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Revised 7 December, 2009

The Smoke House and the Big Bad Cat

When I was about 10, my parents finally moved out of the two-room apartment with the roll up roof.  Oh, I guess I forgot to mention that. 

 The locker plant was a cement block building with a rolled out tar paper roof.  Once, when Dad had to go out of town for a funeral, a tornado blew through town and had its way with our building.  It picked up the corner of the roof and rolled it open to the other like a can of sardines.  I remember looking over at our grandmother and seeing her standing there in her flannel night gown and a raincoat, with Dad's buckle up overshoes on her feet.  The rain was pouring all around her and we awoke to rain in our faces and a soaked bed.  My sister, rather irrelevantly, informed grandma that it was wet in here.  An understatement to be sure. 

Before my mother could even get on the phone to ask for help, the town operator plugged in all the lines on her switchboard and had a group of townsfolk on their way down to help us clean up the mess and put things back in order.  They were terrific.  Modern day corporations could learn from these people about the meaning of teamwork and cooperation.  By the time my Dad returned from California, the whole place had been cleaned back up spic and span and when mother told him what happened, he didn't believe her until one of the townsfolk assured him that it was all true.

 But I digress.  This is not about tornadoes, rain in the face or sloshy overshoes.  Its about the house that came next.

 Mom and dad rented a house at the other end of town.  It was two stories plus a full basement and seemed huge to us after the small apartment.  My sister and I had the entire front of the upstairs to ourselves as our bedroom.  The room was at the front of the house and overlooked the roof of the big front porch. 

 The front parlor was off limits for our purposes as the lady who owned the home still stored her antique furniture there, but we were allowed to occasionally sneak in and check out the old parlor pump organ so long as we covered up our tracks afterwards.

 There were two bedrooms downstairs, one for the folks and a guest bedroom.  We were fortunate enough to be thoroughly modern—flush toilet, claw foot tub and running water folks, honestly.  There was an informal dining room that housed our dining room table set and an extremely used piano.  The kitchen was narrow and somewhat crowded and it was through this room that you entered the basement wherein dwelt a ping pong table and our big black cat.  Both our dog and the cat were named Mickey.  We appeared to be of dubious imagination at that age.

 Mickey the Cat, not to be confused with Mickey the dog, loved to play ping pong with us.  His version was that you served the ball, at which point he would jump up to the table and steal the ball and run all over the table with it.  Returning the ball, although one of the finer points of the game, was not part of his game plan.  In order to actually play the game ourselves, we would tie a corn cob to a piece of twine and tie the other end to the outer doorknob which faced the furnace room.  We would swing the cob to get his attention and continue until he ran out to chase it, then slam the door, at which point, we could actually play the game as intended.

 The other thing about Mickey the cat was that he could hear a can of tuna being opened from a mile away.  He would stalk off after mice and whatever else he could catch and not be seen or heard from for hours, but the opening hiss of the tuna can brought him in record time to the kitchen door.  He usually made it before you could finish opening the can.

 The rule of the house was that the cat was not allowed in the regular rooms of the house, and especially not in our bedroom, which, of course, meant it was mandatory to sneak the cat upstairs first thing in the morning.  My sister and I would open the window when we heard Dad coming up the stairs to tell us goodbye before heading off to work.  As soon as Dad would leave, we would bring the cat back inside and sneak him back downstairs later after Mom left.

 On one particular morning, the cat finally decided he was tired of this game and didn't want to play any more so when Dad left our room and headed back downstairs, we opened the window again to call him back inside.  Mickey would have none of it. 

 Try as we might, to coax him back inside, he ignored us and each time we whispered, "Here, kitty, kitty", Mickey would meow and take a couple of steps closer to the edge of the roof.  We knew that Dad would soon be coming out the front door and look up and wave.  We also knew that we were in deep trouble if he caught us with the cat in our room, so my sister finally frantically called the cat one last time, and just as Dad walked out the front door, the cat took a flying leap off of the roof and landed squarely on Dad's head, scaring the living Bejesus out of him.  For one awestruck minute, there was dead silence from father and cat while two horror-struck little girls looked down awaiting their doom.  When Dad finally recovered his breath, his words to us were, "As soon as I come in and change my pants, we are going to have a discussion."  Mickey never again visited our bedroom roof, but we moved on to bigger and better adventures, including sliding down the stairs on mother's good tea tray after reading a story about a lady who did the same.  Like dad….mother was not amused.

 This house had many other memories, but they are for another day.  

Be well, be blessed, and don't put the cat out the window.  You never know when a leap of faith may be the last thing you want to experience.