This is how we started Halloween: with a black cat up a tree. It's where Franny is right now, in my novel... it's Halloween 1962, she's up the proverbial tree, and I'm letting her figure her way down.
Cleebo began calling to me -- to anybody -- about 5pm yesterday. By the time I discovered where he was, half the neighborhood was out in the yard, looking for a pitifully-meowing cat. He was more than 200 feet up in a pine tree that had no limbs below the skinny one he was clinging to.
"I've seen him run half-way up, after a squirrel," said neighbor Scott, "but I've never seen him this high." I'll bet Cleebo never thought he'd be that high, either.
We talked him down. We got a sheet and held it beneath the tree, like something out of an old "the building's on fire!" movie. We discussed calling the fire department (Do people still do that? They're not going to believe you've got a black cat up a tree on Halloween night!), we brought out his food bowl and rattled the food -- neighbors were full of suggestions, and my staff, dressed as a witch, called, "Come on, Beebo!"
He made several false starts, trying to come down head first, some of which left us gasping. Then, finally, as dusk began to fall, Cleebo finally figured out to save himself and -- bit by little bit -- he climbed backwards down that tree. I stood at the bottom and called encouragement to him as he slid-and-stopped, slid-and-stopped, meowing all the way. Pine bark rained all over Scott and me as we held a sheet like a billowing sail underneath Cleebo's possible falling-trajectory.
What grit! What determination! As he got close, I dropped the sheet and plastered myself against the tree trunk and reached my arms up to him and plucked him off the tree as soon as I could. Sweet relief and laughter all around, and Cleebo, his paws and belly sticky with resin, began purring in my arms.
Then, of course, he wanted to saunter right off again. Oh, no-you-don't, Buster.
It's Halloween night 1962, and I am coaxing Franny down her tree. Like Cleebo did, Franny's going to have to figure out how to save herself. This is my challenge now.
I'll spend the morning with Franny. Then I'm baking a chocolate cake and getting ready for a birthday gathering here tonight with friends. I haven't seen nearby friends for many weeks. I've been holed up with this novel, but now I am seeing the light at the end of the tunnel... the ground beneath my feet. I hope. I hope.