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old lady up in the cupboard
april 13, 2002

A Maine Coon cat is a big whomping cat. Male Maine Coons weigh as much as 30 pounds. They've got tails like ostrich feathers, bananalike hind feet, mitty front paws, broad rectangular noses with pads the hue of old bricks, and wildcat ears with plumes curling out of them and points of fur flaming at the tips.

They have big wooly personalities to match. A Maine Coon tends to level a gaze at you like he's horrifed and saddened by your dearth of math skills.

Like all big, smart cats, they love a good game of hide and seek with an old lady. Many Maine Coon cats keep old ladies of their own, for comfort and hide-and-seek games. Sam, of course, kept one.

Picture this: A small, arthritic, gray-haired lady wearing a faded yellow housedress and a blue floral apron thunders down the 30-foot hallway in her bedroom slippers. The farmhouse windows vibrate with chase-scene suspense. The old lady careers around the corner into the kitchen and abruptly disappears into the pantry.

A Big Ben clock on the upright piano clunk clunks in the ensuing silence.

A 22-pound olive-tabby Maine Coon peers out of the parlor at the far end of the big farmhouse. He pads up the hallway, glancing into each room. In the kitchen, he pauses, perusing the scrubbed and warped oak table, the black woodstove, the plump, rounded Norge refrigerator for clues. He pads across the linoleum and slips into the pantry.

"Wheeeeeee!" the old lady shrieks! Sam rockets out of the pantry! He gallops down the hall. She hurtles after him.

And the game starts all over again.

One day, however, she decides to play a trick. Instead of diving in the pantry, she dashes up the hall and crouches in the boot closet behind the kitchen's woodstove with the high breadwarmer. From here she can see into the pantry.

Sam's pawpads tic across the kitchen floor. He pauses at the pantry door, cranes his head around.

Why...there's no old lady in there.

He slips into the pantry, sits in the middle of the floor. Cupboards stocked with canning jars tower all around. She stifles a chuckle in the boot closet.

What does Sam do next, dear reader?

He's no fool.

He methodically scans the few empty cupboard shelves up near the ceiling. He is looking for the one where the old lady is crouching.

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