Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Hearing things

Last night Dave and I were lying in bed (don't worry, I'm not going there, you can stop recoiling in fear) last night, and I heard a noise outside.

It was faint but repetitive, and we had the window open to get fresh air now that it's warm enough outside. It's nice to have a breeze and a whiff of fragrance from the blossoms on the crabapple tree in the back yard wafting into our bedroom.

I thought the noise we'd heard was a cat fight, and that thought was based on a good deal of experience.

When I was a kid we had this completely lovable lump of a cat named Shadow. He was our first family pet.*

My sister and I were really excited to be getting a cat. There were two all black kittens left from the litter, a boy and a girl. For some reason we wanted a male cat, though the reason why escapes me now.

We asked the usual questions of the farmer about whether they had been vaccinated (they hadn't) and what their personalities were like. My sister and I were just so excited we were going home with a cat we didn't care which one we left with so long as we left with one. My grandmother had lent us an old picnic basket for the trip home.

He was really tiny so my dad asked how old he was. The farmer thought a moment and replied the kitten was "four weeks and, let me see, I guess nine days old"** to which I quizzically piped up "Dad! Dad!! DAD! Doesn't he mean FIVE weeks and TWO days old?" I was promptly told to "keep quiet."

On the way home in our 1979 diarrhea brown Datsun (not the pretty blue one here, but like it only diarrhea brown with two doors) my sister and I argued over who would hold him in the back seat most of the ride home. The kitten mewed what was quite possibly the cutest meow I've ever heard at the top of this hill on a gravel road. We stopped at the co-op on the way home to get him some food. He was so tiny he fell asleep in my ten year old hands with room to spare.

Neither my sister nor I would go into Zellers with my dad to get a litter box or scoop for him, fearing that the kitten would end up loving the other more in the impressionable first hours he was ours. We were too excited to leave the kitten in the car anyway.

The debate about what to name him raged on the whole ride home, and that night. Someone suggested we name him "Chip" because the colour of his black fur looked like the colour of a chocolate chip when he was sitting in the sun.

I, however, was none too impressed with this name. In fact I was so distraught with the idea of naming him Chip that I lay awake in bed all night and ran into my parents' room early in the morning when I thought I had a better name for him. Lucky for all involved his name became Shadow and I was celebrated for what was such a creative name for the cat.***

Shadow was allowed outside but he rarely strayed from our yard. When he did, it often ended in him being beat up by other neighbourhood cats. Shadow was the kind of cat the squirrels approached without fear, and who would come in the house after being outside with sunflower shells all over his head. He seemed to like the company of the birds, and it never occurred to him he should have some interest in attacking and eating them. Shadow was lover and not a fighter his whole life and loved nothing more than basking on the patio slabs in the sun and getting belly rubs.

The sound I heard lying in bed last night sounded like the noise that sent everyone running outside to rescue Shadow from being beat up when I was a kid. It sounded like cats off in the distance were fighting but it was faint. Our guys are indoor cats so I wasn't worried about them. I listened and tried to pinpoint where the noise was coming from.

Dave thought I was nuts though, and didn't hear the noise at first. Later he thought it wasn't cats, it was a table saw and the high pitched noise it makes when the blade spins through wood. He was convinced it was "mechanical in nature" (even though it was near midnight).

And thus, we had a stalemate.

We continued to listen, when finally, it occurred to me.

We were both wrong.

The sound we heard was a baby in a neighbour's house crying.

I don't know anyone who has an infant that young around here, but that's definitely what it was. The poor thing was testing out its lungs until the wee hours of the morning, probably leaving pacing and frustrated parents wondering how to soothe it.

And with that, I realized that if we can't tell the difference between a cat fight, a power tool, and a baby crying, we probably aren't ready for kids yet.


*Actually, a goldfish I had (and whose name I've since forgotten but it was probably something really cool like "goldie") when I was five was our first family pet. Sadly, it met an untimely demise when my dad was changing the water in its bowl, and filled the bowl with water from the hot tap with the fish still in the bowl. I can still remember him trying to explain why the fish was floating on its belly. I bring it up when I'm in need of political capital, "remember the time you killed my poor, helpless goldfish dad?" I even do a good impression of the goldfish in its last few moments. "Ooh good, clean water! Wait, what's this? OW! OW! It's burning my skin! Oooohhh nooOOO!" It's really quite funny, I promise. Reading it now though, I think you had to be there.

