Lost and Found

The grandchildren had finally succumbed to the long day of traveling. All three had fallen asleep in their car seats. They did not even awaken when we pulled into the darkened garage where their dad and sleek black cat, Pirate, waited to greet them. They did not care. Sleep had captured them so thoroughly.

Dad and mom quietly unfastened all the straps and safety belts and carried each child into their bed. “They never woke up. They were that tired,” my daughter said when she returned to help unload the car.

We had traveled together, so we had to unload and sort through the luggage we needed to transfer to our van. I pulled the sliding door open and swung a suitcase into place before going back for more.

We chatted with hushed voices as we worked in the still of the night. We did not linger long – not with a couple more hours of driving ahead of us.
But first, we thought, let’s stop at the grocery store and buy some crunchy apples and vegetables to eat on the road to keep us awake.

Halfway to the grocery store, I reached for my wallet and came up empty-handed. I checked my purse. Not there. I checked the needlework bag. Not there. I reached behind me to check the computer bag. The strap was caught in the sliding door. We stopped at a church parking lot so I could turn around, reach over the seat, open the door and access the computer bag.

As I slid the door open a couple inches, the shadows moved and Pirate stepped out and dashed for the crack in the door. I reached to grab him. With the seat blocking my efforts I did not even come near to touching him.
“Pirate just ran away,” I moaned.

“What?” my husband asked, totally confused. “What was Pirate doing in our van?”
“Evidently while we switched stuff into our van, Pirate climbed in and we closed the doors with him in the car. When I opened the door, he came out from somewhere in the back and slipped out the door. He’s gone, and the wallet is not here. I must have left it in their van.”

We called and told them the sad news.
“Ohh, no. The kids will be so sad,” my daughter said.
At her house we quickly found the wallet and a couple of other left-behind items.
“I’m sorry about the cat. We did not know he was there. He did not meow or anything.”

“What will we tell the kids?” my daughter wondered. This cat had come to them as the perfect feline for a house with young children. He tolerated everything from grabbers to pullers to those that just wanted to carry him. Plus, it was cat week at pre-school. She really did not want have a lost cat at the beginning of cat week.
“I am going to go looking for him,” she resolved.
“I’ll go,” her husband offered.
“No. He does not come when you call. I’ll go.”
She went and my husband insisted that we follow.
She walked around the church parking lot calling, “Kitty, kitty, kitty.” No black cat emerged from the night’s dark shadows.

“I will come back tomorrow and talk with our old neighbors. Pirate used to visit them. He may remember the neighborhood.” she said.

It had been at least two years since they moved away from the house two doors away from the church. We all hoped he would remember, but we did not have a lot of confidence.

We apologized again and headed home, skipping the stop for healthy, crunchy food, settling for fast food.

As I sorted through the bag of food balancing on my lap, my cell phone rang.
“I found Pirate!”
“You did?”

“Yes. I needed to buy some milk, so I went by the grocery store before I went home. When I came back by the church, I saw a couple of cats running across the street. One of them looked like Pirate. I pulled over, opened the door and called for him.”
“He stopped running. Turned and looked at me, then he came running,” she said.
She tucked him safely into her car. And, she never had to tell her children that Pirate was lost because he been a stow-away in our van.

(Joan Hershberger is a staff writer at the News-Times and author of “Twenty Gallons of Milk.” Email her at jhershberger@eldoradonews.com)