I had a near miss with an old screen over the weekend and thought I’d share this experience from years ago; read about the artwork above at the end of this article.
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I heard a siren, or was it the wind? I knew it was summer and my windows were open, but it was very early and I thought I’d better get up and close the windows if a storm was coming.
As I awoke I realized there were no cats with me at all though I lived with six and they always slept with me and impatiently milled around on the bed until I awoke, but not even immovable Moses was in her spot on the other pillow.
Wide awake, I leapt out of bed looking everywhere. That house was rather large and I had no idea where to look first because I had no idea where they might be. But I followed the now obvious sound of two cats wailing at each other and in the dining room found a window screen pushed out of place and Fawn timidly about to step outside. Through the window I could see Sally, who was deaf, out in the garden! I grabbed Fawn and slammed the window shut, then ran through the kitchen out the back door and grabbed Sally just as she saw me and was about to playfully run off.
Holding her as she struggled wildly I looked around and realized the yowling was coming from the front. I had to put Sally inside so I tossed her in the back door and ran around the side to find Stanley in a standoff with a huge tabby tomcat under the front porch. Stanley, sweet and loving, could be unpredictable in his temperament and he had actually bitten me about a year before that; set off like this I had no idea how he’d be, and I knew not to go near them or try to touch them.
I clapped my hands to distract them, yelled and stomped my feet threatening to run toward them knowing if the tom ran so would Stanley. They inched their way out from under the porch as I continued clapping and stomping and I guess the tom figured he could deal with the cats but not with the crazy human and took off, but I called Stanley as he gave chase and he stopped, content the intruder had left “his” domain. Stanley was still wild-eyed but I managed to talk him down and both scruff and cuddle him, and carry him back inside.
Back outside, I saw Allegro trotting along the railroad tracks at the bottom of the hill along our back yard. Down I went—summer nightie and bare feet—and though he ran, startled, I managed to follow him along the tracks and talk him into familiarity enough trust and let me cautiously approach him, touch him, and quickly pick him up.
In the house with him and all the others, I found Moses on a chair under the dining room table, and that left only Kublai. I fed them breakfast, knowing I couldn’t leave for work until I found him. The people I would be calling in to would understand this and after putting on some real clothes I went back outside, the sun now risen, and called and called for my heart cat, the leader of my household, and after about two hours he came trotting through my neighbor’s yard, talking to me, asking me what the problem was. I scooped him up and carried him inside, my household again intact.
He ate, then immediately returned to the window where the screen had been removed and began working along the bottom edge, stopping to look at me: “Don’t you see how easy this is?” It was a window I often used in spring to move my seedlings outside for the day and back inside at night. I could see he’d carefully watched my actions to lift and remove the screen, and it was old enough to be easy for him—just like the old door handles he could easily turn which I had replaced with ones where you had to push a button to make the handle turn.
I closed all the windows, went to work, and then set about adding a little hand-tightened thumb latch to all 12 windows in the house. I kept collars and tags on them, but there was no such thing as a microchip in those days. I tried not to think about what would have happened if I’d been gone for one of my 14-hour days or if formerly feral Moses had gotten out or timid Fawn, or even the braggadocius boys.
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“Boys at the Window”, 1998
At the top, it just so happens the two principals in this story are at the very window they escaped from that morning! Allegro reclines on my desk and Stanley on the windowsill, watching me work. Some things never change—today I have Sunshine and Bean sprawled on my desk now and Mimi on the windowsill, watching me work. This scene was from 1998, in the house I rented before I moved here, when I was still experimenting with drawing materials and styles and techniques. The reference photo was poorly exposed, a little blurry and they were silhouetted, but I liked the composition and did a little sketch from this photo as well as photos of each of them individually on “coquille board”, an illustration board covered with a tiny raised pattern that would capture a drawing material like colored pencil, creating a sort of halftone pattern. This was used far more often when line art was required for printing in black and white, but I still like textured boards for things like this. I’ve never published this image or the others so I thought I’d use it to illustrate this story since there is a connection, of sorts. I’ve also used coquille in my set of notecards from that era, “Kitties Being Kitties” and also mentioned its use in “The Artist’s Life: Early Feline Influences and Memories”.
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About windows, screens and cats
My story might be entirely different today if I had lost my entire household of cats at one time! I have other stories of great escapes to share, and, I think, narrowly averted one with an older screen in my house just recently. Read a little about how to keep your screens in good shape and keep your kitties safe in “Windows Screens and Cats” which begins with the story above. And imagine how many cats would not go missing!
Read more stories in my weekly Rescue Stories series.
Read more about the Petties in this post.
All images used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used without my written permission. Please ask if you are interested in using one in a print or internet publication. If you are interested in purchasing a print of this image or a product including this image, check my Etsy shop or Fine Art America profile to see if I have it available already. If you don’t find it there, visit Ordering Custom Artwork for more information on a custom greeting card, print or other item.
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