“It’s Safer Down There” by Lisa McManus Lange

This story appears in the anthology “Not Your Mother’s Book…On Cats.” 

Nosy Person: “Lisa, why are you limping?”

Sarcastic Lisa: “I tripped on a pinecone while feeding a toothless cat at 2:30 in the morning.”

Truly, that’s what happened.

Our neighbor went away on vacation during a long weekend, so she hired my son to feed her cat. It was only for the kitty’s breakfast and dinner, so it shouldn’t have been a problem.

So on the third night of “his” job, for some reason I was wide-awake at 2 a.m. After a trip to the washroom, hoping to remedy the non-sleeping issue, I went back to bed. The sandman was just about to have his way with me, when . . . Oh, my God! I don’t think the neighbor’s cat was fed dinner! I thought to myself.

crazy lady drawingI sifted through the sand in my brain, trying to remember if my son had gone over to feed the cat. True, it wasn’t my job, and true, the cat would live until breakfast. But it would be my luck, during our watch, something horrible would happen to the cat.

Adding to my worry was that the poor thing had no teeth (for various medical reasons that aren’t important here). I couldn’t very well let it suffer any more than it already likely had—because of separation anxiety from her owners, strang­ers coming into her house and so forth.

By then it was 2:15 a.m. Realizing I would never get back to sleep worrying about the cat, I knew what I had to do. With a coat thrown over my pajamas and sporting a bed-head big enough to turn a raccoon into stone with one look, I headed to the neighbor’s house, picking my way through the leaves. The extreme silence during that time of morning amplifies every sound, and I was sure that one wrong step on an extra-crunchy leaf would have our other neighbors calling 911.

Onward I plodded, down the lane, down some steps, finally arriving at the front door. Once inside the house, I was relieved to see the cat was safe and sound. Of course she was—she’s a cat! Chastising myself for worrying needlessly, I fed her some pureed cat food then started my way back home. Phew, I thought. Now I’ll be able to go to sleep.

I quietly picked my way up the outside steps, avoiding ear-piercing crunchy leaves at all cost. And then I stopped.

Oh, God. Did I lock their door?

I continued up a few more steps.

Um . . . hmmm. I can’t remember. I scratched my head, fingers tangling in my scary bed-head hair.

I knew if I went home, I would never get back to sleep, worrying whether I had locked the door or not, even though I was sure I had locked it.

What if she got out? Aw, crap. I better go back and check. I’m awake anyways.

So back down the steps I went.

I stupidly stepped on some soft-looking leaves then stumbled and twisted my ankle on a pinecone hidden un­derneath said leaves. With arms, hair and nightgown flailing, a million thoughts raced through my head mid-stumble, all jumbled together in one long sentence:

What if I fall and as my body flails down the steps, I wake the neighbors and they see me in my pajamas and they call 911, fearing I am a crazy murderer, especially with my hair looking the way it does, and I’m not sure if I’m wearing clean underwear, and what about the cat, and what about and what about . . .OH, MY GOD! MY ANKLE REALLY HURTS!

I ended up in a heap of nightgown and hair at the bot­tom of the steps. After the sound of my ankle cracking and tearing finished echoing off the surrounding homes (I swear I saw someone’s bedroom light come on), I hobbled my way down the rest of the steps and back to the neighbor’s front door.

It was locked. Lovely. Perfect. Great. And I should have been more worried about robbers than a cat being able to reach a doorknob to escape. Duh.

Seeing all was well and feeling much better knowing the house was locked and the cat was fed, I hobbled home, my bed-head finally settling down. My shoes and coat were qui­etly thrown on the floor, and I made my way to the couch, desperate not to wake the rest of the family. I just needed peace, if only for a moment. Our own cat, which I barely had time to feed on a normal day, snuggled up against me. And, of course, she assumed it was feeding time, seeing as I was up.

I rolled my eyes, patted her on the head and then leaned back on the couch and closed my eyes.

Then it started.

Lisa and her cat, Sam

Lisa and her cat, Sam

The throbbing. Ba boom, ba boom, ba boom, ba boom. That dull thud like a beating drum vibrated from my ankle through my leg, keeping me awake for most of the night. Or morning. Or whatever it was at that point—it really didn’t matter.

I would later learn that my boy had, in fact, not fed the neighbor’s cat dinner the night before, so my nocturnal antics were not completely unfounded. I would be grounding him for the rest of his life after all that anyways, so I was at peace.

But slave that I am to all kitties near and far, and to stop my own cat from pawing at my leg in silent signal, I gave in and made my way over to her kitty bowl for a midnight snack—for her, not for me. And, of course, I stumbled on a cat toy en route.

As I knocked back a few painkillers while my cat in­dulged in her own midnight snack, I contemplated curling up beside her on the floor. I figure it’s safer down there.

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Lisa McManus Lange is published in many anthologies, including five Not Your Mother’s Books  with Publishing Syndicate. An office worker, mother, writer and cat-keeper, Lisa lives in Victoria, BC, Canada where she also writes young-adult fiction, her newest book Newbie Nick published with Lycaon Press. Details at www.lisamcmanus.com. You can also find Lisa at www.lisamcmanuslange.blogspot.com or email her at lisamc2010@yahoo.ca.

Again, this story appears in “Not Your Mother’s Book…On Cats.” The book is filled with 62 cat-approved stories written by their humans. Purchase this book today from your favorite retailer, Amazon (http://amzn.to/1CdPXYt) or Barnes & Noble (http://bit.ly/1zFY1kd).

To submit your stories for consideration in future NYMB titles, go to http://www.PublishingSyndicate.com and click on the “Not Your Mother’s Book” tab.