The Good Life is Going
"I don't waaaaant to go outside!"
"And I don't waaant you to stay inside. So, guess who gets what they want?"
Zipper pouted. Some people will tell you that cats cannot pout. Don't believe them. Zipper is a champ at it.
"The mean one is out there. He will want to chase me, and fight. I'm getting to old for that garbage."
"I'll let you into the basement. He can't get you in there."
"I don't like being there. I can't get out."
"I'll let you out tonight."
Zipper's ears lay flat against her skull. Her tail twitched in irritation. She batted at my leg as I picked up the food and water dishes and put them away.
"Oh stop! You would be stuck in here too. I have to close the windows when I leave. It wouldn't be any better than the basement."
"Your things are here. It is comfortable. You could leave food and water. I would be fine."
"Uh uh. It is bad enough leaving you in the basement. At least there you could get out if you had too. I am not locking you up in here. What if a fire broke out or something? Or the earth shook?" I shook my head. "Uh uh. Out you go. Besides, I don't want to clean up after you when I get home. The smell is awful."
"How can it be awful? It is me. I am not awful. I am adorable."
"You are adorable. The smell is not. Out."
She flounced to the window sill and leaped for the ledge outside. Despite her fifteen years, she still had no trouble going down, but coming up was getting harder every month. It would not be long before I would have to let her in the back door. The next morning, she was gone before I awoke. I shut the window, went through my usual routine, and left for work. When I came home, there was a nasty surprise waiting. My room stank.
"Surprise!" Zipper raced out from under the bed. "I got what I wanted!" She wore a self satisfied grin.
"OUT!" I threw the window open so hard it banged against the wall outside.
"Why? What's wrong?" She pouted and slunk toward the window.
"You sleep outside tonight, and tomorrow, and maybe the day after!" I stalked toward her with half formed thoughts of physically throwing her out. I didn't have to. She heard my anger and leaped to safety.
"You are a poor loser." She called back.
"This is not a game."
Zipper did sleep outside that night, and was very glad to curl up near my hip the following night. In the morning, I checked under the bed and Zipper was indeed there.
Zipper went through her pout, flounce, and leap routine. She didn't try to hide for the rest of the week, but days later, I again came home to a smelly house.
"Zipper! You creep! Where are you?"
She slunk out from under my bookshelf and spent the next two nights sleeping outside. I left the food for her outside as well.
My other cats, Twitter, Gray, and Casey didn't think much of the new arrangement. They were Zipper's grandchildren and shared sleeping space in my room.
"That's not fair!"
"Talk to Zipper," I said.
"Once I let them back inside, things were normal until winter storms arrived and Zipper decided she didn't want to get wet.
"I am better at hiding than you are at finding."
"I don't need a live heating pad."
"I don't want to be wet."
"I don't want a room that I cannot sleep in."
"The Game begins."
"You had better grow water proof fur."
"You had better get rid of your nose."
Another two nights spent sleeping outside convinced my remaining three cats that they needed to do something.
That night, they cornered her as I read the last few pages of a book before going to sleep.
"Grandmother, your actions affect us." Twitter said. "We do not want to sleep outside. We ask that you stop making the room smell."
"Grandmother, we ask that you do not hide from her in the morning." Casey said.
"Grandmother, we ask that you stop the Game." Grey said.
Zipper didn't say anything for several moments and I resisted the temptation to glance over at the group.
"This is my place. I will do as I like." She said.
"You are behaving like a kitten, not a grandmother. If you continue this Game, I may forget that you are Grandmother," Twitter said.
"Continue and I may not recognize you the next time I hunt," Casey said.
"Continue and I may not see you when I mark our territory," Grey said.
All three retreated, leaving Zipper to think over what had been said. The next morning I looked for Zipper and could not find her. I closed the window and went to work. When I got home, my room stank. She spent two nights outside.
During the first night, there were sounds of fighting. I recognized the voices of Zipper and Twitter among the combatants. When I glanced out the window, I could see two shadowy figures facing off against each other. The porch light from the apartment above me came on, illuminating both cats. Fur stood on end, ears lay flat against the skull, and eyes bulged as each looked for an opening.
The second night it rained. I ignored my conscience and kept my window shut. There were more sounds of fighting; Twitter was learning some rare insults from the cats on the next block.
As I came up the stairs the following afternoon I heard a feline scream of outrage. I glanced over and saw a gray and white streak bolt across the empty lot. She might have trouble making the leap to my window, but Zipper could still dredge up some speed. Casey followed, looking very satisfied with herself.
When I opened my window that night, I was met with a pitiful sight.
Zipper was soaking wet, mud splattered, and smelled almost as bad as my room had. She was exhausted. Tufts of fur were missing from her shoulders and jaw line.
"I'm sorry." She whispered. Her voice as close to tears and hopelessness as I had ever heard. "Please help me."
I cleaned her up, checking the furless patches for wounds that could get infected. There were a few scratches, but nothing serious. She was uncomfortable and a mess, but not seriously hurt.
"So, are you tired of the Game yet?" I asked as I put her down on my bed. Her eyes were already half closed and a very low purr could be heard.
"No more Game." She said as she drifted off to sleep.
And there wasn't.