“What is going on?” Garfield freezes and looks at me from the far end of the living room. It’s early evening. He is in mid-stride, and has just come in for the night of his own accord without me calling. Something feels off. This is not normal.
“I’m thinking,” responds the Bearded One, who studies his cards across from me at the kitchen table and assumes I am talking to him. We are playing ritual evening card games.
“Garfield just came in,” I say and put my cards down. I get up and close the front door.
“Hm.” The Bearded One never looks up from his puzzling hand of cards.
It’s just 7pm, but it’s dark and rainy. Of course that is why the cat came in so early, I think. I sit back down, pick up my cards, and look into the living room. Garfield is gone.
“Any day now, Honey Darlin’,” I say to the Bearded One who is taking too long to play. This faux grumpiness does nothing to hurry him along, of course. This time of year is all about slowing down some. And being indoors more. And being nice.
I cross and uncross my legs, which are tired from harvesting raised straw bed potatoes.
My fingernails, which I examine at length, are stained yellow from the wet leather gardening gloves.
The table and kitchen counters are cluttered with seed jars from my seed collecting operation,
bowls of apples and pears and zucchini, and a pile of peach leathers I just took from the dehydrator. It’s over. The harvest is over. Settle down, I tell myself. Shift gears. Be sweet.
Finally the Bearded One discards and I immediately draw a card and am studying my options when — THUNK!
The Bearded One looks beyond me to the living room and says, “What is the cat doing?”
“Sounds like he’s in the bathroom,” I say. Garfield sometimes explores the lower bathroom cabinet, and he’s adjusting to autumn, too.
We continue to play. The Bearded One with an ice pack on his sore lower back, me feeling like the hens that are molting — prickly feathers sticking out, bald spots, ragged and not laying. We raced for days to beat the weather and are beat up.
“What in the Sam Hill?” I snap and turn around. I don’t see Garfield, but there are several more whomps and I get up.
It’s dark and I’m tiptoeing in my socks and calling the cat when I see his cute little face under the stairs where Ruby’s hidey-hole bed used to be, behind the little liquor cabinet I moved from the kitchen.
“You silly kitty,” I say. “What are –”
And then I see the foot-long rat tail and the rat ears and waves of horror roll across my every nerve-ending, sparking a soul fibrillation and forcing a ghastly, unworldly shriek, “YEEEE-IKES!!” I run into the kitchen.
I can handle spiders, no problem. But rats, especially big forest rats that grow fat in the aviary and move about on rafters in the barn, these are the creatures of my nightmares. This one is quite a fine trophy for Garfield, but he has never before brought one into the house.
The Bearded One pulls out the cabinet and reports that the rat, and it is indeed a big rat, is dead. “Garfield’s eating the head,” he says, completely nonplussed.
Was the rat dead or alive when Garfield brought it in? We ponder this briefly — surely it was dead — but mainly I want it out of the house, and I want to be the one to do it. I’m not so afraid of dead rats, and it’s my rat somehow. “Out of my way, Sweetie,” I say, with love. “I’ve got it.”
I grab one of my yellow rubber dishwashing gloves, and stand before Garfield. “Thank you very much,” I say as I take the headless corpse and march out the door and into the dark, wet, cold night. I look into the even darker forest, which is solid black under the full harvest moon.
“Ah-woooooooooo!” I howl. I throw the rat as far as I can, deep into the woods. I hear it fall into the leaves. Whew. It’s over.
Autumn has arrived. Time for me to come indoors. I think we’ll start shutting that front door from now on.