Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Two Heroes and a Flash Flood

Tonight I have two stories to share. I can't decide which, so why not tell both? 

Would-Be Heroes
A week ago today, I went walking in the park with Lizzette, my most frequent walking companion aside from Jesus.

We didn't look this good on that evening. 

We got off to a very late start, so it was quite dark on our way back. Thus my usual wonder at the fireflies' magical pinpricks of golden light was tempered by fear of catching the Zika virus from the mosquitoes who also inhabit the thickly wooded creek bank.

Deep in conversation, we'd nearly made it back to the main road when we both stopped short, arrested by a plaintive cry.

"What was..." Lizzette began.

"Is it a..." I started to say "baby," but then we heard it again.

"It's a cat," we both said.

We retraced our steps, back toward the trees.

The cries intensified, almost a wailing now.

"Where is it?" we both asked.

I looked over our heads. "There."

"In the tree?" she asked. "I don't see it."

"Yep," I gestured to a little gray fuzz ball on the second branch up. "Poor thing! I think it's stuck up there."

We both gazed up into the tree as the little guy yowled frantically.

A crazy idea began to take shape in my mind. "Maybe I... I think I can climb that tree."

"Can you? Are you sure?"

"If Allyson were here, she'd shimmy right up it," I said. "It's not very high. I think I can do it."

I took a deep breath and squared my shoulders. Then I put both arms around the 10-inch trunk and put a foot on each side. In my Five-Finger shoes, I could easily grip the bark with my toes. My plan was to carry most of my weight in my feet to avoid scratching my bare arms and legs; I'd recently watched several contestants scramble right up a log that way on an American Ninja Warrior. Then again, those people had been training for months or even years, whereas I had not climbed a tree in perhaps decades.

My self preservation kicked in right away, and I found myself hugging that tree with my arms and my knees.

"Do you want a boost?" Lizzette asked.


So my sweet friend put a hand under each butt cheek and hoisted me up. "You're sure you can do this?" she grunted. "You're not going to fall?"

"I think I'll be okay," I said, inching higher. "But this cat is probably going to scratch me."

In just a moment, I had a foot on the lowest branch, about six feet off the ground. The branch looked a little slim, but it didn't even creak under my weight. I hauled up my other foot and rested against the trunk, clutching it with my left arm.

With my right arm, I reached for the kitty, still crying on the branch just above me. "Come here, baby," I crooned.

It scooted all the way to the end of the branch, out of my reach.

"Oh, kitty!" I called. "Please come down. Let me help you, baby."

No way. Not happening. Squinting through the darkness, I could just discern its fluffy gray form, not even as long as my forearm. "It's little!"

"Aww," Lizzette answered.

"Not much bigger than CiCi when we got her. I bet it's only about 6 weeks old."

I called the kitty a few more times, but I knew it was no use. "If only I had some cat treats. Maybe I could.... No. No way I'm getting down and climbing this tree again."

"How are you going to get down?"

"Um, I hadn't thought about that." I gulped. Wouldn't it be ironic if I got stuck in this tree along with the cat? I thought back to the humiliation of getting stuck on the roof at my old house and having to holler for a neighbor.

"I guess I'm coming down the way I went up," I said after a moment's contemplation.

"Okay. Do you need me to...?"

"Yes, please. I need you to put your hands under my butt." I chuckled ruefully. "We're getting to know each other a lot better than we ever planned to, aren't we?"


With Lizzette's help, I got back on the ground with only a few scratches.

Despite the threat of mosquitoes, I called Animal Control from right under the tree. After punching a few buttons to navigate the city's phone menu, I got a recording that the office was closed until regular business hours, but if an animal's life was severely threatened, I could call 9-1-1. Hmm. No, the only immediate danger for little kitty was losing its voice.

"I'll have to call them in the morning first thing," I said reluctantly.

"Oh, and leave him here all night? What if we came back with a ladder?"

"It wouldn't help," I said. "The kitty's too scared. I'll come check on it as soon as I get up. Maybe it will find a way down before then."

As we walked back to the road, the cat cried frantically, as if to say, "Oh, please don't leave me!"

"I'm sorry, baby," I said. "You'll be okay."

We could still hear the pitiful cries after we'd crossed the street. "Let's pray for it," I said. So we did. We prayed that the kitty's mother would come for it, or that it would figure out how to get back down the tree, or that someone else would come along who knew how to help it. "And please help the little guy not to be too scared," I concluded.

The next morning, after I'd fed my own cats, who must eat the very moment I'm awake, I hurried across the street in the gentle morning sun.

"Oh, thank you, Jesus," I said when I realized that the tree was empty.

I was standing on the lowest branch on the right side. 
I must confess that my relief stemmed from more than just the kitty's safety. Lying in bed the night before, I'd wondered what I'd do if Animal Control came out the next morning. Could I let a sweet little cat go to the pound? (Not if Allyson had any say about it!) But how could we possibly take on another stray kitten? CiCi drives me batty as it is, with her food obsession.

"Oh, thank you, Jesus!"

