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The lights dim. The cats snap to attention, their ears forward, fur on end. The whole house goes silent and motionless for what seems an eternity. Suddenly there is a crash in the garage adjacent to my bedroom.

I rush to check that the doors are locked. Then a bolt of lightning flashes, followed by a loud thunder roll. The lights and the computer go dark. One cat dives under the bed, one moans loudly and another begs to be picked up.

I fumble for the emergency flashlight and go to the sun porch to see if all the neighborhood lights are out. Everything is dark except for my flashlight. Well, nothing to do but sit in the stillness and wait. Then I hear footsteps overhead. Now my hair is standing upright. I stop breathing, straining to again hear whatever I had heard. Quiet. Footsteps again. I'm afraid to investigate so I pick up the phone to call the police. It's dead.

Do I put the cats into their carriers and pack them into the car? But there was that big crash in the garage a couple of minutes ago. I imagine the worst, someone or something is out there just waiting for me to unlock the door.

Joyce, get hold of yourself! Make a plan, do something, anything, but move. I shut the bedroom door (only a derrick could get Sparky out from under the bed). I put Harley, who is still hanging on to me, into a carrier and wrestle Thunder into another (he is a very large cat).

I grab my keys and carriers, and go out the front door. With flashlight in hand, I enter the garage. I find the garden tool rack, which I had just hung that day, on the floor. All the nails are still in the two-by-four. I apparently did not attach the tool rack properly. That was the big crash. One mystery solved.

I feel a little foolish and very much challenged in the carpentry department. But that does not explain the footsteps in the attic. Do I stow the cats in the car and head for the hills, leaving Sparky behind? Or do I suck it up and investigate the attic, perhaps armed with my best sewing shears?

I creep up the stairs, flashlight in one hand and my Fiskars in the other. I am almost to the top when the lights blink and then mercifully stay on. I back down and try the phone. It's working! I dial the police, tell an officer about my problem and explain that it is not an emergency, but that I would really appreciate someone coming to check my attic.

A nice officer pulls up in front of my house and heads up the stairs to the attic. I am sure he will find an intruder, armed to the teeth, ready to make mincemeat of us all.

He opens the door to the attic, walks in and gives a little whoop. Then I hear him laughing. This is not at all what I had expected. He comes back down, no longer with hand on holster, still laughing.

The dangerous criminal I was harboring in my attic turned out to be a frantic squirrel, looking for a way out. Now I really feel foolish. The nice young policeman is on his way back to the station to tell the story of the crazy old cat lady, frightened out of her wits by a careless carpentry job and a squirrel.

JOYCE A. HAGEN lives in North Tonawanda.