Monday, October 08, 2007

This City Life is Dragging us Down

I was getting ready to saute chicken and talking to The Boy about his softball game I didn't stick around for when the doorbell rang. Which it doesn't often do.

"Someone's at the door," I told him.

"Don't answer it," he advised. I looked up at Curtis Stone, the Take Home Chef, who was on TV talking loud enough for me to hear in the kitchen, and down at the dog, who was barking and scratching at the door.

I told him I had to answer it; it was obvious I was home. "Well, look through the mail slot first," The Boy said.

"I'm not doing that; it's ridiculous. Just stay on the phone," I opened the door. "Oh, it's gay Lenny's dad," I said, "I'll call you back." I tossed the phone onto the couch and closed the dog in the house. The man outside, somewhere close to 60 with an ancient and perpetually leashless dog named Lenny, told me he had lost his cat. "She looks like Puss in Boots," he explained, "have you seen her?" By his estimation, his cat had probably leapt from his rooftop deck to ours and may have happened upon a chimney on the way. He seemed to need the conversation, so I indulged him for awhile. "How did you know Lenny was gay?" He asked. I reminded him we had met while I walked my dog one day and that his dog seemed interested in pursuing more than a friendship with mine.

"Well, you're welcome to go down our alley and check for her when it's light out," I offered. He told me he wasn't that worried, that he had rescued her when she was a stray, and that losing a cat wasn't the same as losing a dog.

"If it had been Lenny, I would be looking under every rock. Mostly I'm just curious about what could have happened to her." This story and its implications would change considerably over the next few hours.

When I came back in to call The Boy, I couldn't get through. When he finally called back, he said, "You want to know the reason why you couldn't get me? Because I was on the phone with the Baltimore City Police Department! Why do you have to be so stubborn?" He went on about the mail slot, apparently oblivious to my comment about harmless old gay Lenny's dad.

When he got home, we sat down to steaming plates and a knock at the door. I turned around to see gay Lenny's dad walking through my living room. "I went up on your roof and she's in the chimney," he said, "I can hear her." He followed The Boy into our basement to tap on the chimney that does not end in a fireplace. I sat kind of bemused and irritated that my chicken and apple cider gravy was getting cold.

We finished dinner to another knock at the door and a request from Lenny's dad to allow him to tear apart our chimney. "I'm a mason," he said, "and I'm very good. I'll put it back together better than it was before; it's kind of a mess as it is." I looked at The Boy who agreed that the chimney was a mess but decided to take a trip to the roof with our new acquaintance to make sure that, indeed, ours was the chimney in question.

Turns out, the chimney didn't belong to us but to the house next door, the owner of which has held out on selling it for many years and, in the meantime, it has sat vacant. And spooky. And in desperate need of the kind of rehabbing that can only be accomplished with many sledgehammers and exterminators. "I would think he was even crazier if I didn't see that cat myself," The Boy shrugged. In his next report, I learned that Lenny's dad was breaking into the house next door. I didn't want to know any further details; I could think only of rats and roaches in the walls and no electricity. And the possibility of police involvement. We had interacted with this neighbor on several occasions; he was disgruntled that The Boy had used his alley to store pieces of our rooftop deck in progress. From then on, we tried to stay out of his way, even though several times a summer his weeds took on a Little Shop of Horrors like quality.

"He said he's going to break through the sealed fireplace to save the cat, and then he'll fix it later. Better than it is now, he told me," The Boy said. Helicopters circled the neighborhood, as they often do. The Boy wondered if they were coming for Lenny's dad. "We might have to take Lenny in," he said, "when the law comes for his father. Wouldn't you hope it would seem suspicious that a man is breaking through a chimney on someone's roof?" Yes, one would hope.

Around 11PM we lay in bed laughing as we heard chipping away with a chisel; through our bedroom wall, we heard the distinct movement of bricks. "I'm worried I could be considered an accomplice. But he couldn't let his cat die," The Boy rationalized. I reminded him that breaking and entering and destruction of property are crimes, doesn't matter the intent. "But if it were Mosotos, you know we would do the same." I looked at the puggle snoring in his bed across the room. I couldn't be sure about that.

Around 11:30 the chiseling stopped. We haven't seen Lenny or his dad since, but we've been laying low, in case the authorities come knocking. One thing we were assured of: After this adventure, Puss in Boots would be an indoor cat.
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