Maurice and the Upside Down

For whatever reason, (people have tried to explain it to me, but none of the explanations really make sense) we have this hole in Natalie’s closet wall that opens to some pipes, a little tunnel behind our bathtub, and a hole to our basement. When we first moved in, the hole was covered by a panel that was screwed in and all was great. But as Spenser and Holly started getting older, we started seeing more of their toys wind up in the basement right below where this hole was.

Eventually they showed us that the panel had come unscrewed and they would randomly drop toys down the hole, never really knowing where they went. We tried to screw the panel cover back into the wall, but the structural integrity of the panel had been compromised and wouldn’t hold a screw. Fine. We kept it pushed again the wall with toy bins and whatever else we could find and quickly the kids moved on to other pursuits (did I tell you about the time I installed three new toilets in a single weekend because the kids kept flushing their toys?) and the hole ceased to be an issue for several years.

Then we got two new cats who are 1) smarter than our previous cat 2) skinnier than our previous cat and 3) bigger jerks than our previous cat. Since Mort and Maurice have only been with us for a month or so, they’ve been hiding a lot during the day and exploring during the evening. We first had them living mostly in our front room and they liked to hide inside an old couch we had out there. Since we wanted to encourage them to come out from hiding and engage with us, we threw the old couch out to the curb. And it worked. Mostly.

During the day they still hid in the couch we have in our living room, but every evening I would fill their food dishes, lift the couch up to force them out, then take the dog and the kids on a walk so the cats could have some quiet time in the house. After a few days of this, they started exploring more on their own and coming out more and even sat with us on the couch a few times. As the heat settled in, they took to hanging out in our linen closet instead of under our living room couch and all was good again. But as they started to feel more welcome and brazen, Maurice started breaking into Natalie’s room more. No idea why, but considering the room Spenser and Holly share looks like a Nickelodeon version of a dystopia, I have my suspicions.

Last week we started noticing that Maurice would disappear for hours at a time and we were genuinely concerned that he had either escaped the house (did I mention they’re sneaky and fast and our reflexes haven’t adjusted yet?) or become trapped somewhere we couldn’t get him out of. Then one night we found him opening the drawer under Natalie’s bed, climbing in it, and then wobbling it shut all on his own! I seriously wanted to check him for opposable thumbs right then and there. That was all well and good until Mort tried to join him and the system collapsed and they ended up stuck under the bed. I freed them, and that seemed to be the end of them hiding in there.

And then Maurice disappeared again. We checked everywhere. I even checked the trunk of my car. And we couldn’t find him. Then Becky sent me a text one day that she thought he was in the wall. We joked about him being in the upside down from Stranger Things, and sure enough, when we looked in Natalie’s closet he had managed to open her closet door, push aside the toy bin and open the panel enough to fit inside. I still don’t know how he knew there was even a hole back there. Can cats smell empty spaces? But every night around 10pm he would stroll out of the bedroom, demand to be fed, and then come out and visit. So the next night after he came out, Becky pushed the dresser in front of the closet and that seems to have kept him out for now. This weekend I’m going to have to figure out how to screw that panel back into the wall and then also figure out where to hide my power tools so the cat doesn’t find them and take the panel off himself.