In her wildest dreams, she’d never imagined what I’d had to endure that week (and that’s saying plenty ’cause Mama lived through the Great Depression, World War II and Madonna starring in the film version of “Evita”). Granted, in the “World According to Lisa,” drama and mayhem routinely make an appearance, but honestly, this particular week had taken the cake with record-breaking snow, sickness and shaking…oh, my!
It was a wonder I lived to tell the tale. Hyperbole, you say? I beg to differ; I survived this cat-astrophe by the skin of my teeth! You can stop rolling your eyes now.
My tale began when a Polar Vortex descended on the Southeast with a vengeance. (“Revenge of the Polar Vortex”a new Stephen King novel, perhaps?). In Atlanta, the newscasters almost ran out ofbut, unfortunately, didn’tcatchy, cutesy nicknames for the snow and ice storm that besieged our city: “Snowmaggedon,” “Snowpacalypse,” or how about “Snow Jam 2014”? The record snow and ice that overwhelmed us brought our roadways, schools and businesses to their knees. For a region that often gets mocked for emptying store shelves of bread and milk at even the most remote possibility of a flurry or two, Atlanta was caught woefully unprepared for this past February’s “Polar Express.” (Another nickname. You’re welcome!)
For three days, North Georgia residents hunkered in their homes, trying to keep safe from an Arctic blast of snow and ice that was so mind numbingly treacherous1.5 million lost power and 22 fatalities occurredit prompted Georgia Governor Nathan Deal to declare a State of Emergency.
The glacial weather may have caught many unprepared, but not meno sirree! I was prepared; heck, I’m always prepared! Friends and family call me “Prep Girl” (or “Paranoid Girl,” depending on whom you ask). In case of emergencies, I’m constantly ready to spring into actionwith survival kit in handat the drop of a hat (or the drop of the temperature). Hyper-vigilant as usual, when meteorologists first issued their warnings of impending doomexcuse me, snowstormsI gathered my weather radio, flashlights, non-perishable food, water and practically all the AAA batteries the Metro Atlanta area had to offer.
Outside, the winter winds howled and ice covered the city; inside, though, I envisioned enjoying Atlanta’s “Icy Wonderland” by a cozy fire, with a cup of hot tea in hand while my cat and adoring dogs nestled by my side. Best laid plans, right?
I know, you’re thinking to yourself, “But, Lisa, you don’t own a cat.” Well first of all, does anyone ever really own a cat; isn’t it the other way around? And secondly, what an observant reader/stalker/fan you are. In fact, you are correct. I don’t own a cat; however, Beemer was granting me the great honor of staying at my home, allowing me to feed him and clean out his litter box while his human parents were enjoying the Florida sunshine for two weeks.
My two doggy children, Buddy and Gibbs, were none too pleased with the whole cat-sitting situation. They barely tolerate each other; on any given day, they constantly tussle, fight and snarl at one another. Well, actually, Gibbs, my two-year-old Border Collie mix LOVES Buddy, my 17-year-old mutt. But old Buddy cannot abide young Gibbs’ “love”which consists of biting, mounting and hurdling him. OUCH! Hence, they are not BDF’s (Best Doggy Friends), or at the very least, it’s a one-way street and Gibbs is behind the wheel.
However, with the advent of a furry houseguestone that they both considered a common enemyGibbs and Buddy began to foster a deep bond, based on their mutual disdain for the cat. Howling and pawing at the floor likewelllike mad dogs, they became territorial and let me know in no uncertain terms that they wanted Intruder Kitty to go home. And trust me, Beemer was equally disenchanted with them; his hissing and refusal to eat were my clues. It became “The Dogs” versus “The Cat”the animal kingdom’s version of “West Side Story.” If I didn’t come up with a tenable solution quickly, there just might be a gang rumble (hopefully, set to music...When you’re a Pet, You’re a Pet all the way, from the first treat you get, to your last dyin’ day).
My bright idea to stop the fur from flying? Keep the animals as far apart as possible. Beemer was held captiveI mean, beautifully ensconcedin my guest room. Food, water, his litter box, toys and Fox News were provided for his enjoyment, and he was safely tucked away behind closed doors. The doggies had the run of the rest of the house (hey, they were here first).
Every morning, after I let the dogs out to play in the fenced backyard, I would go upstairs to Beemer’s suite and play with him; I hated the thought that he might get lonely. After sitting on the floor in his room for a bit, Beemer would tentatively venture out from under the bed and deign to sit by mealways facing me, wary, ready to pounce. Trust takes a while to bloom, ya know.
