The cat skulked into our room just as the blue-speckled morning light inhaled its first breath of pink from the sun. No one paid any attention until she started to bray.
"Your turn," I say to the mountain of covers to my left. "I already handled a squirrel, two chipmunks and what I can only presume was a bird this week. I'm taking the morning off."
Grumbling a few words I can't make out, he then wordlessly pulls on a shirt and stalks downstairs. "Thank you," I chimed after him.
He passes Ittybit in the hallway, who was awakened by all the commotion.
"Where's he going?" she asks, scooping up the squalling mass of feline flesh as awkwardly as humanly possible. The animal stops yowling and resumes her usual calm demeanor.
In Ittybit's arms, our black, domestic short-haired is more of a rag doll. She just drapes over her arms like a limp rubber band, just barely elastic.
I don't get a chance to answer her question before a stream of expletives and a few Lords'-Names-in-Vain come charging up the stairs.
"OH GOD! JAYSUS CHRIST! OHHHHH, FOR-FUGS-SAKE!"
Curiosity may not have killed our cat, but it always gets the better of me.
"What did she kill?" I yell down, almost proudly.
"Nothing!' he replies, with all the excitement of an undertaker whose work just woke up. "She didn't KILL it. It's still alive and it's running around in the kitchen!"
When I reach the place where my coffee and toast are made, I find him inexplicably standing by the counter, hovering over the coffeemaker. I give him the benefit of the doubt: perhaps he's willing the technologically advanced water boiler to become a Haveaheart trap. Though I suspect he's more interested in getting a cup of caffeine to clear his mind, I say nothing. Helpful hints, at this point, would only be received as criticism.
"Coffee first. Then I'll think about what to do. It could be anywhere at this point."
He’d seen it scoot behind the dog food container and a case of bottled ice tea we store beside the refrigerator. All sorts of critters have gone back there, he figures, never to be seen again.
I couldn't wait.
I moved the containers and found the terrified chipmunk all curled up in a ball. No head nor tail visible in the shadows. On the counter above it I found a small movie popcorn box, saved for reuse because of its red-pin-stripe quaintness and lack of visible butter stains.
I grabbed it and bent to scoop up the cat's escaped snack, half expecting to force an adrenaline rush that would have us all chaotically chasing the rodent around the house.
Instead, the plan worked. Into the popcorn box it went without incident. It scrabbled around for a second and then settled back into its protective orb at the bottom of the container.
I headed for the great out of doors.
Ittybit wanted to help release the varmint, but minded my urgent request to feed the cat as a distraction. I promised I'd wait for her by the tree in front yard.
When she arrives I pour out the popcorn box, kernels, critter and all. For a long moment, the chipmunk crouched all stretched and low to the ground. Frozen. I fan the box in its direction and it skitters up the tree trunk. Ittybit follows, circling the tree and telling it all manner of helpful advice.
"Have a nice life."
"Be more careful."
"Stay away from cats. ... It's for your own good."
As she skipped around the tree — a first-grade Ann Landers in Hello Kitty pajamas — the rescued rodent chittered at her loudly.
She was delighted.