All's Well That Ends Well; or, The Cat Came Back
As I write this, Fletch is curled up on my lap, as is his wont whenever I try to fill that space with a laptop. This can be irritating when I'm trying to get work done, but today I'm going to let it slide.
Let's back up a couple days.
On Monday afternoon I left work early to get home ahead of the snow. You know, the BIG snow that was scheduled to bury New England with several feet of snow over a 36-hour period. I picked up some firewood and gathered up flashlights in case we lost power (we didn't), and I made sure the chickens had food and water to last a few days. I also checked the heat in the workshop and put some food and water out there for Fletch, figuring he'd be stuck out there for a day or so until we could shovel the path to the workshop. He followed me into the house and spent the afternoon curled up until we put him back outside after dinner Monday night.
And that was the last we saw of him.
Meanwhile, the blizzard was well underway when we woke up on Tuesday:
During the afternoon, Kirk went out to get a start on the driveway, since our snowblower is only 18 inches high. That's about how much snow we had at the halfway point of the storm:
It's hard to see in the photo, but the snow was still flying in a big way while he was out there doing the driveway and the path to the workshop.
Then he came inside and pulled me aside, voice low:
"Fletch isn't in the workshop."
Panic set in: the low, growly kind that sits in your stomach, patiently waiting for you to run out of plausible reasons to keep it at bay.
This was all the worse because we had to keep it quiet. We didn't want to worry the kids unnecessarily, because it felt pretty awful to be running a mental script full of lines like
Why would he leave the workshop in the snow? Where did he go? Did he get hit by a plow? Did he freeze to death? Did he dig himself a feral cat igloo to ride out the snow? Why would he do that when there's food and heat in the workshop? Did someone pick him up? Is he stuck somewhere?
And on and on, pacing and looking out the windows into the blinding snow that was piling up ever higher.
The adults quietly, secretly cried themselves to sleep, wracked with guilt and grief and the teasing impulse to hope he hadn't yet burned through all nine of his lives.
It snowed until 4 AM, leaving us with a good 2 1/2 feet and obliterating the paths we had shoveled in hopes that the cat would somehow make his way back to the house.
By early morning there was nothing left to do but dig out and use the time outside to plan how to tell the kids that their beloved Fletch was MIA. In a blizzard.
No sooner did I set aside my shovel and open the door, resigned to gather the kids for a devastating family meeting, when that cat sneaks up behind me to come inside.
No sheepish look. Not even a meow.
He just trotted in, like every day, and went to find Tiegan to help her with her homework.
And there was much rejoicing--so much that the cat crouched into a (slightly confused) defensive position. We also came clean to the kids, who of course were puzzled about why we were so glad to see Fletch this morning.
Kirk and Jonas ran off in search of tracks to try to figure out where he had been. The best they could figure was that he came back into the yard along the back fence, which means he could have been pretty much anywhere at all.
Also, this: he was perfectly warm when I picked him up outside (even on non-blizzard days, you can tell if he's been outside prowling for a little because his fur is cold). He wasn't even a little bit hungry. And he smells like someone else's perfume.
It would seem that he rode out the storm with a kind neighbor, and probably snuggled up with her for the duration.
It could be anyone, and I guess we'll never know whom to thank.
But we are very grateful. And curious about what other families and friends he's keeping on the side. And a little mad that he gave us such a scare when we pay perfectly good money to keep that workshop heated and comfortable for him.
But mostly grateful.