Identified flying objects
What is it about my third-floor balcony that objects both animate and inanimate appear to have this irresistible urge to hurl themselves off it and into the void below?
One such apparent suicide featured our large, green parasol, which lifted itself clean out of the middle of the table and over the balustrade mid-meal as we and our lunch guests looked on, our mouths agape. It then floated down Mary Poppins-like to the garden below in a somewhat surreal slow motion, surviving its unexpected flight with just a broken rib.
Of course, I then had to go and ring on our ground floor neighbours’ door and ask for it back, trying to look nonchalant as I first walked through their flat and then took the lift upstairs holding a slightly muddy and bent seven-foot parasol.
Another of these autodefenestrations involved our two aluminium deckchairs, which I had folded, stacked, covered in a tarpaulin and tied together with a bungee cord for the winter. They were clearly upset about being left out in the cold next to the similarly mummified table because one rather blustery day they got up as a man, scaled that table and leapt in the same direction as the parasol had a few months earlier.
Again I had to ring the neighbours’ doorbell, and again I attempted to keep my composure as I carried the rather more bent deckchairs upstairs in the lift.
Our other, smaller parasol clearly suffered from performance envy because it felt obliged to outdo both its big brother and the deckchairs. From its position right up against the wall of the apartment and when completely closed, it convinced a passing gust of wind to open it up, whereupon it yanked itself out of its stand, and, once airborne and freed of its shackles, traversed the balcony and exited stage left with a silent “Yahoo!” Having thus found itself out of the wind, it then folded up, dodged various trees and plunged groundward pole first, where – deftly avoiding the much closer and larger surfaces presented by the neighbours’ garden, a broad hedge, the road and the pavement – it impacted and smashed the windscreen of an innocently parked green car.
This time, I fortunately did not have to bother the neighbours. Though I did need a piece of paper with my phone number on it, which I felt obliged to slip under the car’s windscreen wiper, albeit more or less on the dashboard given the damage the parasol had done. I even left the right number, though I was briefly tempted to write down my mother-in-law’s. And for a third time I found myself sheepishly taking the lift back to my apartment with bent garden furniture.
“Screw the bloody furniture,” I hear you cry. “What about that animate object you mentioned?” Well, don’t worry, I’m getting to that one. So you can sit back down in your recliner, take another sip of your light beer and repeat your happy-place mantra until your blood pressure comes down again.
You’ll be relieved to know that the aforementioned animate object was not my ex. Although there were times when I wished it were. Nor was it, as perpetrated by someone with whom I am intimately acquainted, a pair of hapless hamsters, helped on their way by a human hand, dangling said rodents over the precipice by their tail and then, splaying her thumb and forefinger, releasing first one and then the other unloved furry creature to fend for itself on the concrete below. Or not, as was probably the case a few seconds later.
Actually, the animate object in question was a cat; one of a brace we have in our household. When they were young, nonchalant and considerably less fat than they are now, they would brazenly walk along the top of the barely inch-wide balustrade, prompting near heart attacks in their human owners, who would swoop in, scoop up the offending feline and return her to the safety of the tiled floor of the balcony, accompanied by some choice words of admonition.
Late one summer evening, while I was preparing to go to bed, I noticed there was only one cat. It didn’t bother me much because they have a habit of slinking off and hiding in the oddest of places: behind the books in my bookcase, between the sofas, where they often sit on the illuminated switch of the multi-plug that supplies the router and thus powers our Wi-Fi, or even in the drawers of one of the wardrobes, having first pulled open the sliding doors and ejected any items of clothing superfluous to their needs.
But she wasn’t in any of these places. Or the myriad other locations I guessed she might have been, including – but not restricted to – on the bathroom cabinet, under my bed, in the guest bathroom tub, on top of the fridge-freezer, in the washing machine, between the drawers below my son’s bed or on her favourite and very uncomfortable pine cone and stick-filled box.
That’s when I remembered the scrambling sound I had heard earlier in the evening. The kind of sound I had surmised a cat might make when leaping up to catch an insect, thereby inadvertently bumping into the metal balustrade. Or, as I now realised, a cat might also make when missing its step and falling off such a balustrade, desperately clawing at the metal as gravity took hold.
Fearing the worst, I looked over the balcony, fully expecting to see a moggie-shaped pancake three floors below. There was none. So safe in the knowledge that she must have found a new hiding place, I went to bed.
As I was closing my bedroom window before retiring, I heard a plaintive “meow” in the garden below. That doesn’t really mean much. Firstly, because all cat meows sound the same. Secondly, because there are lots of stray and feral cats in our neighbourhood who, judging by the noise they make most evenings, spend a large proportion of their time either fighting or fornicating. But this was different, so I made the kissing sound I usually made to attract our cats. And the meow was repeated.
That settled it. So I quickly dressed again and went downstairs. And when I got to the path running alongside our building, there was my cat, patiently waiting for her master to come fetch her.
Miraculously, living up to the common myth about self-righting cats, she was completely unscathed.
And so I took the lift back up to my apartment, cradling her in my arms. For once, I wasn’t carrying a bent or broken object. And this one was decidedly animate.
Shat by jan_the_man