Our sprightly orange cat, George, turned up with a hurt paw yesterday. He protested when Andy and I examined the issue. It appears to be a small cut in the pad of his back right paw that causes him to not use that leg at all. He doesn’t seem all that bothered by it unless you point it out and then he is a angsty tween.
Andy left town this morning. He is gone for the week, wiring a cabin in the middle of nowhere without phone service. Margot was still asleep as he left before sunrise this morning. Dada one more hug and kiss! Ruby asked again and again as he knocked random food into a bag that he placed next to a small, ratty backpack of clothes.
We watched him pull away as George hopped across the kitchen. Oatmeal rumbled on the stove, espresso hissed, Margot woke up. I told the girls that George needed to stay inside today so his cut could heal up. I had tried to quarantine him in the garage while we did our morning animal in-out shuffle but his meowing was sad and Ruby had finally declared, “Mama, I am pretty sure George is freaking out.” So we let dude come in.
He waited for the right opportunity to make his escape. This took about seven minutes when, exactly as he predicted, one of my small children opened a door and forgot to shut it.
We didn’t see him for the rest of the day, which is really unusual. He’s a roamer but checks in. I thought about Olive a lot. I didn’t say anything to the kids until after dinner when I simply asked them if they’d seen George all day. They hadn’t, they said. I must have looked how I felt because Margot said, “I think he’s ok, mama. I think he’s just hoppin’ around the hill having a great night.”
The sun was settling behind the mountains and I looked at my pj-clad kids and asked them to put on their hiking shoes. Andy wasn’t there to stay with them so if I was going, they were too. “Let just go up there a little ways and see if we see George,” I said.
Margot and Ruby confessed they felt worried which deepened my worry because kids don’t just say they feel worry unless it is worrisome. The three of us (plus our canine bff of course) ascended through the whispering grass, under the barbed wire and we all turned right. I took notice of that. There was no talk of going straight or left. We all steered north.
Margot started running down the trail with Alice. Ruby walked with me. Margot stopped and waited for us to catch up. She said he was there. We were a good haul from our home and it was very unlikely he’d be up that far. I felt guilty for not keeping our injured pet inside and I felt silly for elevating my kids’ emotions right before bed. We stood there and listened to the creek, the symphony of birds and crickets.
Margot and I darted our full moon eyeballs at each other. “Did you hear that?” I asked. “I did!” And she started climbing straight up a steep embankment toward a ponderosa pine. “He’s up here! I know it!”
Her tiny feet scrambled over loose rock. I urged her down. I’ve heard 11 million meows since Olive went missing. I imagine them all the time. I hear her in my garden, when I’m showering, on runs, while I sew. Everything sounds like a faint meow when you want it to.
We stood as still as we could, closed our eyes and listened. The air was cooling quickly, the loud din of birds and bugs made it seem impossible we’d heard George.
It was faint and struggling and really hard to understand the direction. Again Margot insisted he was up the steep mountainside by the ponderosa. Ruby still wasn’t hearing it but started calling Georgie! Georgie! Come here boy! and making kissy noises. I thought he must be closer to our home and I suggested we make our way back down.
“No. Mom. He’s up there.”
Margot was certain. So we stayed. Many minutes passed. The sun slipped out of sight and I questioned what we’d heard. I was now holding Ruby, her sleepy cheek on my shoulder.
There was no mistaking it that time. We all started yelling and calling and cheering, scanning the hill. Even Alice danced. The tall grass seed heads waved dramatically in the wind, like thousands of George cat tails. It was crazy-making. Where the hell was he?
Finally, we saw his furry body WAY up the hill, slowly making his way down. Right above that ponderosa pine, right above where Margot stopped. My girls started squealing and climbing on their hands and knees as Georgie waltzed and became more and more real. Margot sang I knew it George! I just knew it!
I scooped him up, we all purred into a group hug. And we made our way home.