Ari was cutting the front lawn the other day.
I work upstairs in the rec room, but the growl of the lawn mower was music to my ears. Unlike my father, who would run around slamming windows if the air conditioning was on while yelling at us for cooling off the whole outdoors goddammit, I like a little air moving through. Sorry, Pop.
I disappeared into whatever I was working on and barely registered the lawn mower pausing. Figuring he was just emptying the catcher, it took me a moment to realize he was running up the stairs to his room. I heard a window bang shut, and wondered if he was channelling his grandfather.
More like his cat, Frankie, was channelling Houdini.
As he cut the grass, Ari happened to look up. Frankie had pawed open a hole in the screen of his second storey bedroom and was sitting on the roof that covers the front porch. Just watching his daddy do his chores.
I replace screens all the time. I keep those little rolly tools at the cottage and at the house. I buy screening and piping like other people buy spare batteries. I know I’m going to need them. I can replace the mesh in a patio door in about 20 minutes. It takes one of my cats 20 seconds to rip it.
I’ve had cats do artful little tears in screens as long as I’ve owned cats. I’ve never had one flat out burst through it like those old Kool-Aid commercials, until Frankie came along. Sweet Pea sits in my bedroom window serenely watching the birds, knowing a two-storey plummet would be painful.
Mark and Cairo, my terrorist cats, have carefully torn out the corner of the screen door, an inch at a time like tiny prisoners digging their way to freedom. They don’t actually escape through it, however. They merely stick their paws out. I’m sure Frankie would be glad to show them how it’s done, but then I’d have cat-shaped holes in every screen in the house.
When Ari was small, I caught him and a few friends debating how to get the screen out in the bedroom he had then. At the back of the house, his window was directly over an awning over the back deck. I passed by in time to hear him explaining to his friends that if they could just get the screen out, they could bounce on the awning.
There are days when you wonder how any child makes it to adulthood.
There are also days when you want to go back to childhood to remind yourself there is nothing better than being a kid about to get up to no good.
I firmly believe that Frankie is Ari’s payback for such mischief.
I didn’t normally have to worry about the cats doing the damage. The boys and their friends would walk through screens all the time. I took to putting dangly pierced earrings at eye level to warn them the door was closed, which worked depending on the level of inebriation.
We’re debating putting a piece of Plexiglas at cat level this time though it occurs to me, if do that at every weak point in a screen, I’ll just have a window.
I’d already packed a roll of screening to go to the cottage to replace the big screens up there. Now I will buy a new round and get to work here at the house.
Ari doesn’t know it yet, but he’s getting a crash course in how to replace a screen.
Something tells me he’s gonna need it.