Coming to Wesley Homes, Part 9

Smokey is Missing by Pat King, Wesley Homes Des Moines resident “Hi, Smokey. I’m home.” No furry body scampered across the floor to greet me. “Where are you?” I looked in both rooms, the bath, under the bed and behind the sofa. No Smokey. Could he have jumped to the ground from the fifth floor? No, there were no black splotches on the ground below. Maybe he jumped the barrier between the decks. That had to be it. I knocked on every door leading to our mutual decks. I barged in and begged to look at the owner’s deck in case Smokey was out there. Everyone was sympathetic, but no one had seen him. I checked the hallways and stairways, calling, “Smokey, Smokey.” Where could he be? At dinner, I asked to use the microphone. “My cat is missing. Has anyone seen a 12 pound, gray and black striped cat? He has a white bib and, oh yes, yellow eyes.” Of course, I was describing a world of alley cats. No one had seen him. My friends came to pick me up for a night out. “I can’t go. I can’t find Smokey,” I told them. Smokey was missing for two days. I went to the police department to report his absence. An officer asked me, “Did he have a collar and a license?” “Yes.” I was certain. “Was he wearing them?” “No.” Silly me. The officer took my name and warned, “This area is home to coyotes and raccoons. Missing cats don’t often turn up.” On day five, I went to the edge of the ravine behind Wesley Homes. “Smokey, Smokey, come here.” I was sure he’d come if he heard my voice, but no grey cat wiggled through the blackberry vines. “Dear, God, please keep him safe.” This was not an idle prayer. Smokey was a fighter, but without front claws he was ineffective. A whole week had passed when my brother Ralph invited, “Come to California for Thanksgiving. It will do you good not to worry.” I went, but I worried. At dinner in a restaurant, I could barely get my breath. My chest burned. My throat closed up. I gasped, “Ralph, I need a hospital. I’m having a heart attack.” But after a night in the hospital and a zillion tests, the doctor and I agreed: I was literally worried sick over my cat. On the twelfth day, a storm blew in off Puget Sound. Rain pelted the sidewalk. Temperatures dropped. Smokey hated cold and rain and wind. I walked and called. Where could he possibly be holed up? I listened for the faintest meow. Nothing. Now Smokey had been missing for 15 days. Everyone inquired about him. It seemed as though all the people at The Terrace were worried right along with me. I looked out the window and saw my neighbor, Molly, walking in the rain with a cat carrier, calling for him. Lisa, our Director of Resident Services, went out with her umbrella to look. She commiserated, “I know how badly you feel.” Even though she had keys to some of the campus doors, there was not a sign of him. As I was going to the library at dusk, I saw something white in the middle of the road.  A coyote. After 18 days of missing Smokey, I went away for a two day retreat, but I couldn’t concentrate. When I came back to my seat, after receiving Holy Communion, I pleaded, “Jesus, please send my cat home. I know lots of people have far worse problems than mine. Please forgive my selfish prayer.” I pulled into the 12-car carport at Wesley Homes and heard a bellowing “Meoooouuw!” There he was. Right above me, but there was a wire net above the carport to keep out the birds. I didn’t know how he’d gotten up there, and he sure didn’t know how to get out. The bellowing continued.  “Smokey, it’s me. Mommy.” I ran to find Security. “Come quick, my cat’s trapped.” With wanton disregard for Wesley property, Security Guy snapped a good size hole in the wire. Smokey wouldn’t move. “Please, Smokey. Come,” I called. He backed away. Security Guy said, “Go get some fish.” I burst in the back door of the kitchen. Zac was dishing up salmon. “I found my cat. He needs food.” Zac gave me a full serving. By now, Security Guy had brought a ladder. I climbed as high as I could go. Still Smokey wouldn’t come. I pushed the food toward the almost-crazed cat. Wait… Sniff. Sniff. What’s this? He started gobbling, and I grabbed him. Hanging onto Security Guy, I jumped off the ladder. Smokey, under my arm, continued bellowing. I opened the door to the Lower Level, and walked in. In the middle of a bellowing Meoooouuw!, there was silence. It was warm? It smelled right? It was safe? I didn’t know, but somehow Smokey knew he was home and the crying stopped. He was as thin as a handrail but totally clean, as if he had given himself three baths a day. And he was so hungry I think he would have eaten dog food. Where had he been? He hadn’t been in a fight. No scars or bleeding scratches. “Smokey, I wish you could tell me where you were.” Then he told me. He walked around a circle and said: Mew, mew, mew, mew, mew, mew, mew. Seven times. “Oh, I’m so glad with my whole heart that you are back. I missed you,” I told him with my heart full of relief. I missed you, too, Mom. That night he slept stretched across the top of my head. Thank you, holy God, that he is home. Next week: Kindness

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