Cat On A Cool, Shingled Roof It’s Not Supposed To Be On

If we had air conditioning, I probably wouldn’t have had to drag my year-old cat in from off the roof Monday morning while balancing the detached window screen in the other hand and bowl of kibble against my hip.

We do not have air conditioning.

We have a box fan that gets wedged into the open window on hot nights, like Sunday night. It keeps the bedroom cool enough to sleep, which is our biggest priority.

Our cats – exactly one year old, physically if not behaviorally adult cats – have different priorities. They’re obsessed with finding a way under the drapes, onto the top of the fan, between the blinds and the screen so they can…sit there? Feel tall? Plot their escape? They must have their reasons, but all we know is their climbing is noisy and precarious.

Fortunately, they leave the fan alone during the night. As soon as the sun is up, though, either Rocket or Robot will inevitably try scrabbling up the fan and/or the curtains.

Usually, I remember to take down the fan and close the window first thing. That did not happen on Monday morning.

I was downstairs refilling my precious coffee when I heard the familiar sound of something heavy and plastic becoming detached from the bedroom window. I sighed, gathered my things, and went upstairs. I expected to find the fan fallen on the carpet and a fluffed-up cat crouched in the hallway, pretending nothing was wrong.

Instead I found the fan still upright, and Rocket sitting on top of it. He seemed to have popped one corner of the screen out of its frame – and he was very interested in getting out onto the roof.

I grabbed him and the still-whirring fan and chucked the former onto the bed and propped the latter against the wall.

And then the question occurred to me. I dreaded the answer before the thought was even fully formed: where’s Robot?

I looked back out the window.

She was crouched at the edge of the roof, eating something out of the gutter. (She likes to eat twigs. We have strange cats.)

I prioritized and acted with precision borne from pet-related crisis:

  1. Lock Rocket in the bathroom to keep him from joining Robot. (Deal with whatever he does to the bathroom later.)
  2. Turn off fan to avoid fire, sliced-off fingers, shredded drapes, etc.
  3. Put fan down. Need maximum dexterity.
  4. Regret not putting on proper bra in case I have to run outside to chase down Robot.

I reached through the gap and started tapping on the roof. “Robot!” I used my sweetest sing-song pleading, even though I’d have much preferred cussing her out. “Robot, please come back, don’t make me go on the roof. Heeeeere, kitty kitty!”

Her attention remained on the gutter. I tried not to think about what she might be eating – instead, it gave me an idea.

I sprinted into the hallway, dumped a handful of kibble into her bowl, and brought it to the window, levering the screen out with one hand and rattling the bowl with the other.

“Come here, kitty!” Rattle rattle rattle.

She looked back and, praise be unto the Lord, padded gracefully up the shingles. I propped the bowl up against my hip and seized her, hauling her back through the screen.

Midway through the process, the screen popped out of its frame.

I held onto it with my left hand, not daring to move it too much in case it made a noise and spooked her. The food bowl tipped, scattering kibble onto the windowsill and carpet. Robot let me drag her back into the house and launch her onto the bed, as far as I could safely throw her, while I figured out how to reattach the screen.

It didn’t cooperate, but Robot was happy to clean up the spilled kibble for me.

I left the screen in the bathroom for my husband to deal with. Rocket immediately returned to the windowsill, seeking the escape route his sister had taken advantage of.

Robot, unrepentant monster that she is, fell asleep on the floor.

If there’s an “old enough to know better” threshold for cats, I really hope they hit it soon. Summer is coming, and I do not want any more cats exploring the roof.

I do, however, want air conditioning.

Chasing It Down

My first jersey was pink. I was in kindergarten. My dad was one of the coaches, the first of many years he’d play that role. He might have seen coaching as the natural progression of his love for soccer; he might have hoped to transform a group of suburban girls into eventual Olympic champions. Maybe he expected nothing more than to convey his love of the game to the next generation.

He probably didn’t expect us to spend most of our first game huddled around the ball, an inside-out phalanx of bubblegum-pink t-shirts with a ball ricocheting within.


I played goalie in the pink jersey years. My mom will, to this day, tease me for my tendency to pick the dandelions that were growing in the goal box while the action was at the other end of the field. It just seemed like a reasonable way to pass the time. What was I supposed to do, just stand there and watch? I had overexcited parents and stampeding footsteps to alert me if the ball was coming back.

My husband remembers all his most crushing defeats and most victorious saves from when he played soccer around the same age. I don’t remember any of that – just the weather, the dandelions, and the cluster of pink shirts far away at the other end of the field.


After that, the jerseys were steel blue. We fitted in with the rainy skies and the muddy fields, all of us pale and desaturated by fall in the Northwest.

On one of those gray days, I was playing forward. I much preferred defense, but my dad was trying to get me to branch out. By halftime, I was tired, and a few minutes beyond that, I was exhausted. I raised my hand four or five times, trying to call for a sub, but my dad had me play on. He even subbed another girl off the field, but I had to stay in.

I can’t remember why he refused to sub me out. I think he wanted me to keep it up, lead the team, set a good example, so on and so forth. One of the perks of being the coach’s daughter was having an unofficial leadership role placed upon you at all of eight years old.

Only, at eight years old, I didn’t give a damn about leading. I just wanted five minutes to catch my breath.


It rained often. The goal boxes turned into mud pits. On the really cold days, we couldn’t feel our feet, but that just made us braver when we had to charge a much taller fifth-grader to attempt a tackle. We were already soaked, so falling in the mud wouldn’t matter, and with various body parts going numb, the collision wouldn’t even hurt. Our blue socks turned black with mud. The white turtleneck I wore under my jersey for warmth was sodden up to the elbows.

We trudged back to the car after another loss. It was dark and pouring. Strands of my thin hair were plastered to my face. Mom wrapped me in towels and I climbed into the car and tried to close the door.

We had a minivan then, with a button you had to depress to make the door close. I remember my hands were so numb, and my strength was so depleted, I couldn’t push the button, not even with both hands. I kept pressing, watching with detached fascination as my thumbs turned white but the door refused to close.

I switched to tennis after that: it was played mostly indoors, and for outdoor matches, when it merely looked like it could potentially sprinkle, you didn’t play.


My husband texts our friends. We all have World Cup fever, and the weekend forecast is promising, so we gather a few friends, some cones, and a soccer ball and head to the nearest park.

The sun is out, but it’s rained recently so the grass is slick. Even though we can barely run on it without slipping, we start off playing three-on-three anyway.

Within five minutes, I’m winded, additionally so because I can’t stop laughing about it – twenty years ago, I could have run like this for an hour. Luckily, the others are not much better off.

“Apparently we need to do this more often,” I say.


“I was thinking never again.”

After the opposing goalie slips and nearly does the splits trying to make a save – and after we are all red-faced and sweaty, but too proud to admit how tired we are – we switch to passing the ball in a circle. I get to stand and relax for a few moments, feeling my heart rate return to normal while the sun glitters in the dewy grass.

I try to catch a high pass with my knee, but misjudge my angle and the ball sails past my waist towards the fence. I run, racing my shadow for the ball.


She begins cleaning out the closet: on hangers, ironed blouses; in drawers, crumpled camisoles; on high shelves, plastic tubs packed with summer clothes.

She doesn’t – can’t – bring them down yet. It’s hard enough to contemplate tomorrow without her mother; summer is incomprehensible.

Prognosis Unknown

“It takes around two years to clear up.”

“Try more rest and icing.”

“Try turmeric.”

“Try acupuncture.”

It’s been two and a half years of trying, and a trying time it’s been. Now I’m just trying to believe it won’t last forever.