It was simply too nippy in our little riverside cottage for Her Nibs' comfort last weekend.

It was simply too nippy in our little riverside cottage for Her Nibs' comfort last weekend.

Squiggy, the resident green-eyed moggy, determined I was slacking on our arrangement — and by our arrangement I mean I am to cater to her every whim immediately and without question.

So she ended my Saturday morning slumbers at 5 a.m. by leaping onto my upper back and piercing my shoulder blades with her pointy little claws.

She likely thought her acupuncture assault would be enough to rocket me out of my cozy bed. But I am not a morning person. Plus, it wasn't even morning yet. So I dislodged the pesky feline by rolling myself violently from side-to-side and uttering fierce grumbles: Mmmmph! Nwuh! Nee! Nuh-uh!

I kept my eyes firmly shut throughout our altercation and was attempting to drift back to the Land of Nod. But Squiggy was not to be denied. She has the spooky ability to change her body mass. So by the fifth time my normally 9-pound cat made her mighty leap from head to shoulder, she had transformed herself into a 20-pound boulder with Freddie Krueger claws.

Suddenly I found my English. And my potty mouth. #(*$#(&#@@(#^@*^!!! (Family newspaper translation: "Ooof! Ouch! Get off me you dratted cat! What the heck is wrong with you!?")

As I sat on the edge of the bed looking for my slippers, my brain and body finally registered the meat-locker temperature of my normally cozy cottage.

Brrrr!

Squiggy cozied up to me with sad Puss-n-Boots eyes.

"I've been trying to tell you," she meeped. "It's cccooold!

I flipped on the lights, stumbled to the thermostat and spun the dial. The heat pump cycled on and then off. Not a puff of warmth drifted down from the ceiling registers.

Oh no. The heat-pump igniter had died. Again.

Getting my parrots, Goose and Gaia, warm and toasty was top priority. And that is all about ambient air temperature. Even before putting in a panicked call to my beau, The Englishman, I cranked up the oven and surrounded their cages with space heaters.

Then I spent the entire day attempting to fix the heat-pump igniter. First came disassembling my bedroom closet. Everything had to come out in order to access the trap door to the attic. Even the rods.

Why is my heat pump in the attic? Apparently that's where one keeps their heat pump when one lives alongside a mighty river that is notorious for jumping its banks.

An hour of effort later, my bed was a mountain of clothes. The floor was a veritable shoe store. Purses dangled from doorknobs. And extra blankets and pillows were plopped on top of dressers. I also unearthed an entire collection of luggage — and the long-lost clips for my hot rollers.

The Englishman has ridden to my heat pump's rescue twice before. No fool he, TE insisted we keep a spare igniter handy. At least, we thought he'd insisted. Why didn't I just nip up into the attic and see, my beau suggested.

"Otherwise you'll have to get one," he said.

Who? Me? Clearly my bloom has faded. I remember the first time the igniter blew. I was encouraged to sit and sip tea with a girlfriend while my knight schlepped and climbed and effected the necessary repairs. But that was a few years ago. And last Saturday TE was ensconced in his Illinois Valley abode, in the final stages of recovery from a nasty flu bug.

To be fair, TE was more than willing to install the igniter. He simply wanted me to do my part — the grunt work.

Did I mention I'm rather spoiled — and very lazy? Kinda like a certain cat that used to belong to The Englishman. Picturing Squiggy feasting on my lifeless remains, moldering on the closet floor, I reluctantly climbed the rickety ladder. Flashlight clenched between my teeth, propping the trap door up with my head, I felt around for the spare part. Spider webs. I can see spider webs! AACK!

"It's not there!" I told The Englishman after scrambling back down to earth.

"It's on the heat pump," he insisted. "You have to get up IN the attic and get it!"

I believe I may have hung up on him. I'm not sure. The memory is still too painful.

My second attempt occurred late that afternoon, after my neighbor offered to hold the ladder steady — and call 9-1-1.

"Pay no attention to the grunting and the swearing. That's just how I roll," I apologized in advance.

I ascended to the summit of my home with the single-minded determination of a mountain climber. Scurrying across the attic, I kept the flashlight's beam focused on the heater and away from the spider webs.

Hallelujah! There was the spare ignition device. I gave TE the good news. Twice. It had been a long day — and it had started way too early.

"Why don't you stay put and come over tomorrow," I told a relieved TE.

We cottage dwellers did fine that night. The parrots were toasty thanks to the space heaters. And Squiggy was still radiating warmth having spent the entire day snoozing in a sunbeam on the back of the couch. She also spent the night under the covers — hogging the bed.

Reach Sanne Specht at 541-776-4497 or e-mail sspecht@mailtribune.com.