The third drawer down of the dresser in the corner of my bedroom was ajar. It did not look like a big enough space for a cat to squeeze through, but as I put my face near the opening and peered into the dark reaches of the drawer I could see movement, the flash of white fur amongst t-shirts, the source of the mystery rustling that had roused me from bed and the book I was reading.
“Cleo what are you doing?” I said into the shadows, snaking my hands into the drawer to try and push shirts aside and make a space for her to come out. It seemed so tight and cramped I had a passing claustrophobic thought of her suffocating in there amongst the cotton and polyester.
“You can’t stay in there,” I said, thinking about the restless night ahead, worrying about how she would get out again, the ongoing rustling sounds of her arranging and rearranging a nest for herself.
The dresser, an old wooden beast of a thing with drawers that stick, sliding grudgingly in or out only after a good shove or two, has frequently been a favourite sleeping spot of both cats, but usually it is when a drawer has been left generously open, its contents easily swirled into a comfy bed. I am not sure what possessed Cleo to stuff herself through the barely-there opening on this night but clearly she did not give a glimmer of thought to how she would get out again.
“Um, I can’t open the drawer,” I said into the gap. I was sure I would get her head stuck somehow between it and the drawer above, or on the frame of the dresser itself, a 1x2 wooden crosspiece that spanned the width of the drawer. “You’re going to have to crawl out.
“How did you get in there?” I asked. And as I shifted more shirts I heard the soft scraping sound of fur against wood. “No, no, no, Cleo, don’t do that,” I said, and caught a glimpse of a white leg disappearing as she slithered over the back edge of the drawer and down into the drawer below.
I stood up straight and stared at the dresser. The fourth drawer down was also open a bit which meant Cleo was now in the fifth drawer and I imagined her sitting there sandwiched between the wooden back of the dresser and the back of drawer four.
“Well, now you’re stuck,” I said.
There was silence from the dresser and I wondered what she was doing in there, just sitting, contemplating. If she had been at all distressed I would have heard about it, but she didn’t make a peep. I had a half thought to just leave her, sure she could climb back out on her own the way she went in, but I wasn’t going to wait around to find out at 2:00 in the morning, woken from a deep sleep by the sound of an elephant rummaging about in my dresser.
But now that Cleo was two drawers below, I could pull out drawer three as far as it would go and then remove it. I placed it on the floor next to me and peered into the space it had occupied. Cleo stood at the back of the dresser, front feet in the fourth drawer, back end in the fifth, neck craned, pink nose twitching, “Well, isn’t this interesting,” she seemed to say.
“Come on,” I said, reaching into the back of the dresser and grabbing her under the armpits. I pulled her up into the exposed drawer where she turned to liquid in my hands and I had to let go, reposition, and pull her out sideways.
When I placed her on the floor she did a little happy skip towards the drawer I had left there, “Ooo did you put this here for me?”
“No, Cleo, it’s bedtime,” I said and lifted the drawer up and away, securing it back into its position in the dresser.
And with that, the nightly Cleo whirlwind was over. Curiosity maybe not quite satisfied, but tempered for now, Cleo turned abruptly and hopped down the stairs, loudly, leaving me to shake my head before crawling back into bed with my book and the glow of the lamp and the quiet.