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Friday, November 28, 2014

Surprises, Executive Orders, and Captain the Cat

This fall I got into a routine. After a busy day of parenting, work, and running errands, I would put the kids to bed and afterwards, I’d stare blankly at the television while trying to muster enough energy to get ready for bed. Monty had been in D.C. for several weeks, working with The World Health Organization on Ebola policy, and though we had nightly phone conversations, I became used to solitude.

It wasn’t all bad. I was good at changing the channel if something was unpleasant, like just about any of the news coverage during the midterm elections. One night I was listening with half an ear as the pontificators wondered if Chris Christie or Rand Paul would make the better nominee to go against Hillary, when I heard a foreign sound. It was a meow.

I walked over to the sliding glass door that’s off the kitchen and opens onto our deck, and sure enough there was a cat, clearly annoyed at our unjust world. I slid the door open, slipped outside before he could come in, and crouched down.

“Hey, kitty cat,” I said, scratching it behind his ears. “Are you lost? Are you hungry?”

The cat immediately plopped down and rolled over, exposing his furry white belly. I rubbed it and his meows gave way to purring. So I petted him for a couple of minutes, checked to see if he had a collar (he didn’t) and told him to go home.

I don’t know where he went, but he did go away. Yet, the next two nights he showed up again. On the night of his third visit I was talking to Monty on the phone, listening to his crazy Ebola news, when the meowing began.

I cut Monty off mid-sentence.

“Oh!” I proclaimed. “My cat is here.”

Monty sputtered. “You have a cat? Since when?”

“He’s not exactly mine, but he’s been showing up lately, just to say good evening.”

 “Is that all?” Monty laughed. “He’s not asking to be let in? He’s not asking for food?”

“I’m sure he’d like that,” I answered, “but so far he’s been satisfied with belly rubs. And I’ve looked at lost cat message boards, and I’ve asked the neighbors about him, but so far, I haven’t found anything. I think he’s a stray.”  By this time I was outside, kneeling beside the cat, bracing myself against the chilly November evening while scratching behind the cat’s ears.

“Lucy, we’re not adopting a cat.”

“I never said we were, Monty. But is it a crime to enjoy seeing him? He’s very affectionate, and he shows up every night, asking for nothing but my company.”

“Are you trying to make me feel bad?”

I sighed, although it was a jokey sort of sigh. “Not everything is about you, you know.”

“Right, okay. Just promise me you won’t let the cat in.”

I promised, but I since I hadn’t promised anything about not putting food out, I opened a can of tuna and placed it on our deck floor.

Then it was like we were having an illicit affair, that cat and I. I told Monty as little as possible about Captain (with his distinguished grey and white fur and his soulful green eyes, he looked like a Captain), and somehow, Captain always only showed up after the children went to sleep.

On the night of Obama’s immigration speech, I was wrapped in a blanket, sitting on the couch, happy that Obama was finally taking a stand, but also worried about Captain. It was raining, and icy pellets were hitting against the windows. Would Captain have a warm, dry place to sleep tonight? Would he show up to see me?

Obama was defending his executive order: The actions I’m taken are not only lawful, they’re the kinds of actions taken by every single Republican president and every single Democratic president for the past half century.

Distracted, I got up to check if Captain was outside. Maybe I just hadn’t heard his meowing. Right as I stepped up to our glass door, Captain leapt in front of it, and in a moment of pure synchronicity, I didn’t think, I just opened the door and let Captain in.

An hour later, Captain and I were snuggled together on the couch, when I realized that Monty hadn’t yet called. Then another synchronized moment occurred, because right as I was reaching for my cell phone to call him, I heard the front door open.

“Hello?” I yelled.

Footsteps came bounding up, through the kitchen and into our living room. “Lucy?” My husband’s voice rang out, and then he was standing in front of me. I shot up before he could spot Captain, and rushed into Monty’s arms. “What are you doing here?” I asked, squeezing him and speaking into his neck. “You said the earliest you’d be back is next week.”

“Yeah,” he laughed. “Change of plans. I was able to get that one report done, and so, surprise!” Monty crooked his neck down, and hoisted me up higher. “Are you happy to see me?”

“Of course!” I could feel the blood rushing to my face. Monty kissed me and I enthusiastically returned the kiss, but my mind was racing. Maybe I could tell Monty to go upstairs, that I’d be up in just a second, and then I’d quickly put Captain outside. But it was still raining. Could I really do that to poor Captain? Doesn’t he, like everyone, deserve a home?

“What the hell?” Monty broke away from me and looked down. Apparently, Captain had hopped off the couch, strolled over, and began rubbing against Monty’s leg. It took only a second for the truth to sink in. Monty looked back at me, eyebrows arched and mouth twisted in indignation. “I thought you weren’t going to let him in. You promised.

I shrugged. “Things happen. Life happens.”

“Uh huh.”

“He’s a sweet cat, Monty, and he needs a home. Just like you were dying to come home, Captain wants to be home too.”

“You named him Captain?”

I reached up and brushed a damp lock of Monty’s dark, wavy hair from his forehead. “I’m really glad you’re back,” I murmured, my voice low.

“Don’t try and distract me,” he said. “You can’t just let a cat in because he wants to be here.”

“Of course I can.”

“You don’t have that authority, Lucy. That’s not how this happens.”

I shrugged and smiled, willing him to smile back. “Lighten up. It’s just for right now, okay? I’m making an executive order."

"You don't get to make executive orders."

"I do, and I did, because you haven't been around to vote. Captain is here now, and we can’t put him out in the rain.”

Captain continued to rub against Monty’s legs, and I rubbed against Monty too, and pretty soon he melted. “Fine,” he mumbled, returning my kisses, “Captain can stay, but just for one night.” He exhaled heavily while looking at the cat. “I want to go peek in on the kids.”

“Let’s go.” I tugged his arm, and we went upstairs, leaving Captain to himself.

And he was a good house guest, if you call someone who pees on the furniture a good house guest. But who can blame the guy? It’s not like he had a litter box. It didn’t matter though, because in the morning we found Captain snuggled up in bed with Abby, and I knew Captain was no longer a guest. He’d become a citizen.

“Mommy!” Abby cried. “Daddy’s home. And he brought me a cat!”

So Captain stayed, Monty got credit for what he was originally against, and we were all reminded that even as fear, doubt, and anger continue to pull the world apart, there are still reasons to come together. This year at Thanksgiving, when we went around the table and stated what we were most thankful for, Abby beamed, saying she was thankful for her new cat, Captain.

Across the table I caught just the slightest of eye rolls from Monty, but it was soon replaced by a smile. And later, when he fed Captain little bits of left-over turkey, Monty let Captain lick his greasy fingers. Captain purred and licked, and Monty smiled, and I silently gave my thanks for having a home, and love, to share.