Monday, July 25, 2011

Are Nine Lives Enough? (Updated)

Monday July 25, 2011
9:30 pm

It's that in-between time of night. It's past dusk, but the sky is not yet completely envelopped by darkness. We trudge outside for a quick check on the horses, even though they're turned out for the night. Dave's in flip flops, and I'm in my winter-lined rubber boots-- because they're easy to pull on in a hurry.

We step out the front door with Muscade in toe. Within seconds, we hear the jackel-like cries. A pack of coyotes is yipping, and shrieking nearby. The bone-chilling sound is coming from somewhere down the hill-- though it's difficult to distinguish exactly where, and how far away (though definitely not far at all). Whenever I hear them like this, I always assume they've made a fresh kill and that they're gleefully tearing apart their prey.

I yell at Muscade to follow me "now!", and I practically shove her back in through the front door of the house. Meanwhile, Dave kneels in the driveway, coaxing the always timid Lilly out from under the car. As soon as she's within reach, he scoops her up in his arms, and we drop her off in the house as well. And then the high pitched cries stop. They stop suddenly, as though someone has muted the volume on their awful voices. We stand stock-still. We hear the distant barking of the fssive white-haired dog who guards the goat-farm down the hill. The farm is only a kilometre away, and the reassuring voice of the dog sounds much, much further off that that of the coyotes. When the coyotes fail to re-start their discussion, we stop holding our breaths, and head out to the pastures to check on the horses.

The horses have their noses buried deep within the dew-covered blades of grass. They're so intent on their eating, that they barely acknowledge our presence. But as we turn off the lights, my heart sinks. All the animals are accounted for-- except one. Zorro is nowhere to be seen. Normally, I would barely register his late-evening absence, but in the wake of what we just heard, I'm worried, and so is Dave. I start calling Zorro's name, and Dave goes back into the house in search of a flashlight. When he finally finds one (and replaces the dead batteries), we walk down the driveway, peering across the road into the black fields in search of glowing, green eyes. Nothing.

We change course and walk the length of our largest pasture, but the flashlight illuminates only weeds, and the large mounds of dirt which will soon cover the pipes leading away from our new septic tanks. We walk out to the garden, but find only undersized rainbow chard, and lush green potato plants. Still no Zorro.

We check the barn again, and Dave even climbs into the hayloft to see whether our tuxedo-cat may be in the midst of a particularily good nap on a sweet-smelling bale of our newest hay. He's not there. At my insistance, we get in the car and drive down the road. I open my window and call his name. At the corner, we turn around and drive back. Part of me is sure Zorro will be in the driveway when we pull in. But he's not.

If Zorro were around he would have found us by now. We call off the search for the night. As we resignedly re-enter the house, we pause in the mudroom to hug and hold Lilly. She squirms and struggles to get free-- to run out the front door. But we're not taking any chances. Tonight, Lilly's an indoor cat. All we can do for Zorro though is hope and pray that he's out hunting-- huddled in the grass somewhere, his body bunched, and ready to pounce. I hope against hope that he'll turn up on our doorstep in the morning, begging for his breakfast.

Tuesday July 26, 2011
1:30 am

I wake up as Dave peels back the blankets and gets up out of bed.
"What are you doing?" I ask groggily, though I already know why he can't sleep.
"It's hot," he says.
"Sure," I respond.

Then we hear it. It's not a pack of coyotes this time, it's a lone animal howling. Again, the goat-guard-dog down the road barks a response, but again the coyote sounds much closer. It sounds as though it could be in the bottom of our field.

Dave pulls on shorts and shoes as the coyote howls again. Then, I hear the door chime as he heads out into the night with a flashlight. He wonders around the property until swooping bats send him back inside. Still, no sign of Zorro. That's unusual. He does occasionally seem to roam, but he rarely disappears for more than an hour or so.

Dave crawls back into bed. "What if Zorro's not there in the morning?" I ask.
"He'll be there," says Dave, but I can tell he doesn't mean it. There's much tossing and turning before either of us falls back into a fitful sleep.


Dave's alarm wakes us both. Normally, he would hit the snooze button for another 20 minutes before crawling sleepily out of bed; but despite the restless night, he's on his feet right away. I hear him walking through the house-- from window to window. Normally Zorro has a sixth sense about movement in the house. Normally he's at the picture window or the front door meowing the moment one of us is awake. A few minutes later I hear the shower spluttering and I know there's no sign of our lively little cat.


In the kitchen, Dave is pouring cereal, and putting his lunch together.
It's my day off, so I try to doze a bit longer before heading out to the barn to feed the horses. If Zorro's not around by then, I'll know his fate. He never misses a meal.

Then, the sound of a spoon scraping against a cereal bowl stops, and moments later I hear the front door chime. Moments later, I hear Dave walking toward the bedroom. I'm hoping against hope for good news, but I don't expect any. Suddenly, I feel a thud against my side and I open my eyes to see Zorro scrambling across the covers. I look up at Dave and he's smiling. So am I.

Dave: "I truely didn't think I'd see him again".
Me: "Me neither".
Dave: "I went around to all the windows this morning and there was no sign of him. After I got out of the shower, I checked again. When he wasn't there, I figured that was it. He's always up by the time I get out of the shower."
Me: "I know."

I grab Zorro behind the front legs and pull him close to me. He's unimpressed, but I don't care. I hold him tight for a few minutes, then Dave pulls him onto his lap and mauls him some more.

"That's it," I say, "from now on Zorro's an indoor cat." But we both know that will never be the case. As much as Zorro likes to sneak inside, he'd be miserable if he had to stay here all the time. However, I vow to force him into the house at night--every night.