Two Drowned Rats
This past Monday, Allyson and I had a girl date at Starbucks. She bought a strawberry creme with her birthday gift card from Aunt Diane and Uncle Rick, and I had a carob banana peanut butter smoothie that I'd made at home. (Alas, I'm allergic to everything at Starbucks.)

At our outdoor table, we tried to ignore some obnoxious middle school boys who may or may not have been flirting with my ten-year-old daughter. (They asked us if we recognized them from the Disney Channel. "No," Allyson replied coldly, immune to their charms.)

After the boys left, I hoped for some heart-to-heart chatting, but the conversation actually went like this:

Me, gazing up at the blue sky: Was that a raindrop?

Allyson: I didn't feel anything.

Me: I think I felt another drop. Is it supposed to rain?

Allyson: I dunno.

Me: There, that's another one.

Allyson: Yeah, it's raining.

I sighed as we gathered our cups and headed for the car.

By the time we'd crossed the large shopping center to our new favorite store, Five Below, a gentle, steady rain was falling. The sky still didn't seem that cloudy, but Allyson spotted a wall of dark clouds behind us.

I popped the trunk and grabbed my nice, big umbrella. "Hurry, before it really starts coming down," I urged.

Inside the store, Allyson quickly picked out the lava lamp we'd come for, and then chose a birthday card for her friend Alivia not so quickly. We could hear rain pounding on the roof as we checked out less than 10 minutes after we'd entered the store.

We stood in the doorway and eyed the rain now coming down in sheets.

"Maybe we should wait," Allyson said.

"No, we need to get to Target to exchange your outfit," I said, opening the umbrella. "It's only rain."

That umbrella might as well have been made of only the metal spines for all the protection it gave us. In fact, it actually slowed us down when the wind caught it. "Oh no," I said, "I think it's going to turn..."


"...inside out."

Allyson clutched the useless umbrella in a death grip and looked around with wild eyes.

"Let go of the umbrella," I shouted over the wind and rain. "It's slowing us down."

"What?" she shouted.

"Let go of the... Just run! Run!"

Allyson lurched forward, still clutching the umbrella and dragging me along with it. "No, don't run!" I cried, as my thick flip-flops slid across the wet pavement. "Wait! There's a car coming."

We stood stock still as the rain pelted us. The wind tore at the umbrella, almost wrenching it from our grasp. Allyson stood rooted to the spot. "Go! Go!" I hollered.

The wind picked up another notch, almost knocking me down. I'd never felt wind this strong before, and I wondered if this was what a hurricane felt like. Water blew into my nose, my eyes, my ears. I gasped for air. fighting down panic as I tried to calm my daughter and keep her moving.

At last we reached the car, and Allyson yanked the back-door handle. "It's locked!" she cried.

I jammed the Unlock button on my key fob repeatedly, and Allyson kept pulling the handle until it gave. Still holding the inside-out umbrella, she awkwardly inched inside while I shoved her from the outside.

"Hurry! Hurry!"

I shut the door the moment all of her limbs were inside, and then stumbled around the back of the car, holding onto the trunk's spoiler for support. On the driver's side, I had to face the wind to get to my door.

I fought my way into a wall of water that felt a lot like the wave that capsized my river raft on a Girl Scout trip when I was 13. I literally couldn't see a thing, and had to feel my way along the side of the car. At my door, I put up a hand to see if the rain had swept away my glasses, but they were still on my nose. Like the umbrella, they provided no protection to my burning eyes.

I yanked the door open and dove inside, slamming the door behind me.

I found Allyson shivering in the backseat, in tears. "I'm so scared!" she said. "Will you pray? Please?"

As soon as I'd caught my breath, I asked for God's protection on everyone caught out in this storm, and I asked him to bring us safely home. Finally, I asked him to comfort Allyson and help her to know that we were safe in His hands.

After much arguing about how the backseat is the safest place for a child, especially when you're driving in a storm, I caved and let Allyson climb into the front seat with me.

I glanced in the mirror and saw Saturday's mascara smeared above and below both eyes. I was shocked to see that my eyelashes had twisted into little clumps.

I turned on the heater, for we were wetter than two drowned rats. I don't think we could have been any wetter had we jumped into a pool fully clothed. We sat in the car for a few minutes until the rain had let up enough for me to see more than a few yards ahead of us.

I drove about 10 miles per hour through puddles deep enough to swamp my engine, but we made it home without any trouble--other than impatient SUV drivers whipping around me and blinding me when their wakes overwhelmed my windshield wipers.

Fifteen minutes later, we were safe in our garage.

After taking a selfie for the blog, we shed our sodden clothes and got warm and dry.

Next, we snuggled on my favorite nap chair to read the next chapter of Left Behind. Oh, the extravagance of warm clothes, a roof over our heads, and a comfy chair to cuddle in.

But no one wants to cuddle in our smelly car. In yesterday's heat, the soaked seats apparently mildewed. Remember that potpourri mason jar that I used to sop up melted ice cream cake? Last night I refilled it with fresh baking soda, 15 drops of peppermint oil, and 10 drops of lavender oil. It's shut up in the car still, and I've got my fingers crossed that tomorrow that car will smell a little sweeter.

I guess if a smelly car is the worst thing I have to complain about, I'm pretty blessed.

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