A couple of days later, Gen was settling into her new house. She started to trash it right away. First, she started a kitchen fire. All the appliances were brand new. The stove's owner's manual and accessories (in plastic bags) were sitting atop the broiler pan inside the oven. Gen wanted to bake something, so she turned the oven on. Did she look inside first, as any normal, cautious person with average intelligence and survival skills would? Of course not. Instead, she turned the owner's manual into an inferno that contained toxic smoke from melting plastic. She snuffed out the flames before they escaped from the oven, but--given the loss of the owner's manual--Gen never did figure out how to set the stove's time controls or how to activate its self-cleaning functions. The broiler pan? I don't know if she ever got it cleaned up sufficiently to use it.

Gen's second assault on her new digs did not involve the ladder on the front porch--a nice, light-weight aluminum step ladder that was easy to handle and tall enough to suit her purpose, which was to stow baskets and artificial flowers and vases on top of the kitchen cabinets. Instead, she climbed up and stood on the countertops, where her weight pulled the lower cabinets away from the wall and broke the carefully-caulked backsplashes. This proved to be especially nefarious around the sink, which from then on suffered from water that splashed onto and ran down the wall behind. It eventually made a mouldy and stinky mess under the sink that aggravated Gen's asthma, but which Gen consistently attributed to dirty heating ducts.

Ted and I installed a cat door onto the screened porch so that the litter box for Gen's indoor cat wouldn't have to live inside. That was fine with the cat. The cat door had a latch that allowed it to be locked from various positions. With Gen's initial cat, Precious, this feature wasn't particularly important. The cat went onto the front porch and no farther. Two subsequent cats were indoor/outdoor creatures who mixed with other fauna. The beauty of a configurable cat door is that you can set it up so that it allows egress, but is locked to ingress. This lets pets go out as they please, but forces them to request entry back into the house--a feature that reduces the number of squirrels and voles and birds and mice that cats love to bring inside. It also keeps the neighbor's tom cat out.

Gen couldn't bring herself to lock her cats out, or even to limit their comings and goings to the porch. She propped the porch's screen door open with a chunk of 2x4, which eventually sprung the hinges, but gave the cats access to the great outdoors and back into the house without requiring any effort from Gen. The result was predictable. The carpet became littered with feathers and and stained with squeaker blood and cat gak. Gen battled the gore with carpet cleaner, but instead of using the substance as directed (spray a little, blot up the stain with a clean cloth until it goes away), she simply sprayed the stain and put a paper towel over it, weighted down by the bottle of cleaner.