We’ve all been there: Five years old and bored sick. Rain splattering against the windows, and even though we thought that was fun and interesting a couple of years ago, it wasn’t any more now. We had to stay inside.
We were bored sick. At least, I was.
Then I saw our cat, with her battle-tested fur and all, glide behind the fridge.
Why would she do that? I asked myself. That’s the coldest place in the house. Must be. It’s behind the fridge.
In fact, I asked not myself but the whole world around me.
“What is it, Alex?” my mother said. I can only assume that she had rounded the corner from the living room and into the kitchen at that moment. I don’t know. I was busy. She continued:
“Holy hell, Alex! Get out of there! That cat has claws! You know that!”
In one breath, she had removed me from the cat’s trail in between those exclamation marks. She patted me now. If you’re wondering, I did try to speak. Couldn’t do it. She talked in a way that gave me no chance. Moms can do that.
“You have to be careful, dear!” she said and carried me into the living room. “Cats don’t like to be trapped in narrow places. Here, Alex. Play with this!”
She put me down onto the floor next to my toy trains and disappeared in the depth of the house to do mom things. I went back into the kitchen. The cat was behind the fridge. Its tail slid back and forth like it was up to no good.
At first, I hesitated. Mom was right, you know. That cat had claws, oh my! Still, I thought, the tail wasn’t dangerous. I took heart.
The place was rather cosy and warm. Scratch that, it wasn’t cosy at all! Once behind the fridge, I got hit by a wave of heat that blew me out of my socks. I found the source of the heat soon. On the back of the fridge, there were wires, lots of them, all of them radiating out heat like nobody’s business.
I was surprised by the amount of space, too. On top of that it was clean! I remember thinking what an idiot I’d been to not go explore the place before. And would you look at the cat?! There she was, sprawled out, lying on her back, having the warmth from the heaters tickle her belly.
A cat on her back! I thought as I clambered out from behind the fridge. I had something urgent to ask mom.
I found her in the laundry room.
“Why do you clean behind the fridge, mommy?” I asked her. She threw a clothesy thing into a bin and looked at me.
“I don’t.” she said. “That’s daddy’s task.”
“Why does he do it?”
“It’s very warm there, dear.” she said. “If daddy doesn’t clean, it’ll get really dirty after a while.”
“Why is it warm? It shouldn’t be warm. This is the fridge, mom. The fridge ain’t warm!”
“Well,” she said, “it isn’t on the inside. Outside’s a different matter. You just stay away from behind there, alright?”
“But why would it–?”
“It’s a place for the cat, not for little boys.”
“No, mommy, that’s not what I meant…”
She had already turned her attention away from me. I trudged back to the kitchen, not realizing that it would take me until high school to find out exactly why a fridge needed to be warm outside to be cold inside.
At any rate, my mom tells me that she found me sleeping next to the cat who kneaded my hair with her claws like only a purring cat can…