In the late 90’s Jenya and I lived in an Oakland flat, along with our two housemates Vicky and Crissy, and our two cats Normal and Pudge. Normal was an awesome kitty and beloved pet, but Pudge was a stray we adopted out of guilt. She was just shy of feral and very rarely associated with humans, frequently disappearing for days at a time. She had also recently taken to shitting underneath the kitchen table, so when she wasn’t around it was actually a relief.
This house was fairly active. Touring bands would come through and crash on our couches, and we’d have backyard barbecues on the weekends and CD-assembling parties during the week. Normal tended to be social during all this activity, but Pudge would make herself scarce when the crush of humans became too much to bear.
Once again Pudge was absent for a couple days, possibly scared off by the last wave of musicians parading through the house. After a few days there was genuine concern, and after about six days we figured she finally moved on to a less stressful living situation. Kind of a bummer, but as I said we were already going above and beyond taking care of this unrewarding animal and there’s only so much we could do.
Eight days passed since Pudge’s last sighting. I returned home from a long day. I waved hello to Jenya who was on the phone, and headed to the kitchen for a snack. I passed the living room en route and found myself unexpectedly drawn to the couch. Why not enjoy a moment of horizontal bliss and wait there until Jenya gets off the phone?
I plopped myself down. Aaaah. And then a ghostly noise rose from beneath, as if this otherwise inanimate piece of furniture were suddenly talking to me, and it said:
This unearthly sound was a smack in the face that jogged my memory: Eight days ago we had a band staying over who utilized the pull-out bed in this very couch. That means it could certainly be that Pudge sought refuge in there and then got TRAPPED INSIDE!!! I leaped up and yelled something like, “FUUUUCK!” and began throwing cushions off and wrenching the damn thing open.
And there Pudge was, emerging from a dark crevasse in the back where a cat could just barely fit without getting crushed. She used her scant remaining fumes of life-force to angrily meow at me, then flop out of the couch interior and stumble into my bedroom and hide underneath the bed. The rest of the household heard my cursing and toiling and the near-death meowing and soon the whole apartment echoed with our collective screams of horror.
We put open cans of tuna and water under my bed until her strength returned. Almost right away she was back to her old skittish self again, none the worse for wear. Eight fucking days trapped in a couch? No big whoop. Nine lives, indeed.
The questions remained: Why didn’t she meow for help? Why didn’t Normal tell us either? What would have happened if I didn’t feel that urge to lie down on the couch?
Epilogue: A month later I picked up some pictures I got developed at the corner drug store. Some of them depicted a recent party at the house, including one photo of friends sitting around our living room. Jenya and I pieced together the timeline and came to the uncomfortable realization: in that very photo, Pudge was stuck inside the couch and nobody had any idea.