, "You don't need to worry about that. I can hunt for my food. After all, I do prefer a fresh kill to that packaged crap you humans eat."
So, I went outside and walked up to the van, but before I got to it, the engine started and they drove away. As soon as it disappeared around the curve, I waved and Arianne backed out of the driveway and took off in the other direction. I spent a tense couple of hours waiting and wishing I'd gone with them, but finally I heard the purring of the old Plymouth motor and met Arianne at the door.
She ran towards me and it was like the ending of one of those classic war movies where the soldier comes home: we met, I swung her up and gave her a kiss, hugging each other tight until our ribs were groaning. We went back inside, shut the door, and tried to get back to our normal lives.
The next day I remembered that I had told some of my investigator friends that I would attend a symposium starting on...I checked the calendar...September 15. I reached for the phone to call, trying to decide how to explain my absence. I considered blaming Costa Rican Independence Day...it's always a national holiday somewhere, right?
Sunday, September 14, 2008
This week's chapter is a collaboration, so "Thanks, again, Jen, for your help."