When kitty doesn't show up for supper
Our girl cat, Lola, is enjoying her first spring on the planet. She's discovered that the yard is a great hunting ground. Over the past few weeks, we have found evidence of some of her exploits in the grass: little spreads of feathers, and even a squirrel's tail and feet. Everything else from the victims' bodies was gone, and our own "fur creature" seemed to have a smug look on her face.
Now, we didn't catch her in the act. It could have been her brother, Bill, who did the killing -- he was seen joining in on the squirrel lunch, and one time last year we watched as he actually snagged a hummingbird. But lately, our gut instinct (if you'll pardon the expression) has been that this was Lola's work.
Along with the occasional warm snack, the yard also provides heart-stopping danger at times. Just the other night, a neighbor's dog came charging at Lola while she was out in front of the house. She took off like a shot into some hiding spot or other in the back, and she wouldn't come out for hours -- even through dinner hour and our many calls for her at the door.
Now, it's always a worry when a cat doesn't show up at his or her food bowl on time. We have always been able to set our watches by our cats' hovering for food at (or a little before) meal time. When they're not begging for their grub, it means that something's wrong.
Lola eventually came inside for her vittles, but while she was gone, our memories drifted back to the night years ago when our prior man cat, the late and beloved Ralph, failed to appear as scheduled for supper. Ralph never missed a meal -- never -- and so when he wasn't around for chow, we knew he was in trouble.
And we were right. That evening, Pinky (as he was also known) used up one of his nine lives.
It was 5:00, then 6:00, then 7:00, and no sign of Ralph. We walked all around the block, calling him by all of his names, especially "Man." No answer. Very disturbing. He was around earlier in the day. Now, he was nowhere to be found.
Being a Jersey guy, I have a fairly dim view of human nature. I always think the worst at times like these. He must have been cat-napped. Handsome fellow that he was, maybe he was scooped up by someone who liked his looks. Heck, somebody had just swiped an empty recycling bin from our curb a short time before -- maybe they decided they'd like a cat, too.
The Mrs. had an alternate theory. We were in the midst of having some plumbing work done in our master bathroom, and to do it the workmen had to cut a hole in the wall. Maybe Ralphie had gone in there, and gotten himself walled in. The tile guy had just drywalled up the hole that afternoon.
It sounded like a dumb idea to me. But what the heck, we went over to the spot where the wall patch was still drying, and gave out a few of our favorite Ralph calls. No answer.
The Mrs. called the drywall guy on the phone. Was there any chance that our cat could have gone into the hole in the wall? No way, he said. The hole had been carefully covered when it was not being actively worked on, and it was not left open and unattended for more than a minute at a time.
That pretty much exhausted all our theories of where Pinky might be.
We were both in shock. Our human children had not arrived yet, and so our kitties were our kids. We used to hold them in our arms like babies, sing them lullabies, the whole works. Now Ralphie was gone.
After a glum evening, the Mrs. turned in, and I headed off to the den to think about what we were going to do next. All I could think of was flyers on telephone poles. And those hardly ever turn up anything, do they?
Lying in bed, the Mrs., who is not a highly religious person, started praying. She prayed to everyone she knew to pray to, especially her mom's mom. Prayed and cried.
After a while, something told her to go back to the wall where the plumbing hole had been. She did so, and resumed calling out to Man. After a few such calls, she heard what seemed like a faint response. It was Ralph! More calls, more responses.
"Honey!" she yelled out to me. "He's in the wall!"
"Get him out!" I yelled back.
The Mrs. tried cutting the hole back out with a pair of scissors or a screwdriver, but it wasn't working. "I'll get a hammer!" I cried. And I did.
I forget which one of us struck the first blow on that drywall, but pretty soon the hole was knocked back out, and there emerged the dirtiest cat either of us have ever seen, before or since.
Over 95 years or so, a house with the original wood siding leaves a lot of room in the walls for dirt and dust to settle in. When Ralphie came out, he had grime on him from 1915, along with some real estate formerly known as Mount Saint Helens. He was so flithy that we took the extreme step of placing him in the bathtub for a shower with the hand nozzle. He hated it, as always, but he was so shaken up that he let his "mom" do it.
After a thorough dousing and some gentle towel-drying, Pinky soon resumed his pampered life. He would still be our baby for a while longer. We'd still cradle him in our arms, snuggle him in bed, sing him songs.
And of course, like clockwork, twice a day, we'd meet him at the food bowls. He never missed it again.