“Did Liza Bean say anything to you about going anywhere?”
I look up from my book, cock my head to one side and squint.
“The cat,” Willie says. “Did she say anything about going anywhere?”
I put the book down, get up and head for the porch. “Did she take the car again? I’ll wring her striped neck…” My voice trails off as I look out the windows.
The car is in front of the house.
I turn around, raise my eyebrows.
“I can’t find Liza Bean,” Willie says.
You’ve met Liza Bean Bitey, of the Minneapolis Biteys, haven’t you? Liza Bean Bitey (of the Minneapolis Biteys) is a symmetrically striped, tiny-pawed catcher of mice and demander of cream, a cat with a sharp tongue and a penchant for umbrella-ed drinks.
That Liza Bean Bitey.
“I last saw her asleep inside my bass drum, on the porch here; and now I can’t find her.”
I take a deep breath: “Here kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty! Heeeeeere kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty!”
Somewhere within the house, I hear a meow.
We leave the porch. The sound is coming from the bedroom, the room closest to the second-floor porch.
“Rowwwwwww,” she says, mournfully. “Rowwwwwwww.”
I turn this way and that, neck swiveling. Where is that coming from? “Liza Bean! Where are you?”
“Owwwwwwww!” she cries. “Mao-Wao! Mao-Wao!” The lousy cat has lost control of herself.
“Great,” I mutter. I go back out to the porch.
Willie is staring at the rafters.
Liza Bean, a small and curious cat, has been known to run up the walls, launching herself into the unfinished ceiling of the porch, balancing on the rafters in pursuit of winged insects and shadows.
Willie and I look at each other meaningfully.
“I think Liza Bean’s in the ceiling.”
Two hours from now, there will be a debate as to who made that fateful statement.
In the bedroom, Liza Bean continues to yowl. The sound comes from everywhere, particularly in the doorway, near the large heavy dresser.
I climb onto the dresser and we stare at the ceiling.
“Whyyyyyyyyyyyyy?” Liza Bean demands. “Howwwwwwww?”
We go back out to the porch, stare up at the points near the ceiling where the cat has disappeared before and shake the bag of cat food.
We fan the smell of a freshly opened can of salmon-chicken puree toward the spot where we imagine the cat has gone.
I go outside, backing away from the front yard until I am in the park across the street, and stare at the roof, thinking that perhaps she’s gotten up there somehow, is swinging from a gutter…
I call for her until my jaw is sore.
I go back into the house, climb the stairs to the second floor. I go into the bedroom.
Liza Bean Bitey, the cat who once borrowed $200 from me citing “a business opportunity” only to return it a week later, gift-wrapped in a cashmere sweater, has gone feral.
I sit on the bed. “It’s going to be okay, you know. We’re going to get you out of there.”
“Ohhhhhhhhh,” Liza Bean moans. Her tone speaks of sorrow and confusion. It’s been a little over an hour now; and I imagine her trapped in the dark between floors, inhaling 100-year-old dust and fiberglass insulation.
Willie comes in from the porch, reeking of canned cat food and ice-cold beer.
He does not do well in stressful situations.
Willie has grown red-faced, frantic. The cat moans piteously and Willie pulls at his hair. Suddenly, he can’t take it anymore.
“We’re coming, Liza Bean!” he calls. “Daddy’s coming!”
Willie runs from the room and returns with the ladder and a screwdriver.
“Oh, boy,” I say.
There are three heating vents in the room.
Willie begins systematically taking them apart.
The removal of two of the vent covers causes the ceiling around it to crumble in a disagreeable and gritty manner.
“Yowwwwwwww, owwwwwww, owwwwww,” Liza Bean calls.
The third vent leads to nothing but a 108-year-old dead-end hole the size of a shoe box between the second and third floors.
“What the -- ?” Willie mumbles. We stare at the ceiling.
Willie wrenches the stainless steel venting inside the gaping holes in the ceiling to one side, jams the flashlight in. “Kitty, kitty!” he cries. “Kitty, kitty!”
Liza Bean howls.
“Over here,” I say, standing in the doorway. “Sounds like she’s over here.”
Willie makes his way to that side of the room, dragging the ladder with him. He pushes the flashlight into the ceiling. “Liza Bean! Come on! Please, kitty!”
“Mao-wao. Mao-wao,” Liza Bean says woefully.
Willie climbs down, pushes the ladder off to one side. We’re coming up on two hours now, two hours of hearing Liza Bean in distress. A panic is rising in me.
I stare up at the ceiling. The crying seems to be loudest over here...
“Well we’re not going to be able to sleep with this –“
“Shhhh,” I say.
“-- I know that for sure,” Willie finishes. “Oh the poor kitty. Oh the poor –“
“Shhh!” I hiss.
I am staring up at the ceiling. Do we have a sledge hammer? You can’t just beat on a ceiling with a regular hammer, can you? What do you do when you have a cat trapped –
“Wowwwwwww,” Liza Bean says.
And then I hear it. It’s so quiet you could miss it…
“Listen!” I say. “Liza Bean’s scratching.”
I continue to stare at the ceiling. Scritch. Scritch-scritch. I hear it so clearly. It sounds…
A wave of horrified excitement rushes my blood stream, and I look down with a mixture of anticipation and incredulity.
Six feet long, ridiculously well-built and heavy, I'll bet that thing's almost sound-proof…
I open a drawer. Tee-shirts.
I open another drawer. More tee-shirts.
I open another drawer.
“Mao! Mao! Mao!” Liza Bean Bitey (of the Minneapolis Biteys) springs forward, dashes from the bedroom and into the sitting room. She drops suddenly and flops on one side, stretching and squirming with relief.
Gaining composure, she sits up, casually licks an extended back leg. “Holy crap,” she purrs, delicately, “I thought you people would never figure it out.”
Willie’s mouth is open, his face purple. I fall, weak-kneed and incredulous, to the floor, laughing. I stare up at the ceiling and shake my head.
Willie steps over me and heads for the refrigerator.
“Hey!” I call to him, still laughing. “Get me one, too!”