Uppermost House: All things stepped on

PeterLewisTreehouseCMYKBy S. Peter Lewis
BN Columnist
A couple of years before I met her, my wife Karen was returning home from a summer evening soiree and took her high heels off so she wouldn’t disturb her family as she walked through the house. Traversing between her sister’s bedroom and her own, with said heels dangling from crook’d fingers, she heard crunching and felt through her stockinged feet as if she were walking on breakfast cereal. She suspected a sisterly prank, but when she turned the light on she realized that she’d left her bedroom window open and the floor was not carpeted with Frosted Flakes, but with June bugs.
I open with this story for four reasons: 1.) it’s disgusting, 2.) it’s hysterical, 3.) it didn’t happen to me, and, 4.) we keep cats.
I don’t know why we keep cats. It would be just as easy to have, say, some sort of mental disorder (dirty-laundry-induced OCD), or acquire a new dumb habit (collecting broken Christmas tree ornaments), or foster a ridiculous irrational fear (like lepidopterophobia).
But we choose to do the cat thing anyway, and we suffer the consequences. It’s our own fault. And, like Canada, it seems sweet, benign and innocent; but in the case of the felines, it seems there’s some rot in the sills.
Our cats kill things, which is natural and sort of endearing. But this time of year the kill-rate goes up dramatically, probably because our warm house is attractive to little rodents who sense the coming chill. And the arrogant cats are determined to show off their stalking prowess by bringing the resulting carcasses (or is it carcassi?) into the house.
Sometimes, we intervene by astute listening. As both a tactile and aural aid, I will now ask you (kind reader) to perform the following little at-home demonstration. (You may want to be alone for this.) First, simply meow, as if you are our black cat (The Death Muffin) wanting in at the back door. Make it loud, so we can hear you. Now, clench a thumb between your teeth, doesn’t matter which thumb (although it will be one of yours, since you are alone), and meow again. Did you notice the difference in the sounds? The first is carefree and crisp, like frying bacon. You open the door for that one. The second is muffled, mealy and slightly damp. Heavy laden. You don’t open the door for that one. Or, if you do open the door for that one, prepare to regret it.
So, here’s the recent “police blotter” for the cats (it’s like the police report here in the BNews, but not as funny). And I’m not including the dates or the precise times of day because that’s ridiculous; just assume this stuff happens all the time (and often in the dark).
Wearing shoes, in the kitchen, loud crunching (assumed pistachio shell, but it was a mouse skull).
Not wearing shoes, all rooms: various rodent organs and assorted entrails (most stepped on).
Closets, hallways, cupboards: piles of feathers (juncos mostly, no corpses).
Anywhere, anytime: blobs of kitty barf with bones in them (apparently it’s hard to digest raw animals).
Under center of mudroom throw rug (not kidding): red squirrel, squashed and splattered (assumed bizarre, gross and scary feline conspiracy).
I’m just not sure how to end this thing. My guess is that there is no end to this, to the carnage anyway. It’s like the national debt. Sure, the ground will freeze and things will hibernate; but other things will also crawl inside the walls and happily reproduce (we can hear them scritching around between the studs). So the cats will just stare into the cupboards and wait. It’s so sad to feel the need to wear rubber boots in the house.
I came home Thursday night after a hard day at the factory and Karen was beside herself on the couch (so to speak).
“Three shrews today,” she announced, wearily, as one might announce their kid is flunking recess. “Not sure what we are going to do about this. I keep running those salad tongs through the dishwasher. Been tossing the little bodies into the flower beds and out onto the lawn, but I think I’m running out of room.”
I just stood there, staring sadly out the door at the backyard. Running out of room for dead rodents, really? We own four acres.
I was searching for the right words to comfort my distraught wife when I heard a damp, muffled, mealy meow coming from outside in the killing fields. Without thinking, I just opened the door.

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