It was on the fifth day of Beemer’s captivityer, visitthat the snow and ice attacked. Actually, I should say, snow and ice and coughing, congestion, sore throat, headache, fever and chills. That’s right, gentle reader, the very morning the “Snow Storm of the Century” attacked, I fell ill.
I woke up thinking that Buddy (my sleeping companion of late) was scratching and forcefully shaking the mattress. But no, it was me that was shaking; chills were racking my body. Crawling out of bed, head pounding and throat feeling as if I had swallowed broken glass, I opened the blinds and surveyed the neighborhooda blanket of snow covered the ground as far as my eyes could see and layers of ice clung to the tree limbs and power lines.
Hearing the dogs whimper to go outside (little did they know, right?), I medicated myself with my first aspirins and Sudafed of the day. It was painfully obvious that this was not destined to be a fun “snow day,” but rather a “just-keep-putting-one-foot-in-front-of-the-other-and-survive-it” kind of day. Carpe diem, seize the day? Hardly! Survive the day was my pitiful goal.
That Friday consisted of trying to coax the dogs outside to do their business. Then I would dry them (and me) off, tend to the cat, and listen to the “up to the minute” weather reports. This was all the while taking Tylenol or aspirin in a feeble attempt at symptom relief for what I determined was a raging case of flu. (I am certified to self-diagnose, because I saw every episode of “House” three times).
The Tylenol wasn’t really helping, but I was loathe to bring out the big gunsthe NyQuiljust yet. NyQuil is like hard liquor to a good Baptist girl; I’m not sure if it really makes you feel better, or if you’re just so goofy after drinking it that you don’t care anymore. I knew that one swig of that stuff would put me out till Spring, so I stuck with the Tylenol and repeated my mantra of “one foot in front of the other.”
After feeding the doggies, and with the last bit of energy I could muster, I went upstairs to Beemer’s room to check on Intruder Kitty. Cleaning his litter box and refilling his food and water bowls took everything out of me. Shaking and sweaty, I laid down on the guest bed. Beemer was wary of me as usual; yet he jumped up beside meeventually, relaxed and trusting enough to curl himself around my legs. So peaceful; I would love to think we had formed a deep connection, yet in actuality, Beemer was more than likely cold and just ingeniously using my fevered legs as his own personal space heater.
Usually, my one-on-one time with Beemer occurred while the dogs played outside; however, playing outside was definitely nixed for the duration of the storm. So, while I’m trying to enjoy this peaceful (and very rare) moment of bliss with Beemer, my very jealous dogs are howling and scratching at the bedroom door, begging to come in. Before they could bust a move on the door, I slithered out of the comfy guest bed, trying not to disturb the cat too much. With lightning speed (well, as much lightning speed as a middle-aged woman with the flu can muster), I quickly opened and closed the door to escape the guest room before the dogs could gain entrance and maul Beemer. “Release the Kraken,” indeed!
By that evening, I was officially DONE. Exhausted and sick, with two more Tylenol swallowed and an ice pack pressed to my aching head, I collapsed into the recliner in the family room. Surrounded by the dogs at my feet, I pushed the chair back and turned the television on for a bit of diversion. “Captain Phillips” was playing On Demand.
Engrossed in the movie (which was excellent by the way), I was able to put aside the stress of the dayice storms, illnesses and pseudo animal whispering! For an hour or so, I was aboard a ship with a crew being hijacked by Somalia pirates. (I’m still not sure which of us had it worse!)
Just as the Coast Guard started firing on the hijacked freighter to free Captain Phillips, my chair started shaking. I quickly glanced down at my feet expecting to see the dogs scratchingno, they were fast asleep. The shaking continued. Was I shaking from my fever? Only if my fever was causing the pictures on the wall to sway as well. Are...You...Kidding...Me? An earthquake on top of “Snowzilla” and influenza? I was horrified; I couldn’t catch my breath. The earth shouldn’t move…well, not when you’re alone, anyway! It was over as quickly as it startedforty seconds, tops. Slowly my breathing returned to its pre-earthquake rhythm.
My phone started ringing off the hook, as friends called to see if I had felt the tremor; they know I have a tendency to panic (hence, my prepping). Assuring them that after the initial heart-stopping terror, I was okay. Well okay, except for the flu, the feuding animals, and the ice storm. In fact, after the day I’d had, the earthquake was almost anticlimactic. Note I said almost…was that an aftershock I felt?
