It’s never a good idea to fall down a flight of stairs and an even worse idea when you’re carrying a six-month-old baby. But that didn’t stop Darice. Or Molly—who had little say in the matter since she was the six-month-old.
We were living on Elmendorf Air Force Base in Anchorage, Alaska. Darice’s husband was an Air Force firefighter and worked twenty-four hours on, followed by twenty-four hours off. He was at work defending his country that night, the big chicken, so that left the following cast members:
My daughter, Darice (still fresh [and tender] from a C-section)
My granddaughter, Molly (the reason for the C-section)
Me, (the old mom and grandma)
Our black lab, Maestro
Four cats—Scully, Graham, Deucy, and Maple
Our rabbit, Birch, and
a handful of hermit crabs.
You’ll need a little background on our pets. Scully, a gray tabby, had household seniority and as such, scorned everyone else in the house (me included). Her mother, Darice, was the only one she listened to.
Maestro was next. She usually kowtowed to Scully, but had little patience with the riff-raff that followed her own arrival to the household.
Deucy, our black cat, was Darice’s cat from long before she married Ron and had actually lived with Darice the longest. She joined our blended household when I did. Deucy was pretty much out of it as far as hearing anything or doing much besides sleeping.
Maple, a beautiful calico kitty, was my kitty and joined our family a few years before when we lived in Mississippi. Maple was (and still is) the quintessential scaredy cat. I once dropped a candy wrapper on the floor, and we didn’t see her for four days. We found a new rug for the kitchen, and Maple jumped four feet from the dining room carpet to the tile beyond the rug for the rest of the time we lived there.
The rabbit, Birch, lived in his own little habitat, and had a fairly good relationship with everyone else, but hated noise.
The hermit crabs were incredibly quiet, but ugly as all get-out when naked. Don’t ever look at a naked hermit crab. They’re bad enough in their shell; without it they’re just pitiful.
Then there’s Graham. We found Graham in a drainage ditch on base. It was springtime and the bears were out from their winter hibernation and hungry. If we hadn’t brought him home, he’d have made a tasty treat for one of the black bears that wandered around base. Trouble is, we had no idea of Graham’s history. He appeared to be a loving, sweet little gray tabby, much like Scully (without the loving and sweet part), and we had to learn about his idiosyncrasies as life went on.
We lived in base housing, and this particular house had the kitchen toward the back of the house, and two bedrooms and a bath upstairs. The stairway from upstairs spilled out into a front hallway that also housed a half-bath and entrance to the living room and dining room through which you had to pass to get to the kitchen and bonus room in the back of the house. Now about the half-bath: you know how Barbie has that motorhome? Yeah, the pink one. Remember that little bathroom in the back? Take the actual size of Barbie’s bathroom--you know, that area about 3" by 3"--cut it in half, fill it with cold, hard, head-breaking porcelain stuff, and you’ve got an idea what our half bath was like.
Anyway, that night I was in the kitchen when I heard a never-ending shriek followed by baby wails. I dashed from the kitchen, took a left at the dining room for the straightaway through the living room, and just as I was in the left turn to get to the finish line, Maestro, the black lab, slammed into me. I fell to the floor and rolled around like a bowling ball. In the meantime, Darice is still hollering, the baby is screaming, and I’m trying to figure out what happened. “What’s wrong?” “Are you hurt?” “Is Molly hurt?” and on and on in that vein. Darice stopped hollering long enough to holler at me and said (at the top of her lungs), “I fell down the stairs!”
“What?” (More out of incredulity than not hearing her, although Molly’s squalling and Maestro’s barking weren’t helping any.)
Darice answered, “I. FELL. DOWN. THE. STAIRS!” (What I didn’t hear, but what I suspect she was trying to tell me was, “You moron. I’m at the base of the stairs with Molly in my arms. She’s screaming. I’m screaming. What do you think happened? And quit rolling around on the floor like a bowling ball.”)
Okay, now we’re getting somewhere. Apparently, she fell down the stairs, and took Molly with her. Not the best plan, but nevertheless, that’s what happened. I stumbled upward with Maestro hopping around like a jack rabbit in front of me, regained my balance, and started toward Darice. She was clutching Molly close to her, who, aside from yelling her head off, looked perfectly fine. Just as I was about to reach them, Graham took it upon himself to settle the dog down by jumping up onto her back, claws extended, to … you know, kill her. Okay, we discovered our first idiosyncrasy. Graham doesn’t like it when people scream. Go figure.
This attack wasn’t looked upon kindly by Maestro, who started to howl and buck like a bronco. I was afraid they were going to jump on Molly, so I took the humane and thoughtful pet owner path and stuffed them both into the half-bath, not easy considering its size and their fury, slammed the door, and let them sort it out themselves. There was blood—lots of it—on me, on Maestro, on Scully.
Darice (who is now a licensed vet tech, but has always loved animals) was horrified. She knew that when cats get into that “kill” mode, it literally means they will fight to the death with the first breathing thing they happen upon. Maestro was the unlucky thing in her path. We still don’t know who would’ve lived and who would’ve died, but Darice didn’t wait to let them figure it out themselves. I took Molly, and Darice went into half of Barbie’s half-bath, and pried them apart. Once she tore Graham off Maestro’s back, she tossed him into the laundry room (directly at the base of the stairs), slammed the door shut, and ran back to inspect Maestro. She had puncture wounds, but they weren’t fatal, and she was able to wash and disinfect them. We let Graham stew a while in the laundry room. When we finally released him, he meandered out, meowed for food, rubbed against my leg (and did not apologize to me or Darice for our multiple cat gashes), with nary a thought of killing anyone.
Maestro visited the vet the next day for a shot of antibiotic. We didn’t see Maple for a week, an Birch the rabbit thumped his back legs in displeasure throughout the following day. Deucy, being deaf, had missed it all, and Scully didn’t lower herself enough to have an opinion one way or the other on the behavior of the peons that shared the house with her (animals and humans). The hermit crabs survived, although all but one have since died. We’re not sure just how much the trauma of that night contributed to their eventual demise.
Molly didn’t have a scratch on her, and survived her first tumble down the stairs beautifully. Darice, though covered in cat scratches, horrified at what happened, and suffering from a nearly-opened-up C-section scar, also survived. Maestro never held it against Graham, who seems to have completely forgotten his appalling behavior. That leaves me. I’m fine, although I’ve noticed I tend to fall down and roll around like a bowling ball more than I used to.