It was an average Monday evening. I was housesitting for a family friend, and I was tucked in on the couch with a pizza and an old movie. But then sun was starting to go down and one of the four cats I was in charge of had not come home yet, so I decided to pause Gregory Peck and perform a (literal) catcall. I knew I already had two inside, and the other two had come home quickly when I called on the first night, so I was sure I’d be able to find them, even if it took a little extra effort.
“Luuuuuna!” I called into the dusk.
I heard a cat meow and then saw her appear at the top of the fence. She ran to me and rubbed her head on my legs and then walked by me into the house to eat her dinner.
“Good,” I said, shutting the door behind me, “now I just need to find your brother.”
A tip the family had left for me should I find that the cats weren’t coming in was to shake the container of dry food while calling out to them. It was the cat equivalent of ringing the dinner bell. So, after a few calls of “Tuffy!” went unanswered, I went back in the house, grabbed the plastic container and returned outside to make my official evolution into a temporary cat lady.
*shake shake shake*
*shake shake shake*
I walked around the backyard, up the side yard by the trashcans, around the front yard, then back in through the backyard for a final lap. Just when I was about to give up and start officially submitting to a panic, I heard a small, “meow.” I looked back at the door to see if Luna was looking on from behind the glass, wondering why I was shaking the food and not giving it to her, like some sort of deranged Pavlov experiment gone wrong. Was it her that meowed? I made another call to Tuffy, this time taking steps away from the back door and towards to the fence outlining the yard.
The meow got louder.
I placed both hands on the wall and peered over—adding “apparent pervert” to my night’s resume—then let out a few more calls. Each “Tuffy” garnered a “meow”, but while I knew I was close, I still couldn’t see him. So, like any housesitter desperate to keep a cat alive so you don’t crush the spirit of the family, especially the 10-year-old girl who calls you her friend and has expressed more love for this cat than pretty much anything else, I called my mom.
I mostly just wanted moral support, as I was going into the thick of it now. Donned in sweats, a baggy t-shirt, still damp shower hair, and a makeup-less face, I was walking up and around the block to the house whose backyard bordered mine, and having seen the entire Taken series, I thought there was no harm in having my mom on the line, should the neighbor happened to be a crazed killer.
“Alright,” I told my mom, “I’m knocking now.”
From behind the door, I heard a voice say, “who’s there?” I considered answering, but I didn’t feel like I could give a clear picture of who I was and why I was there without using a lot of apologetic hand motions, so I waited for him to open the door.
“Hi,” I said as friendly as I could, knowing damn well I would have never answered the door if the roles were reversed. “So my friend and I are housesitting in the house, um, over there…around the block, and our backyard’s touch…yours and theirs…and I think their cat is stuck in your backyard.”
The man stood silently, his face slipping more and more into confusion, as he (most likely) awaited my explanation as to why any of this should matter to him.
“Sooooo,” I continued, “can I go into your backyard and see if the cat is back there?”
“Um, sure,” he said. I thanked him, then reported back to my mom in the receiver of the phone, explaining my EXACT location and the man’s appearance, giving her time to plan her rescue/revenge murder, should the need arise.
“Hold on!” the man said as I approached the gate to his backyard. He had already made his way outside by way of the house and was trying to get a leash on his dog so I could trespass freely. Thoughtful, I said to myself, knocking his murderer potential down to 78%.
I walked through the grass, over to the corner of the yard I’d been able to see from the other side of the wall. I called out to Tuffy and again heard the meow, this time distinctly higher than me. I let my eyes travel up a large, thin trunked tree, and there, about 30 feet up, was Tuffy, peering down at me with a look that said nothing short of, “it’s about damn time.”
I got an idea. I told the man I’d be right back, gave in to my mom’s kind offer to come help, then walked back out the side gate and around the block to my house.
Upon returning, I now had two reinforcements and the plastic container of food. But at this point the sun had made its descent below the horizon, making it hard to differentiate between Tuffy and a thick branch. So we all stood in the grass with our iPhone flashlights, calling out to this cat like it was a jumper on a ledge. My dad climbed up on top of the wall and began to shake the tree, hoping to at least jolt Tuffy up, and when that didn’t work, he started trying to lightly nudge him with a shovel.
“You’re okay,” we all said gently. Tuffy made a move to another branch and we cheered. At least he wasn’t stuck anymore. We continued to call him, but he stayed still. It was minute 40 by this point, and as our necks had just begun to acclimate to our constant looking up, we were met with something that immediately made us look down: sprinklers. Water began to shoot out in every direction, soaking my mom and I and stranding my dad on top of the wall.
“I’ll get those!” the man said, trying not to laugh.
After a few minutes, the sprinklers died down, and we all trudged across the damp lawn to look back up at the tree, where we found Tuffy, still sitting in the exact same spot.
“I think it might be time to call it,” my dad said. “He doesn’t appear to be stuck anymore and we might be scaring him more by all standing here watching. I say we head back and let him make his way down on his own time.”
Tuffy seemed to agree with this, as he began to shift almost immediately after my dad started climbing back down the wall. “Follow us!” I said as we walked out the gate, apologizing for the thousandth time to the man for essentially ruining his evening. Thankfully, he—and his wife who I met briefly when she came outside with a dog treat to try and coerce Tuffy—ended up being 0% murders and 100% great people, as they both wished us a good night.
When we made our way back around the block to our house, I could still see the couple shining flashlights up into the tree. Clearly they had become as invested as we were. I carried the plastic container of food back out to the bordering wall and shook it into the evening air like the most desperate tamobourinist ever.
Suddenly I heard an all too familiar meow, this time from behind me. I turned on my heel—which made a loud squeak, as my shoes were still soaked from the sprinklers—and found Tuffy making his triumphant march to the back door.
“YAYYY thank you!!” I shouted to a handful of parties including the neighboring couple, my parents, God and Tuffy himself. For now I would sleep easy, knowing that a) this cat was still alive b) it was no longer in a tree and c) it was (hopefully) slightly traumatized so that it wouldn’t return to the tree again (at least not while I was housesitting). My mom and I walked back into the house and I thanked her and my dad a thousand times over for coming to help. Then, as I’d been initially planning to do when I paused the movie, I went to the freezer to grab my pint of ice cream. Sure, the journey from my seat to the fridge had taken over an hour longer than I anticipated, but I’d finally made it, and now that all four cats were safely inside and 100% not dead, it made the ice cream all the more sweeter.
About the Author
Kimberlee Koehn is a writer based out of Los Angeles, CA and is extremely passionate about telling stories and spreading positivity. When she’s not writing, you can often find her reading, hiking, watching sports, and most likely talking to herself.
You can find her at kimberleek.com
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