As it turns out, when Mom was leaving for the nursing home to see Dad, around 10:30, she and Scott were listening attentively, out in the garage, as she started the car. No cat sounds. Scott stood near the car and told her to back it up about 6 inches. She did.
Oh no. Otto really had
hidden somewhere inside the car. Mom backed up a few more inches.
"MEOW!" But not a "Dear God I'm being ripped apart in here" kind of meow. More like an annoyed, scared sound. Or so they hoped.
As the mailman came and went, turning around at the end of the street to be on his way, he eyed the situation with a perplexed look. Mom was driving down the road a few feet at a time, and Scott was walking alongside the car, in no coat, in his slippers, listening for the meow and trying to figure out if they could get the car to a mechanic who could help.
Jump ahead to when the phone woke me up.
Scott: We're at the mechanic's place. He's taken a bunch of parts off the car and the cat is still stuck up inside it. We need you to come and take your mom to the nursing home because this
is going to take a while.
I try to process what he has just said as I'm throwing on some clothes. The cat was stuck. In the car. All night long.
And I am a moron for making it freak out so severely that it had to ram itself up into the dark bowels of the car to escape me.
When I get there, Mom's Lincoln is up on the lift and Tony, head mechanic, is still removing pieces of the car. He is sweating his brains out. His wife, who works in the office, is standing nearby and so are two or three other mechanics and my mom and Scott. There is a feeling of amazement in the shop, and no one can believe that "Otto" has managed to get himself lodged so far up into the guts of the car. With all the frantic deconstruction of this Lincoln Zephyr, the cat still cannot even be seen
. Scott, always prepared with a camera, has been taking photos of the whole process.
More pieces removed. More sweating. Everybody concentrating.
There it is. A paw. A pitiful little paw wrapped around a pipe as though it is the side of a life raft.
This cat is as much a captive of this monstrous Lincoln as Gulliver was of those rotten little Lilliputians and their tiny ropes and metal spikes.
And we are a captive audience.
More work, more unscrewing things and trying to get to the frightened cat.
And there it is. His face. His poor face squeezed into a grimace, the way a child's face is squeezed by the pushy great aunt with the orange lipstick who smells like gardenias and who wants "a little kiss."
Otto looks absolutely miserable. Scott's camera flash probably doesn't help, but seriously, we had
to have pictures of this.
I have brought a large cardboard box with me, so if and when Otto is extracted, I can put him into it (yes, trap him again
) and take him home to his own neighborhood. Or to the vet, if he's hurt when they get him out of the car. IF they get him out. Tony is saying things that are terrifying me.
Tony (sweating and looking for another tool): I gotta get some pressure off his head.
I don't have the presence of mind to think "Well, if he's still alive after all this time, the pressure on his head probably isn't life threatening." I feel as though I'm in a cat E.R. and at any moment I will hear someone yell "CLEAR!"
Then Tony says "Now we need to get the pressure off his chest." I have never seen a mechanic sweat like this. His forehead is in full-blown furrows and he is rushing around like an army medic in the field, grabbing another instrument, making another try to save a life. Even if the soldier is just a cat.
I can tell that Tony and his wife are not "it's just a cat" people. They are both talking to Otto and trying to comfort him, even though it seems to comfort only the humans in the room. The cat is in SqueezeDom and has very little interest in our stupid words. He is more concerned with the occasional hand that tries to push or pull him, to loosen him just a little from the Lincoln's vise grip. Tony's employees do what they can to help. But Tony finally just wants everyone out of the way. He has now removed the back left wheel, dropped half of the suspension (which, Scott tells me, consisted of loosening the springs, shock absorbers, and control arm).
Either Scott or I have to leave to take Mom to the nursing home. She needs to feed Dad his lunch. All of us want to stay. Scott is a good husband in many ways, and at this moment he proves it again by letting me be the one to stay. He hands me his camera. "Get a picture of when they get him out!"
I take the camera and put it in my pocket. I know that my job has to do with the box
, not the camera.
Finally, Tony is able to grab both of Otto's back legs. Otto wants them back. Do not grab my back legs, Otto is thinking. But there is no way on God's white, frozen, Indiana earth that Tony is going to let go. One of his assistants reaches in a hand from the other side of the wheel and pushes Otto's head. Another person pries Otto's paw from around the pipe. He does not want to let go. But he does.
I feel my body moving closer, holding my giant cardboard box. I am the midwife, and the baby is coming. And it is breach.
As I slide the box directly under the furry tug of war, Tony gently but firmly pulls the legs one last time and a long stretch of cat comes out. Plop. Into the box. I rub my hands gently over the poor, traumatized cat body, and he seems fine.
I close the box and pretty much throw my body across it. Because this cat is not getting away. He is especially not getting away right under the car that just birthed him. Tony would then take me and ram my
ass up into the car guts, and then he would weld me in just before he set the car ablaze.
Scott returns from shuttling Mom. And no, I wasn't able to get a photo of the birthing, I tell him. I was not going to flash a light into Otto's eyes just as he was emerging into the world again, and cause him to push off Tony's face with his hind feet, like Michael Phelps on the final lap against the Australian.
Mom is calling my cell phone. She is with Dad and wants to know if the cat has been pulled from the car yet.
"Yes," I tell her. "And it's a boy."
It takes Tony an hour to put the car back together. He has gotten behind on all his other jobs, and is exhausted from the Otto Birth. I offer him fifty bucks (a pittance for what he's managed to do) and really
try to get him to take it. But he won't.
"Don't do that," he says. "I did my good deed for the day."
Scott and I take both cars back to Mom's condo. I have the Box o' Cat in my backseat and Scott drives the Lincoln. He stops at CVS to buy an expensive little can of cat food for Otto.
I get home first, and have not yet opened the box. I'm waiting in the garage and have left my car in the driveway. Scott is tired and also traumatized. Which explains why he pulls up in the Lincoln and says "Want me to pull into the garage?"
My head explodes. I grab a mop and clean it up. Then I close the garage door and the three of us (Scott, me, and the box of cat) congregate inside. I gingerly lift Otto out of the box and pet him and tell him how very sorry I am for being such a rotten moron. I offer him the food and some water. He doesn't want anything but his freedom, and perhaps a few minutes in a dark alley with me and several of his gangsta friends.
OK, I get it.
One more check over his body. It is amazing that after all that, he is not even dirty.
So as not to freak him out with the sound of the garage door, we take him outside via Mom's front door, and let him go.
Goodbye, Otto. Whatever your name is. I'm sorry. At least the chicks will dig your story.