Right then and there, I made the executive decision that it was NyQuil Time. I forcefully slammed my recliner shut, grabbed an ice pack from the freezer for my pounding head (actually, there were no more ice packs left, so a bag of frozen strawberries had to suffice), and marched up the stairs, determined to find that green elixir of comfort. “NyQuil, get me outta here,” was my last coherent thought.
And the NyQuil did the trick; my first restful sleep of the week came quickly.
Too bad it had to be so rudely interrupted.
At 3:00 A.M., I was jolted out of my drug-induced slumber by the earsplitting shriek of my security alarm and the thunderous barks of the dogs. For the second time that evening, my heart jumped into my throat as fear gripped me. On shaky legsshaky from panic and the NyQuil, I presumedI made my way to the alarm keypad by my bedroom door and punched in the code to stop the deafening blast.
Even in my muddled, half-awake state, a thought occurred to medid I really want to turn the alarm off? What if it wasn’t a false alarm triggered by the icy weather; could someone be in the house?
My deliberations were interrupted by the ringing of the phone. Heart pounding, I answered it. ADT, my alarm monitoring company, was calling to check on me. After fumbling for a minute with my code wordhey, I was sick and dazed, so don’t judgethe ADT lady told me that Zone 5, the hallway, had been breached.
Oh my, this was for real! I asked her if she would stay on the line, while I checked out the house.
Even nowin retrospectthat sounds crazy to me, but that’s exactly what I did. I laid the receiver down and grabbed the 12-gauge shotgun that enjoys its permanent residence by my bedside. Opening my bedroom door, I wondered to myself what kind of demented degenerate would venture out into this kind of weather and brave a major earthquake just to break into a poor sick woman’s house?
Stepping into the hallway, I could see into the downstairs foyer; no signs of trouble there. I hoisted my shotgun higher and glanced around the upstairs. From my vantage point, I could see all the doors to the bedrooms and the office. Oh nothe door to Beemer’s guest room was wide open. I ran into his room, calling out his name. “Beemer,” I implored, “Where are you, sweet kitty?” Thinking that perhaps the alarm had frightened him, I laid my shotgun across the bed and lowered myself to my hands and knees. Frantically, I searched under all the furniture for Beemer. Not one sign of himhe was gone! “But that’s crazy,” I thought, “What kind of demented degenerate would venture out into this kind of weather and brave a major earthquake JUST TO STEAL A CAT?
Then it came to meI was the victim of a cat burglar. (I blame the NyQuil for that bad pun. You should, too.)
Rising to my feet, my head started spinning and I grabbed onto the dresser to steady myself. A coughing fit seized me, and with every cough, my head pounded more. I started to cry. Frightened, woozy and sick, I wondered how much more could I take. But this really wasn’t the time for self-pity; I had a cat and possible burglar on the prowl.
Dabbing at my eyes with the sleeve of my nightgown, I glanced up and caught a glimpse of my reflection in the dresser’s mirror. Good Lord, my head and neck were covered in blood!
My panic mode ratcheted up into high gear once again. Had I been attacked in my sleep? That cat burglar must have really meant business!
I moved closer to the mirror and started to run my fingers over my scalp. Hmmm…it didn’t feel like blood. Bringing my wet fingers to my nose, I realized that it didn’t smell like blood either. The red goo smelled like...strawberries. I put my fingers to my mouth; it tasted like strawberries, too!
Strawberries? Thru my NyQuil haze, I faintly recalled visions of a makeshift ice pack. My fruity ice pack obviously exploded during the night, covering me in that strawberry ooze. Thank goodness, with one faux crisis averted, I was back on my initial “Mission Impossible.”
Still determined to find out who had breached my security system and taken Beemer, I headed down the curved staircase to my foyer. Shotgun at the ready, I glanced out the window, scanned the front porch outside, and checked the front door; the deadbolt was still firmly in place. Good. Next, I checked all the other exterior doors and windows; all were shut tight and bolted, and there was no movement on my back porch or side yard. Relief washed over me as I realized that no one had broken in.
Or was my relief premature? What it they had broken in and relocked the doors, hiding the keys so that we were all trapped in here together? What a morbid thought! (I know, I knowI might need to curtail my “Criminal Minds” and “NCIS” television show addictions.)
Common sense made a rare appearance as I remembered that I’d seen no footprints in the snow around the housethere had been no break in! But I was still as confused as ever; the fact remained that Intruder Kitty was missing, and he certainly didn’t open the door himselfor did he?
