I love my watching place. It’s well situated, with a view of pedestrian and vehicle traffic coming from all directions. Where is this wonderful observation post? It’s on our next-door neighbour’s property. They rarely use their car, being the type of eco-conscious citizens that seem to flourish in this community, so it remains parked very conveniently in their driveway. Thus, I can quite easily spend an hour or so most mornings sitting in the shadow of the front tire. I can slip into position with very little fuss and observe passers by without being seen myself. What more could an attentive cat desire?
After eating a hearty breakfast, followed by my usual morning constitutional around the perimeter of our house, all my senses are alert. I settle under the car, paws folded neatly beneath me, and notice things. Mornings are much better for observing the action on my street. People are focused on starting the day, eyes on the future rather than the present. They tend to walk by quickly, as if they can’t wait to arrive at their destinations. Children run and skip, apparently excited to reach their places of learning. Dogs trot past, taking their providers for the first walk of the day. Even those drooling, intrusive creatures rarely notice me lurking in the shadow of the wheel. They are too busy examining the markings left by their compatriots on bushes and fire hydrants.
Humans are creatures of habit, but they have nothing on cats in that regard. Periwinkle lives in the house across the street from ours. (Yes, Periwinkle. Sigh!) Large and gingery with a fluffy tail that looks rather like a duster stick, she sidles across the street each day, headed straight for my own front garden. I’d object to this on principle, except all she does is check out the scents around the front gate and move on. She is far too lazy to jump the fence.
Then she proceeds in my direction and plops down on the front step of the house, not five feet from where I am sitting in the shadow of the wheel. This is infuriating because no cat likes to share space with another cat unless they know each other and have formed a friendly alliance. Periwinkle and I have no such happy agreement. However, since there is more bluster than substance to her cheeky behaviour, she moves off quickly at the sound of my warning growl.
This happens every day, fair weather or foul, so imagine my surprise this morning when the routine changed dramatically. Most of the usual crowd had passed by, including Miranda and Jacob (my providers). We have a most convenient cat flap in the back door, so I can slip back into the house when I’m ready for my first nap of the day. I was enjoying the sound of birds chattering in a very tall tree nearby and quite forgot to keep an eye out for Periwinkle. As I contemplated the idea of stalking one of those tempting feathered delicacies, a horrible sound erupted to my right.
A huge, black dog galloped past, barking furiously. I was so startled that I leapt up on all four paws and bumped my head on the car’s undercarriage. Retreating further into the shadows, I watched with horror as Periwinkle stood frozen to the spot on the opposite sidewalk, stunned at the approach of any cat’s worst nightmare. Then she turned and flew up the trunk of the nearest tree, narrowly escaping the slavering jaws of the monstrous canine. He leapt at the tree trunk, furious at losing his prey. A young male human ran up to the dog yelling, “Get back here, Damien!” He managed to grab some sort of chain around the dog’s neck and pulled hard. Amazingly, the dog squealed a little and submitted to being dragged back up the street again.
My heart settled down to its usual pace and I watched as Periwinkle’s provider ran out of her house and stood at the base of the tree, looking up. I could barely see the poor cat, who seemed to be swaddled in a nest of branches way, way up – almost at the top of the tree. Her somewhat frantic provider called out in that syrupy high voice that only cats and human infants seem to inspire. “Peri, baby – come down now. It’s safe.” “Peri” was having none of it and I heard a couple of pitiful “meows” float down through the branches. Of course, I understood what she was saying. “How did I get up here? Someone needs to save me!”
Other people started to gather at the base of the tree, trying to coax the terrified cat to “be a brave girl” and move down to the next branch. To her credit, Periwinkle did stir herself enough to try and edge downward, but she is an innately silly cat and couldn’t seem to figure out how to organize her paws in the right way. She returned to her little “nest”.
This went on for some time and I began to feel irritated. I got up, stretched and was about to head back to my own house for a nap, when I heard a pitiful mewling sound drifting down from on high. It was the feline equivalent of a quiet sob. Something came over me, and before I knew it, I was scrambling up the trunk of the tree next to Periwinkle’s. If you recall, I was born in the English countryside and am thus well acquainted with these types of endeavours.
I walked along a branch at about the same level as hers and caught her eye. Then I turned and jumped slowly from branch to branch, until I was halfway down my tree. Periwinkle watched closely. I climbed back up and repeated the whole process until my fellow feline got the idea that it wasn’t a death-defying stunt, but a rather simple procedure for any cat worth its salt. She got up, gathered her courage and copied what I was doing until we were both once more on terra firma.
Periwinkle’s provider enveloped her in a smothering embrace, and neighbours cooed and told her how brave she’d been. Having surprised myself with my own inexplicably altruistic behaviour, I headed quietly back to my house, where I indulged in a wee snack. And then, for the next few hours, I slept the sleep of the just.
I’m still not sure why I went to all that trouble for such an annoying cat. I’ll have to ponder that some more. In the meantime, I’ll be back behind the wheel again tomorrow.
Photo courtesy of Periwinkle’s provider, who e-mailed it to Miranda accompanied by many accolades for my own part in the rescue effort. I had to endure no end of hugs and sloppy kisses as a result. As I suspected all along, a good deed rarely goes unpunished.
Real Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/piper/27080789/