Fernando was black from head to toe, still had all his claws and, while some thought the gouge in his ear meant that he'd had a run-in with another cat during a street fight, I thought it probably meant he'd had a run-in with a vet who'd had a swipe at his privates. Privates or not, he was all boy! ...and he was a talker. Every one of the neighbors in the apartment complex knew him. He'd talk all night. I slept with the bedroom door closed and a fan on so I didn't have to listen to him singing to the moon (or whoever it was).
And Crazilynn talked back to him. One day we were reading the latest Terry Pratchett novel in a sun beam on the couch and she came calling,
Looking down from the second story window (knowing she couldn't see I read in the same clothes I slept in) I answered,
"Oh. Hi. I was calling Fernando..."
"Well, Don't let me interrupt," and went back to Diskworld.
Crazilynn never actually met Fernando. Theirs was a relationship separated by the distance between my second floor apartment and the sidewalk. I've always been one who thought that "love your neighbor" was one thing, but having them in for a drink was another. Many a night I came home to find her standing below the window talking up to him. He had this look set aside just for her that was somewhere between fascination and "lady they have medication for people like you".
So, that Friday night I got home, grabbed some clothes for the weekend, fed Fernando and headed out. I wasn't so irresponsible as to leave him if I were gone for more than a day and a half. HotDiana had a key to my place and I had keys to hers. We watched each others' apartments when the other one traveled... we had an understanding and bedrooms were off limits (not that she could find a path through the clutter to snoop around mine even if she had wanted to).
Crazilynn passed me as I went to my car, grabbed her mail and headed to her own apartment. Out of the corner of her eye she saw the movement under the shrubs. Fernando. She dropped her mail and bags and tried to grab him, chased him for a while and finally cornered him, but by the time she scooped him up I was long gone.
With a black cat tucked under one arm she started throwing rocks up at HotDiana's windows.
"Fernando got out..."
"I got home and Fernando was out... ...must have snuck out when he left for the weekend."
"Yeah, we have to put him back in the apartment. You have a key. I just need you to open the door and I'll drop him inside."
"I have Fernando under my arm. Come down here and open the apartment and I will put him back."
Sure enough she came downstairs...
"That's not Fernando."
"Yes it is, he got out."
"No, it's not."
"He got out. We need to put him back."
"Are you sure?"
"What do mean am I sure?"
"How did he get out?"
"He snuck out... come on, I can't stand here all night with this cat under my arm."
And so HotDiana got the spare keys, opened both sets of locked doors and went up into my apartment.
"You wait here."
We were clear on two things: Bedrooms were off limits....and Crazilynn had earned her nickname.
She called him, but no one came.
"I have him here..." coming up the steps.
"Wait down there..."
She called him, but no one came.
"He got out. I had to catch him..." coming up the stairs.
"I'm calling him in case that ain't him. ...but he's not coming."
And so Crazilynn deposited the little black cat on the bottom step and HotDiana locked both sets of doors closing her in.
Saying that Sunday night came quickly is like saying that a week's vacation flew by or that summer arrived and departed on a single breeze. Sunday nights were my time to chat with Nancyboo and this was no exception. If you don't have a friend to regularly gab with about the week and review all those things in life that you always talk about, then, well, you're probably married.
"Blah, blah...", driving home.
"Blah, blah...", getting out of my car.
"Blah, blah...", grabbing my mail.
"Blah, blah...", letting myself in.
"Blah, blah... Hey, there's a cat in my apartment!"
"Yes, you have a cat."
"No, a little black cat."
"umm, Fernando is black..."
"NO! LISTEN to me. There is a different black cat in my apartment. This is not my cat."
"What do you mean?"
"Who would do this?"
"I gotta go. I'll call you when I figure out what's going on."
I stood there terrified. Frozen. She looked up at me and meowed.
And then he came around the corner... talking to me... and if it wasn't meows and growls it would have been something like, "I don't know who she is, but she's been here all weekend."
There was catnip everywhere... the catnip hidden in the bottom of my linen closet that had been closed.
There was no catfood out, but every lower cabinet door was open.
...and the pillows were off the couch...
First things first, I thought as I picked her up and dropped her outside thinking that someone would be very glad to have her come home after being gone for a few days...
Then I put some food out for Fernando.
Then I checked my messages.
"Hi. Crazilynn was throwing rocks at my windows to get my attention. She says that Fernando got out and she wants to put him back in your apartment. She has a black cat under her arm. How could he have gotten out? This is so weird. Call me."
"Hi, it's me again. Crazilynn and I put Fernando back. I was sure that it wasn't him, but I went up in your apartment and called for him and he never came. Please call me."
"Hi... When you left tonite you let Fernando out by accident. I caught him and put him back for you so he'll be there when you get home Sunday night. You need to be more careful. Good thing I'm watching out for you."
If I were hanging by my fingernails from the Empire State Building no one would hear me screaming, but let one off-kilter neighbor see a cat that she thinks might possibly be mine and suddenly a colony of felines know just how cozy my bed is when the sun comes through the window in the afternoon.