I Think About This a Lot is a series dedicated to private memes: images, videos, and other random trivia we are doomed to play forever on loop in our minds.
Everyone needs a happy place to escape to sometimes — for some people that means going to the beach, or thinking back on a beloved childhood memory, or watching cute videos of animals having innocent fun. For me, it’s perusing Frankie Muniz’s extremely normal Twitter account. Whenever I grow weary of the regular doom and gloom that pervades my news feed, I find myself typing in the handle of the now 34-year-old Malcolm in the Middle star, who has spent the past several years of his life living like a well-off retiree in south-central Arizona.
While other former child stars are opening up clubs on Grecian islands or having breakdowns on the internet, Muniz passes his time playing golf, hitting up Boston Market, and importing fancy olive oils to his specialty olive-oil shop. He often tweets about minor inconveniences like stop lights, hair loss, and how long it takes for frozen pizza to cook. Scrolling through his mundane musings allows me to feel blissfully disconnected from the larger problems of the world, as if I, too, am living a carefree suburban life in Arizona. But that sense of peace came to an end one day when I got news that Muniz’s cat had flooded his five-story Phoenix brownstone, causing over a million dollars in structural damage and destroying nearly all of his worldly possessions.
Muniz returned from a weeklong trip to France to attend his uncle’s funeral to “find 4 of [his] 5 story brownstone home under 3 feet of water,” he tweeted on November 15, 2018. “Everything I own, destroyed. Every wall, piece of artwork, personal photos, furniture … All because my cat accidentally turned on a sink a few days ago while we were gone.”
How could this have happened? Of all the freak accidents that could befall a house — electrical fire, termites, a tree falling on your roof — I did not think a cat-induced flood could possibly be one of them! The whole situation seemed so improbable, and I became increasingly puzzled by its bizarre details (like who knew there even are brownstones in Phoenix?). Like a digital Secret Agent Cody Banks, I found myself scouring the internet for clues that would help me understand how and why this disaster had unfolded, and to this day I find myself unsure about what exactly went down.
On Instagram, Muniz’s girlfriend offered a glimpse of the extensive damage to the house, explaining that it would have to be totally gutted and reconstructed to reduce the risk of mold. But how it is even possible for one sink to flood a house so completely, soaking through four entire stories and dousing the walls? Though I admittedly don’t know much about plumbing, it seems like even if the water was left on for days most of it would have just washed down the drain. Was this just the most powerful faucet of all time? Or was something seriously gumming up the works in Muniz’s pipes?
Also, was nobody checking in on the cat while Muniz and his girlfriend were on this trip? Frankie tweeted that they were heading to France on November 8. Was their pet really left at home for a full week alone? I know cats are notoriously self-sufficient, but you’d think they’d have asked someone to at least peek their head in to make sure the poor little guy had food during that time. Perhaps the alleged faucet bump had happened after the cat sitter made his rounds? Or maybe this was all a cry for help from a desperate, abandoned feline.
Following the flood, a few media outlets theorized that Muniz’s black-and-white-spotted cat, Jeri — who had recently made an appearance on his Instagram — was the culprit. Muniz soon clarified that the culprit was actually his wiry-haired gray cat, Zzyzx. But although Zzyzx certainly looks like a troublemaker, it still remains unclear how Muniz determined he was at fault. Had Zzyzx exhibited similarly extreme misbehavior in the past? Or did they have cat cams set up to monitor the pets? If that were the case, wouldn’t they have noticed the faucet problem sooner? I don’t want to go so far as to suggest that this could be a cover up for one of the humans in the house failing to shut the faucet off, but … the mind does wander.
Which leaves me with my last big question: How did Muniz and Zzyzx move past this? Did Muniz discipline the cat, or did he figure suffering through the flood had been enough to teach Zzyzx a lesson? Is there some kind of human-cat therapy you can enroll in to help you work through your feelings after your pet completely obliterates your life?
Whatever the case, two weeks after the Great Cat Flood, Muniz posted a photo of himself holding Zzyzx to Instagram, suggesting the two made up. As for Muniz, the disaster seems to have been a kind of life-affirming moment for him — apparently, losing all his stuff inspired him to propose to his girlfriend and fulfill his dream of traveling the world in an RV. “We love the cats,” explains Muniz in an emotional vlog from July 2019 entitled “We Lost Our House But Gained Our Lives.” “Even though they’ve kind of put us in a tough situation with our house, I feel like they’ve also opened up the door for us to have this adventure.”
Now, one year of traveling and one wedding later, the couple seems to have returned to their life of slinging expensive olive oil in Arizona. Meanwhile, I continue to escape from our increasingly fraught reality by scrolling through Frankie’s tweets about eating peanut butter and picking his scabs. Though I guess as long as that criminal mastermind Zzyzx is around, my happy place will never be totally safe.
“Another day, another shitshow,” Muniz tweeted in January. “Goddamn cat.”