When I awoke from my nap the clock said 10:12; the room, dark. Almost automatically, my awareness drifted down to my legs and found him: there, snuggled close. Not interested in being cuddled or petted, but in nearness, in gathering warmth. I swirled fingertips down his back, and his muscles quivered and rippled in response, his spots and orange splotches shivering with the touch and then settling back down to their normal spaces.

I've always wondered about fur markings. Occasionally I'll pick up a shed piece of orange fur from one of the boys and stare at its changing coloration, wondering how the (hair? fur?) follicle knew when to change from light orange to dark orange in just the right place to create what we see as a spot or a stripe.There's a saying that any domesticated cat is just one missed meal away from blowing off humanity and going it alone. I sometimes find myself thinking that the domesticated human is far more dependent on the cat-in-residence than the other way around.

We get just a little attached. (Says she who has to reach around both sides of the 13-pound cat to type this entry, hands occasionally drifting away from keys to gently fuss an ear or scratch a chin.)

* * * * *

I almost didn't answer the phone this afternoon when it rang. I was literally on my way out the door, shopping list in hand. I was running late, and was determined not to run any later. I can't even say that some breath of Fate or warning caused me to pick up the phone.

By definition, an 'accident' cannot be predicted; it is the moment that comes when life, otherwise running smoothly, no longer does so. For Heather and Andy, that day was today; while Heather was home, a man broke into their house and ransacked it.

She did everything right. She did not confront the man, or even let him know that someone was home. She picked up the cordless phone, hid in the garage, and called 911. Only when she was given the all-clear did she come out.

I was the post-apocalyptic call; the practical, non-hysterical friend who filled in the gap after the arrest but before Andy could get home to be with her. The friend who tried to make her voice as calming as possible as Heather realized she couldn't find Kernel, and tried to stave off the worst of the emotional reaction until Andy could get there to be with her.

Halfway through the call, Kernel appeared, scared and undoubtedly a bit confused, but okay. Heather interrupted our call to scoop him up and tuck him safely behind the closed door of the nearest bathroom.

The cats were safe. She was safe, even though she wasn't going to feel safe for a while. When she said she needed to speak with the forensics team, I told her to call if she needed me again, but to try my cell phone.

Crisis or not, cat food had to be bought.

* * * * *

One of the nasty things about being an adult is learning the necessity of a judgment call. Before picking up a set of #4 tips for my circular knitting needles, cat food, and the ingredients for Jeff's heavenly baked beans recipe, I made two judgment calls: "There's nothing you can do, and she's ok, but you need to be aware of this, and you might want to check in on her."

It made me inexpressibly angry to think that a friend of mine - someone I care very much about - hid, in fear, in her own home. There is no proportional response to an event such as this one, no way to remove from her memory that the perceived safety of her home has been violated.

All I could do was call two of her friends and say, "I don't think she has time to talk with you right now, but you might want to make sure that you're available to talk to, because I think she's going to need it."

* * * * *

I am thankful that, despite everything in my life that might have made me turn out otherwise, I have become a person who can be the post-apocalyptic voice on the phone. While I'm not thankful that accidents happen, I am thankful that, when they do, my friends think of me as someone that can be relied on.

At 10:12 p.m., I woke Tenzing with my absent-minded petting. He snuggled closer, plainly grateful for the warmth and security. I found myself hoping that, on the third floor of a house in the suburbs of D.C., Heather and Andy could find some of the same.


Andy wanted me to talk to someone while he drove him; yours was the first one to come to my head that I could remember. I had just come back to the calm side of panic, but I still needed someone to talk to. Thanks so much. I'm still a bit jumpy, but the friend/family network has helped immensely.