The moment is at 5:41 a.m. It’s not yet daylight. My housemate Lulu is licking my hand. I’m not usually awake at this hour and neither is my dog.
But there’s a loud and steady “Meowww” drifting into my bedroom windows and Lulu wants at it. I don’t have any cats. But my next door neighbor does. Could it be that Scout has somehow gotten out? This strikes me as odd; my neighbor is a very responsible pet parent.
I put on some slippers and head to the backyard. Lulu’s right behind me. I don’t let her out because I don’t know what I’m going to find – an injured feline? – and I don’t want Lulu “helping.” I’m wondering what I’m going to do if the cat’s in my yard, stuck in a tree, hurt in some way. I’m not a cat person and I’m allergic and what the heck do I know about tending to an injured animal? I’m envisioning long scratches on my arms.
I can’t quite tell which direction the sound is coming from. Noises bounce off of fences and confuse the brain. Especially at o’dark-something in the morning.
Through the slots in my fence along my back property line, I can see the arc of a flashlight’s approach along the culvert that separates the line of houses behind my own. “Can you see the cat?” I ask, loud enough for the person to hear me, but not so loud as to wake anyone else up. Although at this point, I’m thinking all my neighbors have been victims of this unusual alarm clock.
“No.” A male voice answers. The meowing continues.
“I think it’s coming from my neighbor’s yard. I’ll try calling her.” I get her voicemail.
I turn on the flashlight on my phone and point it towards my neighbor’s house. Over my side fence I can really only see her roof. But there they are, two little yellow dots staring back at me. The roof is dark, the sky is dark, the cat is dark. All I can see are his eyes. On the roof. NOW what?
I head out my front door, making sure Lulu doesn’t skooch out. I meet the guy with the flashlight, who lives behind my neighbor’s house, the proud pet parent of Noodle. Noodle on the roof.
We shake hands and introduce ourselves. Him in his white t-shirt and exercise shorts and bald head. Me in my night shirt that says “I Need Coffee.” Yeah, no shit.
“I have a ladder that will reach,” I tell him as we walk together to my neighbor’s. She’s a morning person. I used to walk to Starbucks with her on a regular basis to get our morning mocha and latte, and she’d be up by 6:00, no problem. Besides, if there’s a cat in distress, she’ll want to help. She’s a retired cop. Coming to the aid of creatures in distress is in her blood.
Soon all three of us are in her backyard, settling a ladder against the back of her house. Noodle keeps meowing and approaches the edge of the roof just beyond his owner’s reach. It’s been my experience that cats will fuck with you like that. He finally gets Noodle by the scruff of his neck and releases him to the ground. The meowing stops and Noodle is up over the fence and headed home before we can congratulate each other on a job well done.
Just another moment in the ‘hood. It’s very satisfying to know we take care of each other. And each other’s Noodles.