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Jack Smith

When Suzie Visits, It's a Familiar Story

June 21, 1989|Jack Smith

Whatever it is that gets our cats has been very active lately.

I don't like to suggest that my wife's sister Suzie is a witch, but strange things happen on her rare visits to our house. As I have already reported, she and I were sitting in the living room the other morning, talking, when the earthquake came. We were both frightened, but we stayed put, in our chairs.

Sounding desperate, she cried, "What can you do?"

As a veteran of earthquakes I knew that I could do nothing. When it was over I got up and surveyed the house and found that nothing had fallen. Odd. The quake had seemed stronger than that. In the notorious Whittier earthquake, several objets d'art had fallen from their places and a bookcase containing a few hundred of my wife's cookbooks had fallen on my bed. We were in Spain at the time, but our house sitter had just gotten out of bed and had missed, by a few seconds, being killed or maimed by my wife's cookbooks.

I looked in the bedroom to check the bookcase. It still stood. Seven feet tall. A time bomb. Death by haute cuisine. She would have to get rid of her cookbooks.

I have done what I can. I have had the water heater secured to the wall, and I have taken out earthquake insurance through our older son. It has a $20,000 deductible clause, so it won't help unless we're wiped out. It won't pay for shattered vases.

I was not reassured to read in the paper the next day that the quake had been caused by the newly discovered Elysian Park fault. We are less than a mile from Elysian Park, and I assume we have not heard the last of it.

About the cats. The two tabby kittens we took in have both disappeared. They were the best-tempered cats we ever had. One of them almost invariably slept on my bed, nesting over my knees. One had tiger stripes, the other leopard spots. We had never named them. They had the run of the house and always used the litter box.

One of them vanished several weeks ago. Just disappeared, as all our other cats have done. Cats don't die, like dogs. They vanish. We never know whether they have been hit by a car, stolen, picked up by animal regulation or taken by coyotes. Now the other one has gone.

Meanwhile, one of the several wild cats my wife has been feeding every morning had a litter of four under our house, near the front porch. They were not beautiful. They were black and mottled gray. But they were kittens, and of course adorable.

They were wild. When they were weaned they crept up onto the porch and my wife fed them. She could never pick one up. I knew she would try. I knew she was in for another heartbreak. It had taken her almost two years to tame a wild kitten she called Sable, and then it too had vanished. I wondered why she kept trying. As of today, only two of the newest kittens are left.

On the morning after the earthquakes we were all having coffee in the living room. My wife was dressed for work. She went out on the porch to retrieve the cats' bowls. I heard her say: "Suzie! How did you get out?"

Our dog Suzie is named Suzie because someone left her in our yard when my wife's sister was visiting. We keep her in a yard, confined by a chain link fence. There was no way she could get out unless someone let her out.

"Come on, Suzie," my wife was saying. She was trying to coax her into the house. We don't like her to run. Finally, my wife came through the door, dragging the dog by her collar. She shut the door and let the dog loose and immediately the dog came over to me. Proof positive. She was wet and bedraggled, as if she had been out a long time.

My wife took her collar and led her out the back door to put her in the dog yard. Then I heard her yell, "It's not Suzie!"

As I say, I don't want to call my wife's sister a witch, but she has an aura.

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