Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Legend of Zorro-- Chapter 2 The First Night

I felt the need to get a barn cat because the strays which had been hanging around the property seemed to abandon us over the summer. But at least one of them reappeared the night we got Zorro.

August 24th, 7pm
I debate about what to do with Zorro that first night. I don't want to give him free rein on the property just yet (I worry he might take off and never be seen or heard from again), but I don't want to keep him locked in the cage (how would he "do his business")? I consider bringing him into the mudroom at the house, but that might leave him with the impression that the house is his home (which it is not). In the end, I take my chances by letting him loose in the tackroom.

The problem with the tackroom is that it's really just a stall. A stall with walls that reach only partway to the ceiling. It wouldn't take much exploring for a savvy, curious cat to figure out how to get out. And once in the main barn, there are cat-doors and open stall doors that lead to freedom. I take the risk though, and loose much sleep because of it.

I turn Zorro loose on the world at about 7pm. By 8pm, he is nowhere to be seen. I search the barn while shaking a small bag of cat treats and calling his name. Nothing. I wander the property, still shake, shake, shaking the treats-- again, nothing. Tears well up in my eyes. I promised a little girl I'd take good care of her cat, and after just a few hours I've already lost him.

A few minutes pass and I check the barn again. The horses are out, so the barn is still and quiet. Then, I hear it. It's a kind of faint shuffling coming from the hayloft. Moments later, a meowing, dust and cobweb covered, black and white face peeks down from the tiny ventilation space between the barn ceiling and the walls of the hayloft. Jubilation!

He meows and squirms and stretches a paw down toward me. But he can't seem to figure out how to get down. Dave gets a ladder I stand on the highest rung, reaching with one arm to pull the cat toward safety. Zorro is of two minds. He seems to want down, but everytime I get my hands around him, he digs his claws into the wood, anchoring himself in place.

Finally I send Dave up the ladder instead (he's taller). Eventually, with me holding the ladder, he pries Zorro's claws from the rafters and a squirming, frightened cat tumbles down into my arms.

I hug him and feed him and pat him as he purrs and rubs against my legs. Reassured, (and fed), his curiosity takes over, and before we can blink he jumps onto the 4 foot high door and out into the barn.

He's skittish and nervous, but intent on exploring every corner. We leave him for the night. Or so we think.

With our heads barely nestled into our pillows, we're suddenly jolted upright by the banshee-like, high-pitch screams of fighting cats. My first thought is that Tomlin (the tough, scrapy, ugly, street-smart Tom cat) is back and is showing my poor, inexperienced, urban indoor cat what it takes to live life in the sticks. I run outside toward the barn and yell, but I don't see any cats. I check the barn and shake the treat bag again. I walk the dark path toward the riding ring calling his name. But Zorro has disappeared and hasn't carved any Z's in the walls or on the ground to help me find him.

I go back to bed, but I don't sleep. I worry that he's lying somewhere outside, alone, frightened, and bleeding. I toss and turn and worry for hours, thinking that I should have brought him to the house. At 3:30 in the morning, Dave and I jerk upright in bed again. It's that same, spine-chilling, snarling, cat-fighting sound. I throw on a sweater and my crocs and tear outside to the barn. I get there just in time to see Lilly dash out of the tackroom (where I had left full dishes of cat-food for Zorro).

Lilly? I have seen Tomlin around from time to time, but I haven't seen Lilly in over a month. I assumed that she had taken up residents at one of the farms down the road-- which is probably where she came from to begin with. Now I wonder whether she's been here all along, to shy to show herself when we're around. Right now though, I don't care. She has clearly frightened my poor Zorro (who's cowering in the rafters with a small scratch on his nose), and I'm not in a forgiving mood. I chase her outside.

I climb up on the ladder again, but I can't reach Zorro. At least I know he's here and he's alive. In the morning I'll work on getting him down.

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