[The Neighborhood was quiet at 3 a.m., a typical warm summer night. Warm summer nights in old houses meant open windows, and open windows meant opportunity.
Three separate houses, three separate times the crash of broken pottery was heard, startling awake the sleeping residents. Lights were turned on, bathrobes cinched, phones held at the ready.
No honey, just call the police.
Something just fell, go see what it was.
Mama, there was a noise.
Eyes bleary with sleep bear witness to a single, minor act of destruction.
I always liked that.
How could it have fallen?
That was my grandmother's. Don't you know how much it's worth?
Vases: toppled from plinth, table, or mantel, depending on the household and their decorating sensibilities. Then human eyes would meet feline, and the blame would begin.
Cats, of course, didn't care for such accusations. Didn't understand why their humans would scold them. They had been awakened too. The houses would fall back into sleepy silence. It wouldn't be till morning, till the house was truly up and awake, that other things were noticed. Small things. Trinkets, cheap souvenirs from beach trips past, leaving a clean, empty spot on the dusty shelf where they'd once rested. A quart mason jar that would have been otherwise unremarkable, had it not held about eight hundred in cash for the family's vacation fund. Then and only then were the police called, but it was late, far too late to find anything else.
Neighbors would meet over fences in the daylight, taking breaks from tackling yard work under the brilliant sun, and recount their interrupted sleep while envying that new weed eater, those begonias, the perfectly trimmed hedges. If they'd been awakened to clean up glass or ceramic or pottery, they would all say the same thing:
It's that horrible cat!
And most of the time, they left it at that.]