**We now realize the cat was WAY too young to leave its mother's side. The other kittens in the litter had already been adopted out so we thought it was okay and kinda figured the farmer knew what he was doing. Incidentally the girl kitten was named Cricket and we always regretted not bringing her home too. She stayed on the farm. I'm totally going to name a pet Cricket. The funny thing was that our cat Shadow LOVED eating crickets (real ones, not his sister) and ate everything but the legs. We used to find them strewn all over the garage floor.

***At least so we thought. Unfortunately this wasn't true because I think every time we took him to the vet's office in his 13 year life, there was always another animal named Shadow waiting to see the vet. So much for creativity.


DebbieDoesLife said...

"four weeks and, let me see, I guess nine days old"** to which I quizzically piped up "Dad! Dad!! DAD! Doesn't he mean FIVE weeks and TWO days old?" I was promptly told to "keep quiet."

That totally cracked me up! Heather, you are such a little smarty pants.

wordgirl said...

I was so ignorant about animals as a kid (having no pets will do that to you). If someone had told me that cats could fly, I would have said, "Uh...okay."

sunshine scribe said...

Trust me late at night after a long night of new born screams, all loud noises sound the same :)

Heather said...

debbiedoeslife: I'm still a wise ass.

wordgirl: Rhett is proof cats can't fly. He loves rolling around on his back, which is not such a great idea on the fireplace mantle, or other places and often thuds to the ground where he gets up shakes a bit, and usually flops again.

sunshine scribe: Ah we have so much to look forward to. Just not soon. :P

TB said...

I love pet stories and I think Shadow is much better than Chip. Sometimes it's hard to tell if cats are fighting or in heat, but either way, whenever I hear that noise I always run outside, if just to make sure that our two are okay.

Leslie Waghorn said...

I hid in the shower for 45 minutes from the dog the first weekend we got her. That's how I knew we weren't ready for kids.

Heather said...

TB: I'm glad I'm not the only one who can't distinguish cat noises and who thinks Chip is a dumb name.

Leslie: I actually thought about hiding from the dogs last night when they were being extra sucky and Dave wasn't home. I'll definitely have to try the shower approach!

Jay said...

Don't feel bad, we named our dog Patches, which is almost as bad as shadow, except our dog had no patches, and to this day, no one is sure how he got that name.

Whinger said...

When we got Dog from the pound, her name was Cricket. I liked it, but we changed it on account of it being her slave name.

Shadow sounds like he was a cat much like mine. Nothing wrong with being a lover.

Anonymous said...

Oh my god - the fish death scene - so awesome. So horrible and yet - SO AWESOME.

roro said...

Ha ha - the anonymous was me. Carry on.

mama_tulip said...

LOL, I have to agree with Sunshine...there have been times when elephants could have been in my backyard trumpeting away and I'd think it was my kid.

It's worth it, though. No, really.

Heather said...

Miss Jay: I think it's reative to name a patch-less dog patches. Thanks for stopping by!

Whinger: Slave name is a grat term. I guess though I should've confessed that shadow was a fighter the moment he got to the vet's. It was like a scene from Cujo everytime we took him.

Anonymous Roro: I still think the fish scene is only funny in person. To this day my dad feels guilty, so the routine adds levity to the situation.

mama_tulip: We have so much to look forward to! (eventually... no time soon).

Izzy said...

lol...on more than one occasion, in my blog, I have likened my firstborns colicky screams to that of a feral cat !

I loved your retrospective of Shadow (he sounds an awful lot like my cat)

Heather said...

Izzy: Glad it's not just me that confused the sound, though you probably had the excuse of weeks of very little sleep. Shadow was a complete sweetheart, and he'll likely become the subject of further blog fodder.

Nancy said...

Your story of listening to what you thought was the sound of cats fighting reminded me of the other night. My neighbor has a friendly cat named Lewis who alternates between indoor and outdoor. He's sweet but not always bright -- he's ended up in some precarious places before. One of my biggest fears is something happening to him when he's outside. So the other night during a rainstorm I thought I heard my neighbor calling for him frantically. I listened for about 20 minutes until my heart couldn't take it, and I bundled up in my super rain gear to go help find him. Turns out, it was my OTHER neighbor calling for her dog, Copilot (whose name sounds NOTHING like Lewis, but I guess I was expecting my fears to be realized!) Luckily all lost animals were located and I retreated into my warm and dry house.

Wow, that was boring. Sorry. ;-)

Heather said...

Nancy: Your story didn't bore me at all! You're so sweet for going to help find Lewis. Glad all the (well named) animals around you are safe. You sound like you'd be a great neighbour... wanna move?