A DEE-luxe Furnace Room


The carriers were set in the living room.
The doors were ajar.
Max, the black cat had already been spotted napping inside both over the last few days.
Morrie, the orange one?
Not a chance.
It was a Friday evening.
My sister Louisa and I were standing in our mother's condo.
The place was in total disarray. Nothing like the way she'd always kept it.
But six weeks is a long time to be departed from this world and all of your belongings.
At some point after your death, the business side of life has got to step in.
And before a family can stage a place to put on the market, they must remove any and all cats.
Maxwelle Smarte and Morrie Amsterdam, two adorable little brothers had arrived at this very condo in October of 2009, when they were just eight weeks new.
And they, like so many of us, had no idea how lucky they were.


Just ask my aunt Susie Le Q.
She had the pleasure of making the his-stork-al delivery.
Max, the guy with the large for his size, black bear paws with pink pads, settled right in. From the beginning he reminded my mother of my father, who she so missed. He was easy going and into hammers, saws and ladders. He was a good listener. Had great social skills. And was generous.
Morrie, on the other hand, reminded us of a little bit of our mother.
He was just as loveable but a tad more complicated.
His interests were shoes, purses and cat nip and he was no fan of children, holidays or vacuums.
"Are you sure you have two cats?" the cleaning woman asked my mom after two years of employment.
You see, Morrie spent a good amount of his first nine years in the plush, thirty-two hundred square foot condo with two fireplaces, three full baths, two with hot tubs with jets and two wet bars, behind the furnace.
"How in the hell are we going to manage this?" I said to Louisa.
"Just act natural," she answered.
But there was nothing natural about the situation.
Our lives had been turned upside down.
"Now," she said, as Morrie strolled past an open cage door with a Koozie cup between his teeth.
I shoved his butt inside the carrier and slammed the prison gate shut.
Louisa grabbed the handle and briskly took him out to her car.
I then directed Max into the other crate, gently closed the door and carried him out to mine.
I watched the garage door slowly come down and finally close, like so many other countless times and backed down her steep driveway.
Of course, there is no proof.
It's purely circumstantial.
You see.
Up until a couple of days before this sordid scene, Louisa had two cats of her own who she loved very much.
Her felines did not care for other felines.
Because that is how felines are.
My wonder dog, Hunter, loves felines.
In his opinion any cat would make a great snack.
And it just so happened that no family member was in the right position to take our mother's orphaned little middle-aged boys.
Unless perhaps we shipped them to San Francisco to move in with Rene and R.Z.
Well, a cross country road trip was out of the question.
Flying seemed a bit of a stretch.
And no one seemed interested in taking the Oriental Express with a couple crazy cats in their compartment.
"We were in a bit of a quandary," as my mother would have said.
But then coincidentally, just a few days after my mother's sudden departure, Louisa's nine-year-old cat, Anita Beth, the cute black and white kitten who'd been saved from a dumpster out west and somehow found her way to my sister here in Wisconsin, stopped eating her food.
Just like that.
Turns out she was having kidney failure.
And then about a month later, with only one day to spare before Max and Morrie were going to be evicted from their condo, it was her Old Frank's time to meet the grim reaper.
You can understand why we cannot help but find their timely deaths, interesting.
You see, Max and Morrie were our mother's last pride and joy.
They were her babies.
They were her boys.
Well, thank God Max was riding shot gun in my little KIA.
Nothing bothers Max.
Obviously, Louisa had drawn the short straw.
She had the little orange worry wort in her car.
I could only imagine the commotion in that vehicle as I watched Louisa's taillights cross over the railroad tracks.
Because cool, calm and collected Max was screaming bloody murder, right next to me.
"It's okay Maxie. You'll see. You are going to love your new house. It's okay buddy. It's okay," I soothed.
But he was so loud he couldn't hear me.
We both just wailed our way over a very long and tearful five-mile trip, to Louisa's place.
"Really?" she said, when I explained our horrifying journey. "Wow. Morrie was really good. He never made a sound."
I just stared at her.
What can I get you?"
"A shot of Jäger," I replied.
That was a month ago.
Today Max and Morrie are doing well.
They love their new fireplace.
Their newly remodeled kitchen is to die for. And Max even helped the workers.
They both yell for tuna just like the old days. B.S. Club is back on every Wednesday afternoon. And they are super excited about their new back yard. It has grass and birds and everything. Morrie accidentally spent a night out under the stars.
Well, probably more likely under the deck boards.
And wow!
You should see Morrie's new hiding place.
It is a DEE-luxe furnace room.
In the basement.
It is at least three times the size of his old one at the condo. And it has shelves.
The way I see it, The Jeffersons got nothing on Morrie Amsterdam.
And Maxwelle Smarte?
He's doing just fine.
As far as the rest of us are concerned.
We are hanging in.
As best as we can.


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