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Monday, January 9, 2012

Midnight and Beyond

     Midnight, like most pampered house cats, had the life of royalty with nothing more to want—or so we thought. The children in our home had named him “Midnight” because this little ball of jet black fur just looked like a “Midnight” to us. However, to my mother, the cute little black fuzzball was “Pretty Boy.” Can you guess to which name he would respond most? And, this was the way it was even in his adult life. We still called him “Midnight” unless we really wanted him to pay attention to the call and then we were astute enough to know that it was no use ignoring his preferred handle.
     “Mom, I cannot find Midnight anywhere,” I said. “Do you have any idea where he might be hiding?” There were only a certain number of places he could hide because our tiny house was less than 900 square feet in size. The large double-car garage had not been built yet. Midnight had only two bedrooms, one bathroom, a small kitchen and utility room, as well as the furnishings of one large rectangular open area used for living room and dining room available to him. Being still in the single-digit age I was small enough to sweep my arm under all the furniture and cupboard bottoms to see if he was hiding under them but he was getting too big to fit in many of those places anyway. Mom had all of the drawers and doors of any storage structures tightly closed at all times so none of those was a likely possibility either. His thick black fur made hiding in the hedges or bushes outside something he would not have liked so, if he was hiding anywhere at 524 Elm Avenue, it would be in the house.
     “Maybe he has gone visiting,” mother suggested, “he will, no doubt, be home when he is hungry.” None of our friends had a cat so it was a bit puzzling just where he might have gone visiting. I waited for his return. Since his food was put out for him to consume at whatever particular time of the day he should choose to do so, I kept an eye on the dish, checking from time to time to see if any had been nibbled. No evidence of Midnight’s return. Hours passed and then my mother, also, began to wonder what had happened to the usually close-to-home feline member of the family.
     “Pretty Boy, Pretty Boy, where are you?” Come home my Pretty Boy.” Mom’s voice had this higher pitch when she was calling the cat than when she was calling us and she tended to repeat her call more for him, too. Still, no Pretty Boy.
     When night fell and Midnight had not come home, even my mother began to get worried. He was a tom cat but did like to be inside the house once it was dark. His food had not been touched all day either. Where could he be? Of course we were thinking of the worst, while Mom was trying to think of the not-so-bad possibilities for his absence in the family living room that evening.
     “He’ll be home tomorrow. He might have found a new friend and is sleeping over. Probably the friend shared her food with him so don’t worry.” (Note: We might have had grandparents who ran a ranch but we little kids had not yet heard about the birds and the bees—or, in this case, the boy cats and the girl cats—and how things could have gone for Midnight.) We were wracking our little brains to figure out where he might have found a friend!
     With the passing of each day, our fears that he had been hit by a car or grabbed for the menacing pleasure of bullies grew. Still, Mom called for her Pretty Boy off and on during daylight hours. I looked, in vain, everywhere in the neighborhood. It seemed pretty grim to us all.
    Days turned into weeks. Weeks became months with not one single clue what had happened to our beloved Midnight Pretty Boy. Why would he have wondered off? Had something awful happened to him? Should we have played with him more?  Yes, we knew that the song said “God’s eye is on the sparrow” but we just hoped Midnight’s paw was not knocking the bird into his waiting chops when God was looking!
     And, then, the phone call that we had never expected in a million years…!

****Midnight and Beyond, Scene 2… Coming Tomorrow

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