There's a window in our staircase. When open, it provides a nice breeze through the upstairs landing and helps cool my writing office.
The only problem with opening and closing the window is that I have to stand on a stepladder to do it. If you're afraid of heights, that's a problem. You find yourself looking straight down several stairs, or peering out a window high in the air. A fall from there would be quite painful.
My cats like that window. They sit on the sill and feel even more like kings of the world than they usually do.
This evening I opened the window. When it got cool a little while ago, I decided to close the window. Jake--the current Cat King of the World--disagreed. He was perched on the sill. His way of getting to the window is easier than mine. He jumps from the landing to the sill, and he does it quite well. When we first bought the house, I was pretty sure I would find a cat-shaped hole in the screen and a cat shape on the lawn below.
When it got chilly and I wanted to close the window, I looked up at the sill and saw Jake looking down at me. I told him I wanted to close the window. He gave me a stare, in the way cats stare, that indicated he had absolutely no intention of abandoning his post.
A smart man would have let him stay there and gotten himself a sweater.
I'm not dumb, but I am a wee bit stubborn. I wasn't about to let a cat--King of the World or NOT King of the World--tell me I couldn't close a window.
I opened the stepladder, the one that leans against the wall under the window on the staircase for the sole purpose of letting me open and close the window, and climbed up.
I was eyeball-to-eyeball with King Jake. "We can do this the easy way, or the hard way," I said. "The easy way is for you to jump over to your ledge and walk off with your dignity intact."
Jake, unlike most cats, maintains eye contact with humans. It's his way of showing superiority. That's my fault. I teach cats to look people in the eye. It freaks people out in a way that makes me giggle.
"The hard way," I continued as if Jake understood a word I was saying, "is for me to pluck you from the windowsill and carry you down this ladder to the stairwell."
His look said, "Bring it."
Life was about to get more interesting than I wanted. I should have known it would, but I had my stubborn on.
I lifted the cat from the sill. I tried to make assuring sounds as I did so.
The assuring sounds came out in an embarrassingly girlish scream.
Jake poked a hole in my chest with a claw from hell. The claw to the chest made me jerk back on the stepladder. I was balanced on the stepladder with my big toe as the only point of contact. My scream caused King Jake to look me in the eye and hiss. Time froze, or at least seemed to freeze, as my big toe protested my weight.
I performed a little cat-like acrobatics myself, scream, big toe, cat and all...
...I think Jake and I actually switched places for a microsecond--with me in his arms and him holding the ladder with one claw from Hell...
...That scared Jake, and we switched back.
I used the big toe from my other foot, the one in the air along with the rest of me, and the cat in my arms, to find the next step down.
Big toes and cats and even small men such as myself are bound to invoke gravity whether we want to or not. I landed on a stair on my tush, which ain't nearly padded enough for such a landing, and expelled a rush of air (that sounded amazingly like a little girl's scream and a mix of manly cuss words) and found myself eyeball-to-eyeball with a very unhappy hissing cat. The searing pain in my chest was not the result of a heart attack. It was the result of the freakishly large cat claw stuck in it. I think the claw originates somewhere behind the damn cat's shoulder, extends down his spine, and looks tiny from the paw.
He withdrew the claw, and bounded down my extended body...bouncing on my balls just to show me who's boss...before darting off to the kitchen.
Lying on the stairs, I realized several things:
1. I was alive, with no broken bones, and I had completed all the exercise I wanted to complete for the day.
2. The cat was no longer on the windowsill.
3. (This one is important) The damn window was still open!
I climbed the ladder again, closed the window, climbed back down the ladder, folded the ladder, and rested it against the wall.
Thankful I was wearing a dark shirt that hid the trickle of blood running down my chest, I returned to my writing office and hoped my wife would ignore anything she might have heard.
She didn't. She sat in her chair, reading a book on her Nook, and glanced at me when I walked in the room. "Did you get the window closed?"