SLACKJAW by JIM KNIPFEL
May 18, 2014

Living in an Air-Lock

 

As I type this, a large orange tabby is asleep on a window ledge behind my dresser, a round black and white cat that resembles a dairy cow is asleep on a counter in the kitchen, and a sleek black cat is on another window ledge in the front room, staring through the metal grating at the rain and the passing cars. This is a recent development. They were not here last week. They belong to Morgan, but as of a couple of days ago, and after a harrowing and expensive cab ride from Manhattan into lower Brooklyn, they have become the first permanent residents of the Bunker apart from myself. They seem to have adjusted quite well.

††††††††††† Hereís the story. The realtors who were showing Morganís apartment to potential buyers made it clear that cats were bad for business. Especially black ones. Allergies I can understand, but apart from that, in simple psychological terms people tend to get rock stupid when it comes to cats. So we loaded them up and brought them here. At first it was only supposed to be for a day so the realtors could hold the open house with no worries. But as the agents began scheduling more appointments to show the place through the following week, it seemed logical to keep the cats here a few days longer.

††††††††††† Anyone unfortunate enough to have any contact with the terrifying world of New York real estate over the past twenty-five years realizes itís a madcap, cutthroat circus, and things can move far more quickly than youíd expect. So when we learned on Wednesday we would likely have final offers in a couple of days, the thought of cramming the cats back into carriers (always a bloody and shrieking bit of slapstick) and returning them to Manhattan for only a brief spell seemed pointless. So here they are, and Morganís in the process of moving into the Bunker as well as we continue looking for a new place.

††††††††††† It was all an unexpected turn, and one involving a few minor adjustments to my well-trod daily routine. Given there would now be three small (well, some smaller than others) furry creatures slinking and scurrying underfoot, I had to take pains to move slowly (not a problem) and keep my feet close to the floor to avoid booting them across the room. My old cats learned soon enough to get the hell out of the way whenever they saw me coming, but this new batch had no idea what itís like to live with a blindo day in, day out. They might learn in time, but still I had to avoid breaking any little ribs in the process. Thereís now a litter box in the front room by my old floor model radio and another in the bathroom. Water and food dishes have been tucked into assorted corners and on the counter behind the sink. When I feed the cats during the day, I need to ensure the orange tabby gets the special diet and doesnít eat the other catsí food. This is trickier than it sounds, as the Bunkerís very dark and itís not always easy to tell whoís who, especially when everyoneís going after everyone elseís bowl. One of the cats has a taste for plants, and since all the plants in the Bunker (granted not many) are poisonous to cats, they had to be moved into a side storage room or outside. Another is incorrigible when it comes to plastic bags. Come home with groceries and leave them on the floor or the counter for just a second and heíll materialize and take a slurping chomp out of the bag. Twenty minutes later heíll puke up the plastic. Morgan and I both had cats in the past who were nutty about plastic bags this way, and both ended up with horrendous mouth cancer. I donít know if thereís a connection or not, but instead of confirming it a third time I had to clear the apartment of plastic bags. That includes the bags I use to collect my daily empties and the ones that line the trash can. Those too went into the storage room. So now if I want to drop the latest empty in the bag or toss something in the trash (the can of course was an inch too tall to fit under the fucking sink) I need to bring it to the storage room.

††††††††††† This led to perhaps the most troublesome issue of all. Understandably Morgan didnít want the cats getting outside, and given that Iím blind and bumbling, it seemed inevitable that I would let this happen, especially considering the Bunker is just below street level with exits allowing easy access to the backyard, the sidewalk, and the upstairs apartments. Even more terrifying than the thought of my letting one of them saunter out the front door into the passing traffic was the image of my letting one into the backyard. Itís a nice backyard with a deck and trees and everything, but at last count it was home to some fifteen feral cats and the occasional raccoon. The ferals hung around because my upstairs neighbors (splendid and kindhearted types with four cats of their own) fed and cared for them. At night and whenever the weather turned bad, the ferals tended to gather beneath my small bedroom window, where the deck above offered some minimal shelter. So that area beneath my window has been the site of dozens of loud and terrible fights, and more than a few rapes. The ferals were some tough customers, and things could get ugly back there.

††††††††††† Fortunately you need to pass through at least two doors, sometimes three, to get anyplace that could be trouble. In shortóand I guess it only makes sense given itís a Bunkeróthe apartment is equipped with airlocks. The key is to keep all the doors closed at all times, and if you need to go through one, do so as quickly as possible and only open the door wide enough to allow yourself to squeeze through before slamming it behind you again. With all the other doors closed, even if one of the cats does sneak through, it will have no place to go. At least as long as you know itís there, which means taking a quick survey of the environs once you close that first door and before you open a second. Or in my case a long and frustrating survey involving wide, silly sweeps of the arms and legs to see if I hit anything soft and hairy.

††††††††††† For the first time, the Bunker really is being transformed into an actual functioning Bunker, complete with airlocks and roving bands of marauders just on the other side of the wall.

††††††††††† The big orange tabby spent his first five nights here (so far) poised and tense at one of the small windows, screaming and hissing at a calm and deeply malevolent feral on the other side. The feralís black and white facial markings left him looking like a deadly voodoo priest. the screen and the glass were enough to keep them apart, but my fear is the next step will involve bricking up the windows.

††††††††††† Iím alone here blind and shuffling with the cats all day while Morganís at work, and so far things have gone well. Weíre getting along famously. There have been no injuries, no accidents, and no oneís gotten loose. But itís only been a few days. I suspect when one of those things does happen, Iíll likely find myself out there in the back, alone and defenseless against the wilding pack of ferals.

 

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