Unannounced visitor derails housecleaning plans

Topsy-turvy: Everything was going just fine until an uninvited guest wandered in.

May 22, 1999|By Jacques Kelly

PEOPLE WHO KNOW me well realize that I occasionally procrastinate. By now, if I were on top of things, the spring housecleaning that generations of my family taught me to do would be over. Well, it is, almost. I have an excuse.

Here goes.

The other Saturday, as I promised myself, I rattled through my old St. Paul Street house and began the process. It was a clear, dry, beautiful Baltimore spring day, prefect weather for the semi-annual ordeal.

I mentally rehearsed the day. I promised myself I'd get an early start and I pledged that as I opened cupboards and closets I would actually throw some inventory away. I'd part with old suits and topcoats and shirts with threadbare collars.

By noon that day I had made pretty good headway. I'd been from cellar to third floor. There were screens washed and stacked, awaiting their places in the windows. There were rags and Windex bottles -- and yes, clean windows too. I culled five old shirts.

I washed down the front porch and scoured the shutters with a vegetable brush. I had a good feeling when neighbors walked along the street and called out little encouraging remarks that complimented my industry.

By 1 p.m. I had a little lunch and decided to reward my labors with a stretch out on the sofa in the den.

The mail had arrived and what better time to read the bills? So I put my feet up and watched as a large black alley cat calmly walked through the room.

The only problem was the alley cat was not mine. He had helped himself to a tour of my clean house via one of the wide open, still screenless windows. I can't say which one. There were windows open on four levels.

After a bit of investigating later, though, I deduced that the cat jumped in through the cellar window and landed atop a toy Baltimore & Ohio Railroad electric train that I keep there. Some nine years ago my Christmas garden went permanent -- I got tired of assembling and reassembling the legs and platforms each winter. So I designated a part of the basement as the train department and built little mountains and busy main streets there.

I guess the cat grew curious and wiggled through the security bars.

It appeared he landed between a wooden church and a barn and on top of my best passenger train. The observation car looked like King Kong had been in for a visit. But no permanent damage was done.)

If family and friends know that I procrastinate, they also know I am not a cat lover.

For the next four hours, I chased and urged my unannounced visitor from third floor to cellar and back again. I learned what it means when someone uses the saying, "He had the nerves of a cat." He hid. I rammed brooms under beds. He scurried off; I was in pursuit.

Finally, about 5 p.m., by which time I normally would have finished the housecleaning, the alley cat exited. He calmly jumped out the kitchen window and took off down the garden, pausing briefly to survey my outdoor fish pond -- and the three new, large goldfish, at $7 a pop, I'd added a couple days before.

Somehow I think I'm going to have a repeat visitor to St. Paul Street this spring.

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