It's always nerve-wracking to leave the CrazyStable in foster care while we go on vacation. This is a house that treats its "house-sitters" in much the same manner as Wednesday and Pugsley Addams would have treated a fresh-faced babysitter who suggested a fun game of hide-and-seek. This year, we prevailed upon dear friends who met the key criteria for house- and cat-care duties: huge hearts, sharp wits, resourcefulness, and sufficient familiarity with our "lifestyle" to avoid excessive shock when experiencing it at close range in our absence. And then we prayed to the various domestic gods in charge of kitty health crises, vengeful basement plumbing, burglars and alarm systems, and rabid squirrels to show mercy to these good people for a week.
We spent a week in healthy, happy Fort Collins, Colorado, in Beloved Cousin's peaceful and smooth-running ranch house. (I take back everything bad I've ever said about ranch houses; no stairs to climb equals bliss.) We marveled at Beloved Cousin's lush and productive garden, and at Fort Collins' dazzling sunshine, ample bike paths, and stunning views of the nearby Rocky Mountains. Back in Brooklyn, our friends poured out chow and sifted litter. Good, good friends.
The cats were reported to have behaved excellently, no doubt due to the tender care they received, producing only one hairball and several pounds of hot-weather fluff tumbleweeds on the staircase. (Our friends even shouldered the absurd duty of replacing the pens and markers on my upstairs desk so that Lexi could "steal" them and place them around the house all over again, because I feared the loss of her "hobby" would be stressful for her in our absence. As I said, huge hearts.)
The house...well, it could have been worse, but...Sweet Judas on a stick, the front doorknob fell off. Right in my dutiful friend's hand. She called me in Colorado, guilt-ridden that somehow she had "killed" it. How to explain that our doorknobs fall off? ("Look around!" I exhorted her. "Find one functional doorknob in the entire house! See?") By cell phone, I guided her through the labyrinthine process of entering through the back door, with its maze of cheesy plywood "doors" with rickety latches for various levels of Cat Containment. I also counseled her to simply stick the knob back on by any means necessary, including duct tape, all the while realizing that dear friend, who lives in an immaculate and manageable apartment, did not sign on for duct-taping doorknobs.
When we got home, still stunned by re-entry into the Greater Metropolitan Smog Field, we did the Basil Fawlty dance of doom with the doorknob (metal fatigue had caused a screw to simply fall off), and fixed it, sort of. (It no longer screws back onto the spindle if you use the escutcheon plate, which probably never went with that doorknob, anyway.) I have long yearned after a restored antique entry set in keeping with the age and dignity (splutter, snort) of the CrazyStable, but that dream will have to get on line with the others. We spent the money from our Law & Order shoot on our trip out West, where men ride broncos and doorknobs turn with a smooth, firm click, and it was worth every penny.
Image: The Addams Family