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The Escape Artist

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Steve had obviously seen you around the complex.  When you share a wall with someone you tend to see them around from time to time.  You were pleasant enough.  Some people kept their eyes down and tried not to make eye contact.  Or alternatively, they’d realize who he was and be overly friendly, trying to get their little taste of fame.  You were one of a handful of people in the building who just smiled and said hello, and would remark about the weather if you were stuck in the elevator together.  He didn’t have any friends in the building. But you were one of the people who were almost an acquaintance.

He has heard you too.  The dull murmur of your TV in the evenings.  The louder hum of your music on the weekends.  He knew when you were using the shower or vacuuming.  Or … other things.

He had never heard a pet though.  Never the barking of a dog when someone knocked on the door.  Nor the meowing of a cat wanting its breakfast.  Not even birdsong at sunrise.

So when he came up the stairs after getting home from work and found you kneeling on the ground with your face pressed to the carpet and your ass popped up in the air trying to look under his door, he had no idea what you were doing.  He folded his arms over his chest and cleared his throat.  “Ma’am…”

You jumped and looked up at him.  “Captain Rogers!”  You yelped, obviously flustered.  “I was … it’s not what… my pet’s in your apartment!

“Your pet?”  He asked not totally sure he should believe you or not.  “How?”

You picked up a clear, hollow ball that had been hidden behind your knees and held it up.  “I was letting her run up and down the hall with her ball and she slammed it into the wall.  The door popped off and she ran out and under your door.”

“Oh…” He said, understanding dawning on him.  “A hamster?”

You shook your head.  “No.  But close.”

Steve looked at you confused but took out his keys.  “You better come in.”

He unlocked the door and let you in.  “Nicodemus!  Where are you?”  You called out.

There was no response and the two of you began searching the apartment.

“She sometimes comes when she calls.  But only when she feels like it.”  You said apologetically.  “Nicodemus!”

Steve opened his pantry and came face-to-face with a rat.  It was sitting on the shelf with a Cheerio clutched in its paws as it happily chewed away on it.

“Are we looking for a rat?”  Steve asked.

You darted over to him and scooped the rat off the shelf.  “Nicodemus!  You naughty girl.  What do you think you’re doing?”  You turned back to Steve and smiled sheepishly.  “I’m sorry again, Captain Rogers.”

“Please, call me Steve,”  he said watching as the rat’s head poked out from between your hands.  “She’s kinda cute, isn’t she?”

“Oh yeah.  She’s really smart too.  I taught her a bunch of tricks.  She can fetch and shakes paws and jumps through rings.”  You explained.

Steve reached over and scratched the rodent on the top of the head.  “That would be something to see.” 

You smiled wider.  “If you ever want to see, you’re welcome to come over…”

“Are you busy now?”  Steve asked.

You shook your head.  “Nope.  Let’s go.  I’ll make coffee.”

Steve followed after you as you put Nicodemus on your shoulder.  He had lived in this apartment building for a year now without making any friends.  Maybe thanks to a small escape artist, he’ll have made two today.