Something sinister is afoot here at my sister-in-law Karen's condo, but I am determined not to let it cast a shadow on my Christmas spirit.
A couple weeks ago, I was upstairs in the loft, where Timmy and I sleep. Adjoining the loft is a bathroom and the bedroom where the girls sleep. It was afternoon, I think, and I was waking up from a much-needed nap. The girls were at their grandparents' house and Timmy was still napping. As I sat there stretching and working up the motivation to get out of bed, I heard it. It was a series of small thumps. I couldn't pinpoint the origin of the noise. It wasn't the sound of a house settling. It wasn't caused by the wind. It seemed to come from nowhere, but at the same time everywhere. I sat there, sleepy and confused, but suddenly alert. What was that? I briefly thought maybe it could be the neighbors in the next condo, but the walls are soundproof between the condos. I never hear a peep from the neighbors on either side. Instinctively I knew it wasn't a neighbor or even a human, but after thinking about it for a few moments and coming up with no explanation, I dismissed it from my mind. I forgot all about it until last night.
Karen and I were chatting long after the kids had gone to bed. I don't remember what the conversation was leading up to this, but she said, "Did I tell you my house is haunted?" I looked at her agape. Before I could even ask the question, she told me, "It's Cosmo. My dead cat is haunting my house." She went on to tell me about the unexplained noises she's been hearing in the year since she had to put Cosmo down -- like something is running around upstairs and loud crashes that are completely out of place and have no apparent cause. I told her what I had heard, and she nodded, not surprised at all.
She told me that one night, while her parents, sister Sam, and Sam's two daughters were staying at the condo during the blizzard of Halloween, there was one such loud noise. Sam looked at Karen and said, "What was that?" Karen said, "You heard it too?" Sam headed upstairs muttering, "Ugh, those girls.." She went into the bedroom, prepared to tell her girls to knock it off. They were sound asleep.
"That cat was crazy," Karen now told me, shaking her head. "I'll never have another pet."
"I know!" I gasped. "I remember on the morning of my wedding day, I woke up in that room upstairs and there was that darn cat looking down at me from the dresser." I had no idea how long he'd been up there watching me sleep. It creeped me out. When I came downstairs telling her about it, Karen said, "That's Cosmo's territory up there. He's not used to anyone else being there."
I shuddered at the memory, but then I said, "Well, at least Cosmo wasn't crazy in a mean way. He had good intentions," I said with way more certainty than I felt.
"Oh no, Cosmo was crazy in a mean way," Karen said. "He bit me all the time for no reason. He did not have good intentions." So much for that.
Karen said that Cosmo was insane from the time he was a kitten. She had him for 12 years. Whenever he went to the vet, he had to be sedated. She was scared to bring him that last time, but his health had been failing for awhile. When she saw him that day lying on the rug in front of her bathroom, the rug discolored from the oil his body was oozing, she knew it was time. A friend met her at the veterinary hospital after work to give her support.
Cosmo was ornery even to the end. The vet was scared to approach him and Karen was afraid to see him one last time. At Karen's friend's suggestion, Cosmo was given "kitty Valium" so that she could see him and say goodbye. It was a late night. As Karen sat at home later feeling exhausted and emotionally drained, her phone rang. It was the friend who had accompanied her to the vet, telling her that on her way home, she had seen an orange and white cat in the road. Cosmo!
As Karen and I sat in the living room last night, it was getting later and later, but I found myself reluctant to go upstairs. As we went our separate ways for the night, I joked, "I'm going to go upstairs to the haunted room and try to sleep now."
I had a hard time getting to sleep, I have to admit. I lay awake for about an hour, envisioning gleaming cat eyes watching me in the dark. I said my guardian angel prayer, figuring that a crazy old cat ghost is no match for four guardian angels. Then I chided myself for being so silly. Cats do not have ghosts.
But if there is a territorial feline poltergeist at large in this condo, it would explain a few things. Timmy has rarely slept more than three consecutive hours on any night since we arrived. The cat is waking him up! The girls who normally sleep like rocks for 12 hours, have been popping out of their room now and then in the wee hours, for no reason. One time I was awakened once in the middle of the night by Delaney standing next to me and whimpering, "I'm scared." The cat! Today I looked in the fridge, certain that there was a brand new unopened block of cream cheese in there that I'd just bought a few days before. Gone without a trace. Karen and I looked at each other and she whispered, "The cat!" He's the one who took the cream cheese, one of my niece's original Christmas presents, and 50 of my gift tags.
Now how do we get rid of this cat?
The cat came back the very next day
The cat came back, we thought he was a goner
But the cat came back; it just couldn't stay away
Away, away, yea, yea, yea
(chorus of this song by Laurie Berkner)