News from Shakes Manor

So we’re just sitting around watching a movie, and the cats are doing their usual chase-each-other-around-the house thing. Matilda chases Olivia—zip! Olivia chases Matilda—zoom! When one catches the other, they turn into a huge ball of tumbling fur, hissing and faux-biting and flipping their tails madly. This is The Funnest Game Ever, and they can literally do this for hours on end.

One thing about this game is that it’s almost always on the floor. Olivia loves to climb up to the highest place in the room; she loves running along the loft railing, which makes my stomach turn every time she does it. Matilda, on the other hand, doesn’t care for heights; jumping onto the bathroom sink is a zany move for her. So the highest The Funnest Game Ever usually gets is the back of the sofa, and even that’s pretty rare.

Today, it made it to the back of the sofa for several unremarkable rounds through the loft—but then, all of a sudden, with Olivia in hot pursuit, Matilda goes tearing from the back of the sofa to the back of the chaise, keeps running full steam ahead, and does an absolutely mad kamikaze leap over the railing of the loft.

And it’s a long way down.

Like 20 feet.

Then there’s this thunk, and Mr. Shakes and I just stare at each other, gape-mouthed, for a moment before we jump up and race downstairs. “Tilsy! Tilsy!” We ran around frantically looking for her, and I found her under the dining room table, looking like she’d just, uh, done a swan dive off a balcony for no fucking reason and was trying to figure out why she’s made such an insane decision. “Found her!” I called to Mr. Shakes.

“Is she ookay?” he asked. “Fook!”

I coaxed her out from under the table, fearing the worst. She had a lot of momentum going into that jump, and she hit the hardwood floor below with some serious thuddiness. Cats really don’t always land on their feet, and around 20ft is when nasty injuries can occur even for cats that aren’t big and graceless like Tils. I was sure all her legs would be broken or popped out of joint. I can’t really begin to explain how panicked I was.

Well, Matilda came sauntering out, looking a little sore and limpy, but she was definitely walking on all fours. I picked her up and she gave an annoyed squeal, which she always does, and I poked and prodded her until she wriggled away. Mr. Shakes and I looked at each other, then watched her walk down the hall. She has the most absurd wee swagger on a normal day—it’s utterly comical to watch her run about the place—but suddenly I couldn’t tell if she was exhibiting her normal weirdness, or if there was new, thud-related weirdness.

“She has such a funny walk anyhow,” I grumbled.

“She’s too furry,” Mr. Shakes complained. I can’t tell.”

“I can’t either,” I replied.

We followed her into the office and I got on the floor to play String, which is The Second Best Game in the World, and after a few minutes of taking it easy on her, I dangled the string about a foot over her head. She shot up like a bolt of lightning onto her two back legs and went for that string like it was it was the devil, tearing it right out of my hands.

“I think she’s okay,” I laughed.

“Yeah,” Mr. Shakes said. “I think soo.”

We played String for another half hour or so, and then Matilda got tuckered out and crawled into her favorite chair. Olivia joined her and gave her some sisterly comfort preening.

And then it was naptime.

Once she wakes up and has some energy again, I’ll be poking at her some more and working her legs, just to make sure she didn’t appear pain-free from adrenaline or shock, even though enough time had probably passed that it isn’t a concern. Nonetheless, I still can’t believe she didn’t hurt herself, so I just want to make absolutely certain she didn’t.

I have no idea what possessed her to do such a crazy thing. All this time, I’ve been worried about Olivia slipping and falling off the railing, and then Matilda goes and leaps over it like she’s a PCP-user in a 1980s after-school special. It’s impossible to make sense of anything she does—scared to death of sneezes, but attacks the vacuum cleaner head-on with such ferociousness that it’s like she’s settling a personal vendetta. She’s such a barmy fuzzball, that one. Which is, of course, why I love her endlessly, but I really hope that one flying leap from the loft is enough to satisfy whatever madness prompted it in the first place!

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