Yesterday morning, as I was squinting over the microscopic print on my computer screen, the right lens of my reading glasses popped out and flew across the room. I assessed the damage (cracked frame) and popped the lens back in, it tentatively agreeing to stay put. But this was a sign, I was sure, that it wasn’t the day to go to the coffee shop to write: A woman loses enough credibility when she must resort to slipping on those horrible eye-distorting reading glasses that give the wearer a perpetually astonished look. But that credibility slides further downhill when a lens drops out and splashes into a cup of coffee.
It was a good day to walk the dogs. I bundled up, ugly flower-pot hat and lovely red gloves, a gift from my sister. Calico Cat, the cat who adopted us in October, insisted upon accompanying us, the old dog and me, on the two-mile jaunt down the icy, snow-packed streets and into the quiet woods.
We crunched through the woods, taking advantage of the path pressed into the snow by previous walkers, the dog nosing into holes and brambles, the cat soft-pawing it several lengths behind, occasionally meowing at us, perhaps in an effort to slow our progress.
We passed the bridge, still graffitied in the old blue messages, passed the tree whose carved Nazi symbol someone recently covered with a coat of paint. Up the hill and to the lake, the dog pulling now, the cat jogging, if cats can jog, to catch up with up with us.
A girl in a red hat walked upon the ice, carefully scooting boots along its perimeter. A crimson maple leaf, weathered and curled, was snagged in the branches of a naked tree. In the center of the lake, an immense orange pumpkin sat, unaware of the ice loosening beneath it.
The cat, far behind now and meowing persistently, decided to shortcut it across the ice. I paused and watched her edging and slipping her way to me, avoiding the pools of water seeping to the top of the lake. She rejoined us, rubbed against my legs and we continued, passing a cardinal that lit on a branch of the crabapple tree, whose brilliant wrinkled fruit clung to the branches like bitter maraschino cherries.
Back down the hill. Past the bridge.
A jogger approached. Asked if I was aware that a cat was following me. Smiled, as I told him she’s more loyal than a dog, following us whenever we head to town, this cat who for some strange reason chose us.
We left the woods and returned to the street, the cat falling behind.
A woman skied on the sidewalk, her dog walking alongside. “Is that your cat?” She had to shout; the dogs were barking, each trying to one-up the other.
“Yes.” I nodded to make sure she heard me.
“I’ll put the dog on the leash, so he doesn’t chase her.”
“She’ll find her way home,” I said, waving away her worry. “She’ll be fine.”
We returned home. I made myself a cup of coffee, staring out the back window, watching for the cat.
She didn’t return.
My son arrived home from school.
That cat didn’t return.
I started dinner. Helped my son with math homework.
Darkness fell and my husband came home from work.
The cat didn’t return.
We ate dinner. Washed dishes. Fed the dogs. Peered out the windows into the darkness. Decided to look for the cat.
“Is she OK?” My son asked.
“She’ll be fine.” I hoped.
I put on the kettle, its cheery red a contrast to my mood. While I waited for it to whistle, I heard a funny noise. Was it the cat? “Did you hear that?” I asked my husband.
We froze, heads cocked, staring at each other. It was coming from the basement.
My husband tore down the stairs. “We’ve got a leak!” A pipe had burst in the thaw. Water was spewing into the basement.
It was at that moment that Calico Cat decided to come home.
My son opened the door. The cat ran inside.
My husband located the red dial nestled in the ceiling joists that would shut off the water supply.
We drank our tea and celebrated our good fortune.