The other night I opened the back slider to let our dog Booker in, and as he hesitated, our daughter Katie’s 5-month-old calico kitten, Scout, darted for the yard and the night. I caught her by the tail and pulled her back, but it was very close.
We lost a cat out back in the iceplant one night a few years ago — our favorite, an applehead Siamese named Topaz, was taken by a coyote. There are signs that another coyote is around this fall, so as much as Scout wants to become an outdoor kitty, we aren’t fed up with her enough yet to let her be one.
I say “fed up” because Scout isn’t always adorable. She sits on your lap and purrs like a motorboat, and a minute later attacks your bare feet as you pass by. Like the stairs in Young Frankenstein, she can be treacherous.
Her most worrisome quality at present, though, is her self-destructive urge. Katie is away at college and if Scout disappears on my watch, no amount of explaining is going to make it better.
The ironic thing is that Scout’s got it good here. We’re cat friendly. We have a wired-in area in the side yard called the cat enclosure. Scout can climb around in it all she wants, but she takes it for granted.
We’ve told her she should be grateful; other kitties would kill for a cat enclosure. But to her it’s just her dumb old playpen.
I would find Scout’s eagerness to get out and be killed incomprehensible if it weren’t so similar to the way I acted on Friday nights in my 20s.
I went out nearly every weekend, and after a few hours on the town — the town being Chicago — I was almost exactly as intelligent as Scout, if not as alert, and I didn’t want to go home either. A couple of the places I went into were about as safe for me as the iceplant is for her.
There were times when I would have benefited if someone caught me by the tail and pulled me back.
So I tell Scout I understand how she feels but that she has to learn, as I finally did, that there’s a world within the lines. Count your blessings. Lay off the booze, and if you want to go out, stay out of the Club Whoopee.
In the meantime I’m this close to getting a cat leash, something I never would have thought possible. I have to look to see where she is every time I open the door. When I come home I have to make sure I can get all the way in before she gets all the way out. It’s stressful. She is one fast kitty, and every night is Friday night.
SHERWOOD KIRALY is a Laguna Beach resident. He has written four novels, three of which were critically acclaimed. His novel, “Diminished Capacity,” is now available in bookstores, and the film version is available on DVD.