Thursday, November 22, 2012

Knowing Pierre



The knocking at the door came in two vigorous waves that made my head hurt more.  (Was that possible?)  I decided not to ignore it.     I opened it, got a blast of cold air, and saw the screen door already opened by a serious, 20-something woman. 
“Hi.  You have a black cat, right?”
I nod. “Pierre.”
“Well,” she said.  “I didn’t hit Pierre.  He’s still in the road.  I knew he was yours so I stopped my car.”  She paused.  “I’m a friend of a woman you hired to look after your cats, so I knew it was yours.  She paused.  “He’s still sitting in the road.”
I wasn’t enjoying the cold air on my aching bones.  Day three of the flu and all that.
“Are you going to go get him out of the road?”  she asked.  
I nodded.  I wanted to close the door and go lay back down.
My nod wasn’t enough, strangely.  So I added, “I’ll call Pierre.  He’ll come.”
She shifted on some very long legs.  “He’s still in the road.” 
I thought, ‘How can she know that?’  
I thanked her and added that he usually doesn’t sit in the road.  “I’ll call him.”
The young woman said, “You want me to get him out of the road?  I’ll do that.  Like I said, I used to come here with my friend when you were gone.”
I doubted that he would come to her.  “Look.  I’ve got the flu.  I really need to get out of the draft.  Thanks for your concern.  I’ll call Pierre.  He usually comes for me.”
“I’ll get him out of the road,” she said.  
   “Okay.  Look, I really need to close the door.  Thanks.”
Later, I learned that despite the flu, I needed to go to work and deliver the motor carrier route for the newspaper I used to have my journalism seniors critically analyze at the local college--the one that brought me up for early renewal for being a whistle-blower, a lefty.  Such is life.
I got cleaned up, gathered laundry, and headed to the car.  
  Just before the gate was a litter box filled with Pierre,  I saw a grotesquely mangled left eye socket.  I looked away.
It had been instant, I guessed.  Pierre maybejust sat down when he was over and bled out for every one to see.  Right in the middle of the double yellow line. I didn’t see the blood as I headed down the hill to the laundromat and the health food store.  I returned at dark to get some sleep before work at midnight so I missed it then, too.
At work I bitched about how the driver’s union’s being busted and nobody cares.  "And that’s why I have to work while I’m shitting my pants with the flu."  “I’ve got the clap!” another driver joked.  And off we all went to deliver something looking more like a Fingerhut mailer than a newspaper.
  I could barely make it back home.  I was falling asleep at the wheel so I slept a couple hours before coming home well after sun-up.
That’s when I noticed Pierre’s blood coloring the yellow line.  It’s 45 mph in front of my house but gawkers slowed, it seemed to watch me wail at the sight of his blood.  I fed the chickens. 
              I picked up an errant hen to bring back to her ‘older bird’ pen in the backyard and there, in the dying White Pine tree was an incredible array of songbirds--all types: Cardinals; Bluejays, Nuthatches, Titmouses; Sparrows; Mourning Doves; Chickadees, and others I cannot identify.
I got this message:  ‘He suffered.  You suffer.  We suffered too. Feed us this winter.’ 
  Pierre was an intrepid hunter. 
He was feral when I trapped him at my sister’s porch in Towanda, PA.  Deb had already sort of trapped his brother by putting her hands on him inside his little padded kitty house.  “Lisa--can you get him from the outside.  He’s got a claw in my hand.”  It took four hands to get Pierre’s brother, Buttercup, into the front parlor.
                I was already in the middle of wrapping a dryer-warmed comforter around a have a heart cage.  Next step was to carefully slide the open can of cat food into it without triggering it.  I had just closed the front door on a soon-to-be 10 below night when my sister called down: “Don’t bother setting out the trap.”  I heard the trap snap shut and saw it wiggle with a protesting Pierre inside.  “Too late.”  I said.  And so Pierre spent the night before his neutering caged in Deb’s front parlor. 
  Straight out of the vet’s neutering regime, he hit the road with me and my elderly cat, Louis.  
  We drove 18 hours straight in a blizzard back to Illinois.  
