(A post sans photos so that the reader can imagine his or her own pictures...that and I didn't think to grab the camera...)
3:30 a.m...I stretch in bed, contemplating a new day while still half entangled in the dream world. I am reluctant to exit the warmth of my covers but I finally pull out my earplugs, deciding that a return to sleep is unlikely. What's this?! Rain, steadily drumming on the roof, sweet in sound and its mere presence. A long statewide drought has made rain sorely missed so I settle back in, letting the peaceful rhythm relax my muscles and mind. I begin to drift back to slumber.
Suddenly a long, low, urgent howling begins. I sit up instantly. I know it is Marley Bear, my giant marmalade cat, but in the dark, I can't see him. I call out his name and the howl gets more insistent, frequent. A crash of dishes and I half stumble, half run into the kitchen. Marley has a fondness for forts: blanket, box, cabinet. He often explores without an exit strategy and I have had to rescue him from whatever hidey-hole he mistakenly thought could accommodate 22 pounds of furry orange love.
I throw open cabinet doors, calling his name, and rattling glassware, thinking Bear's thankful face would poke out as it has done so many times before. Nothing. The frustrated and fearful howling is now joined by frantic scratching. Confounded, I stand in the kitchen, yelling "Bear! Bear! Where are you?" I am still draped in the vestiges of sleep and unable to think clearly. Where could he be?
I happen to look back towards my bed and see Tuscany, my calico, calmly staring in the direction of the sliding glass door at the far end of the room. She looks amused. I run toward the object of her attention and finally spy Bear, standing on his hind legs, head poking through the blinds, tail puffed out like a gigantic bottle brush. He is raking the glass with his claws and howling for all he's worth.
At first, I try to pull him away from the door. However, Bear is utterly focused and he leans his considerable weight against my hand, continuing to howl in long, deep tones. He sounds exactly like a beagle or bloodhound, alerting his mistress to an exciting discovery.
Finally, my brain seems to catch up to reality and I remember the light to the upstairs balcony. I flip the switch and push aside the blinds. Bear's howling strikes a new level of anxiety. I look out, see a flower pot overturned, its succulent crushed. "I'll have to repot that," I think. Bear is standing again, trying to dig his way through the glass but I can't see the source of his distress. "Bear! Calm down! What is wrong?" I'm starting to get annoyed; it wouldn't be the first time Marley has dragged me from bed before I'm ready. And then, in one last visual sweep of the balcony, I see what has Bear so worried.
There, clinging to the opposite side of the railing like a monkey, face etched with an unmistakable "Oh shit!" look, is a young raccoon. Blinking in the light, it looks at me and the wild cat at the window. The raccoon doesn't move and I begin to wonder if it is trapped on the balcony by the netting I installed to keep out nesting birds. The howling seems deafening and I am now anticipating a knock on the door from an angry, sleepy neighbor. The coon and cat are frozen in their respective positions and attitudes. I run downstairs and drag my sleepy son from bed. (He is even less functional than I when half-awake so I'm not sure what I hoped to accomplish. Daniel is much stronger though and I guess I thought he could pull Bear back from his quarry.)
We rush back upstairs. Daniel, asleep on his feet, non-verbal, lumbering behind me like a lazy zombie but obviously trying to respond to his mother's urgency. I throw open the blinds and (of course) the raccoon is gone. Marley Bear is still pacing but now silent. I drag my poor son back downstairs to the patio door, searching in vain for the raccoon. Everything is quiet except for the dripping of rain on leaves. Daniel gives me a long, skeptical look, pats me on the shoulder, and turns back to his room. He mumbles something unintelligible and closes his bedroom door. At 4, on this wet Monday morning, I am left alone with a broken flowerpot and this story: "The Day Bear Treed his First Coon."