I was about to walk upstairs and put some clothes away, when I discovered that, in my haste to open every window in the house on an incredibly rare seventy-degree day in February, I’d accidentally opened a window without a screen. For most people this wouldn’t be a problem, but my special needs cat Charlie is forever housebound due to his abject inability to do normal cat things (read: he thinks my dog is his dad/mom/brother, and has once tried to nurse from his nipple), and in a town where long forgotten “HAVE YOU SEEN FLUFFY?” printouts are stapled to every ninth tree as sun bleached reminders of nature’s cruelty, he would not last an hour in the coyote-saturated wilderness surrounding my property.

Panicking, I scoured every room for Charlie, but couldn’t find him. I threw my headphones off, sending an Audible compilation of Robert E. Howard’s short stories clattering to my kitchen floor, and bolted outside as fast as my legs would allow, trudging through the knee deep snow and bellowing his name. Nothing.

Shortly after that, I began to lose my shit.

I thought of how upset it would make my wife if Charlie was gone forever; how awful it would be to come across his flattened little body on a random drive down the rural dirt road that leads to our house. My mind darted to a future scene in which we discussed how long we should wait before we adopt a new cat, because getting one too quickly would seem like an insult to the one we just buried. For a second I even thought “Oh man, I’m definitely not snowboarding this weekend“, and then instantly reprimanded myself for being so selfish. It’s weird how our reptilian brains shift attention from one benign topic to another during a crisis in an attempt to keep us doing whatever we need to do without seizing up from anxiety and fear.

*trudge trudge trudge* “CHAARRRRLIIEEEEE!!! COME HERE COO COO KITTY!!!” *trudge trudge trudge* “COME HERE, LITTLE BUDDY!!!” *trudge trudge trudge* “EVERYTHING’S GOING TO BE OK!!!”

But was it?

There was no sign of Charlie anywhere, and the last vestiges of crucial daylight almost seemed to drain from the sky in double-time. Again with nature’s cruelty.

After thoroughly soaking my feet and jeans in the melting expanses of snow in my yard, I sprinted back inside to grab my dog Rodney, hoping the cat would maybe come for his milkless surrogate father, and found Charlie standing on the kitchen table, patiently staring at me as if I were some kind of sweaty palmed, over-reactionary alarmist, which I undoubtedly was, and am, and will most likely be forever.

I exhaled, gave Charlie a pat on his head, shook off my slush-laden sneakers, reached into the fridge for a cold beer, and finally closed this malicious asshole of a window that is clearly trying to tear my family apart.

Written by Mike