The cats don’t know about tornadoes. On Tuesday night, we had a tornado two miles from where our house is. We grabbed the boys and Auntie Emmed it down to the basement—and the cats tried to scramble back to the kitchen. The cats don’t go in the basement. It’s an unfinished space with things too fierce to mention, including a bricked-over alcove we call the murder room. (It houses James’s calligraphy, our camping potty, and a ceramic head). Despite all this, the basement was everything we immediately wanted—bicycle helmets and all. So down we went. But the cats: There was pleading to go upstairs. There was crying. Through it all, James and I checked the weather, updated Facebook, and kept an ear out for the telltale sound of the tornado train. But in the end, all we heard was Sitka panting.

The storm passed. Up we went. But the cats: Now there was sniffing. Now there was lurking. We called them from the top of the stairs, and they didn’t even look. Who—said a half-wakened instinct— could pass up what I’m sure was dead mice and even deader socks? James opened a can of cat food. He dished the stuff into the bowls, with all the usual, enticing scrapes. But nothing doing. For all we knew, the cats were noshing on something even more disgusting than what they usually get. 

We gave up. We plugged back in the electronics. We checked the roof and the garden. It wasn’t for another 45 minutes that the boys emerged, with 30-year schmutz in their whiskers. They ate their (second) can of cat food. They went about their evening. But this morning, there they were—Lump and Lumper—waiting by the basement door.

(Originally posted July 12, 2017)

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