evidence. At best, they would both have been gravely injured if not killed by the fall and carried away by coyotes, or scavenged by birds. In either case, there’d be some fur or blood at the scene. When I arrive home, Jen and I dance around this gruesome possibility while within earshot of Max, our four-year-old who seems confident that “the kits” will return soon.
Finally, a clue surfaces: an open window with a loose screen close to the floor at the front of the house. Aha! With hope revived, I call our neighbor, Penny, who also is a cat owner, and tell her to be on the lookout for any wide-eyed wonder-cats looking to sign up on her kitty roster. She’s predictably alarmed and breathlessly regales me with the tale of how the coyotes got two of hers. Thinking I at least have time to change my work clothes, maybe have a cup of tea, generally be home for a little while before mounting the search, I am caught unaware when Jen calls from the window:
“Tres! Penny’s out in the street looking for the cats!”
This actually means: “Tres! Our retired cat-lady neighbor is out there right now frantically searching for our cats making us look like heartless animal abusers while we sit here idly and do nothing!”
Not wanting to appear to be in league with the coyotes and birds of prey, I spring into action.
“C’mon Max, let’s go look for the kits.”
Max gamely hops-to, donning his leather bomber jacket, checkered Vans and a blond fleece-lined fishing hat. It appears that Penny
has this street covered, what with the yellow police-line tape and the orange safety cones she’s strategically stationed around a six-house perimeter. Since the National Guard is on alert for our street, I decide to get in the car and go a block over, knocking on doors. I get the feeling that Penny is thinking “How could they leave at a time like this!” as we drive away. No doubt compounding the appearance of my reckless ambivalence, I let Max forego the normal car-seat routine and just sit up front with me.
While we drive, I wonder how best to break it to Max that the cats may never come home.
“You know, son, we might not find the kits.”
“I know, dad. I’m worried about them.”
“Me too, son. Where do you think they could be?”
“I think they went to England.”
It’s a solid theory. A deep respect for royalty is ingrained in the British national character. Not so much here in Arizona. Ivy Cat and Reginald T. Cat (who also goes by Citizen Cat) are often displeased by our family’s American indifference to their obvious rank and breeding. At a minimum, they are the Duke and Duchess of Something and expect to be treated accordingly if not better. Also, the Brits have a single-payer healthcare system which can come in handy when you’re an exiled illegal-immigrant cat on the lam from an obsessed retired lady and a regicidal American host-family. It’s not like here in the US where they ship you off to Guatemala at the first sign of being injured-while-undocumented.
We arrive at the first house and knock on the door. The middle-aged woman is on her cell phone. She regards me more kindly once she sees that I have an oddly-dressed preschooler with me.
“(hold on Stacey, there’s someone at the door) Yes?”
“We live down the hill from you and we’ve lost a pair of kitties. You haven’t seen them by chance?”
“No, but I’ll call you if I do. Leave a message on my answering machine with your number.”
She gives me her home number and continues her conversation. While we walk across the street to the next house, I call and leave a message on her machine with my name, number and predicament.
A very old woman in an apron answers the next door we knock on. I explain our plight to her and she looks doubtful.
“The coyotes…” she says in a thick German accent.
“Yes, I know. That’s why we’re trying to find them while it’s still light.”
She regards Max with interest and asks his name.
“I’m Max. I’m four years old.”
“Max! I can say that!” she says, implying with her pleased expression that “Max” is a good Germanic name and reminds her of the Homeland. She asks the names of the cats.
“Ivy Cat and Reginald T. Cat. Sometimes he’s Citizen,” replies Max. She seems confused by the non-Germanness of this response.
“Well, I’ll let you know if I see them. Shall I take your number?”
While she fetches the pen and paper that it now occurs to me I should have brought, Max observes:
“This is like trick-or-treating for cats, only no costumes. Costumes are very important when you’re trick-or-treating,” and I take his meaning: If only I were dressed as Obi Wan Kenobi, and he as Darth Vader, we’d probably have found the cats by now.
So it goes, house after house, until twilight falls. The entire time, I’m amazed at how unfazed Max seems to be at the prospect of losing the cats forever. Maybe that American indifference isn’t so bad after all? Eventually, of course, Ivy Cat peeks her little head over the porch and mews. The Duke and Duchess of Dander have been holding court under the front deck about 10 feet from the culprit loose-screened window. I lure them out with a feast fit for an Earl, pick them up by the scruff, and bring them in. As I call Penny to let her know she can call off the police chopper, I think to myself: the coyotes will have to go hungry tonight.