  He was not too hard to tame.  Or was he?  I needed to make sure he would use the litter box.  Into a large dog cage he went.  Bed.  Litter box.  Food and water dishes.  Exercise space. A toy.   Louis, my other cat and I walked around him and ‘visited him’ in the hallway by the bathroom.  I picked him up and held him, then wrestled him back into the cage.   No problem.
He was a long haired, black cat.  Very affectionate.  He quickly wanted to join Louis and me.   He signalled this by taking an incredibly smelly crap in the wee hours one night.  Then he began throwing his feces out of the cage.  Time to transition to the bathroom!
  I believe that lasted for one day.  
  He escaped.
          He did not like sharing me with Louis, an orange and white angora.   He wasn’t brutal with Louis.  But he engaged in a sort of psychological warfare.  Pierre liked the high ground.  A filing cabinet was the right height from which to pounce in front of Louis.  Then he’d bounce three feet in the air as Louis cowered and LAND with all four feet surrounding him.  Louis screamed in fear.  
  I developed a ‘time out for Pierre’ spot on top of a table.  That's where the dog cage went.
  He would scream to be let out of the dog cage.  
  That didn’t work. 
  The first time Pierre got outside, he stood, like King Kong, on top of the one story I was renting.  Squirrels were screaming their outrage as he sized up the trees he would mount near the house. 
18 squirrels in 9 months.  That has to be a record for cat predation of local wildlife.  I hit the roof about the birds, though.  Into the dog cage for ‘time out’.  2 cardinals.  8 Robins.
When I moved back to Upstate, I kept him inside for a year.  He watched the doings in the relatively wild back yard.  Fishers.  Foxes.  Bunnies (few of those).  Squirrel.  Turkey.  He showed little desire to go outside.   But any pile of papers was spread around the house.  If he could find the time, he’d shred them.  He loved to shred and tear paper.  The next summer, I could barely keep him inside. 
  Louis got old and died. I got a dog.
           First, I ‘tried Spencer out’ to see that he was okay with Pierre and Louis'  new, ‘half cat’ replacement, Rosalind.  The dog is a big boy--a Belgian Mallanoire Shepard.   Rosalind instantly loved Spencer.  “She saw an ally,”  my sister said.  That was true.  Pierre sensed this.   Pierre had plans. 
I had to travel for a month to shoot some video for a friend’s documentary.   So Spencer went back to the rescue place.  Upon my return, I reminded Pierre that Spencer would soon join us.  He glowered, but then quickly purred.  Pierre remembered his plans.
The first meal Spencer enjoyed, Pierre struck.  He put his entire body over Spencer’s bowl.  Spencer growled, then grabbed Pierre by the neck and flung him across the room.   I chastised Spencer.  Ordered him to go outside.  Destroyed his security, I quickly realized.   Entirely what Pierre wanted.  Yet, Pierre would carefully cuddle up to Spencer and the two would sleep.  Pierre easily.  Spencer--not so easily. 
I was usually careful to feed him and get him inside ‘the cat room’ during the dangerous driver time.  I was sick this week.  Pierre was very attentive.  Very affectionate.  He hated my new, overnight driving job as it ate into our snuggle time.  His legs were rather monkey-esque.  He could use them to hug me, it seemed. 
This week, Pierre was pissed off at me for not having the ‘right’ food ready.  (Can a cat stomp?)  He ran outside after morning nibbles.  I’d promised better food and shut the door behind him.
I didn’t think he’d go into the road.  
Let alone sit down in it after being struck by some driver who did not stop.  Pierre OCCUPIED East Street.
  I need  to thank the young woman who took Pierre out of the road. 
  When I worked in t.v. news in the Southwest, I used to carry newspaper in my bag to remove people’s pets off the road.  The videographers who didn’t mind this obsession were among my favorites to work with.   Perhaps I built some cat-removal-from-road karma.
I don’t know the name of the woman who performed this service for me.  She even tried telling me about Pierre’s demise.  
  She knew him.  
  Loved him.  
  The songbirds also knew Pierre.  
              Let the healing begin.
    

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