Just then, I heard muffled whimpering coming from the family room, and I became scared all over again. With a death grip on the shotgun, I made my way into the room. “Beemer,” I called out, “Beemer is that you?” My query was met with shrill barkingin the family roomfrom the recliner.
A pitiful barkinga yelping really drew me deeper into the room. That was definitely not coming from a cat. I dropped to my knees and pushed the recliner open. The footrest popped open, and out crawled BUDDY! I was bewildered; I had been looking for a kidnapped kitty, yet I found my sweet old dog? Wait a minutehadn’t he been in bed with me when the alarm went off?
Hmmm...maybe not. I mentally retraced the events of the night. Had this precious old pup been trapped in the recliner since I ran upstairs after the earthquake? My poor baby.
I beg you, dear readers, please don’t call PETA or the ASPCA on me. In my defense, I was sick, scared, tired and drugged. It seemed Buddy wasn’t holding any grudges; as I knelt beside him, he forgave me with precious doggy kisses, lapping ferociously at my face. When he started chewing on a strand of my hair, it dawned on me that he was trying to eat the strawberry goo off of me. Oh well, good dog, good dog, anyway!
With the barking silenced, I closed my eyes for a second to regroup. I was definitely thankful that Buddy was not injured, and that there was no burglary in process, BUT, where was that cat? Shhh. I heard something. In the quiet of the predawn, an unmistakable hiss was coming from the kitchen.
Quickly taking Buddy upstairs before I attempted to capture Intruder Kitty, I made sure my doggy was safely tucked in my bed (which looked like the scene of a mob hitthat bag of thawed strawberries had really done a number on my sheets).
Back in the kitchen, I traced the direction of Beemer’s hissing; he was hiding behind the fridge. Lying down on the floor, I tried to coax him, soothingly, out to freedom. Clearly traumatized, he was having no part of it. I cajoled, I begged. I prayed. Ten minutes passed. Twenty minutes passed. He was determined to stay behind the fridge and I was equally determined that he was coming out.
While the coolness of the kitchen’s Mexican tile did feel rather pleasant against my fevered body, the tile floor wasn’t my bed. Impatient to get back into that bed, I made the rash decision to storm his fortress and force him out of hiding. I shoved at the fridge with what little bit of pitiful strength I had.
Blindly, I thrust my arm as far as I could behind the refrigerator and made a grab for Beemer. OUCH! He hissed, he snarled and he scratched at me. Great! Cat Scratch Fever on top of everything else! I sat up, rubbed at my arm, and tried to recalculate my options; that’s when the doorbell rang.
I was past being scared at this point; I was frustrated, angry, tired and let’s not forget, sick! Oh, and remember, it was still the middle of night.
Grabbing my shotgun, I strode to the front door, unlocked it and yanked it open. On my front porchin pajamas, raincoat, and ball cap and shivering against the coldwas my neighbor, Robert. After 23 years of friendship and neighbordom, he knows me well enough that he found it only SLIGHTLY odd to find me covered in sticky red goo and holding a shotgun on him. “Hi Lisa,” he said, “What’s new?”
Sensing my distress, he calmly suggested that we get out of the cold. As he walked me back into the foyer, he took the shotgun from my hands and began telling me what brought him to my house. Since he is the emergency contact for my alarm company, they called him when I didn’t return to the line with the ADT lady. Oh yeah, I’d forgotten about her. Robert said the police were on the way, but they had gotten delayed because of the icy roads.
We sat down in the family room and Robert patiently waited for an explanation. Rushing through my head were fleeting visions of fever, headaches, chills, snow, ice, earthquakes, a NyQuil buzz, a cat burglar, and Buddy trapped in what would forever be referred to as Lisa’s “Bark-a-Lounger.”
Not knowing where to begin, I just stared blankly at my friend and frantically gestured, pointing upstairs and to the foyer and finally, to the refrigerator.
Finally, after several moments of this, to break my silence, Robert asked, “Cat got your tongue?”
At that moment, as if on cue, Cat Houdini chose to shoot out from behind the fridge and jump on the kitchen counter, which he used as a spring board, spinning the blender in his wake. In a blur of fur, Beemer flew up the stairs to his room and slammed the door behind him.
“Okay, would you care to join me in a shot of NyQuil?” I calmly asked, as Robert watched the blender slowly spin to a stop.
“Make that a strawberry NyQuil daiquiri,” Robert said, “And keep ’em coming.”
Lisa Love, a talented and insightful writer with a skewed sense of humor, looks for, and often finds the absurd masquerading as the mundane.