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Copyright 1999-2018 by crazyforKITTIES (SM) Privacy


Tennessee Williams Revisited

By Gary Michael Smith

The meowing was incessant when Brenda and I arrived home at 9 p.m. on Father's Day. One could tell that the distressed feline wasn't in pain; it was more like a being-locked-outside cry. Brenda and I ignored it, and Fuffy tried to ignore it as he lay on our deck staring into the night sky. After all, it was his species howling loud enough to wake the entire neighborhood.

I couldn't see the source of the pleas and figured it simply was next door on the other side of our 6-foot wooden fence. But the sound really projected and could still be heard as we retired for the evening at 10. By 11 we tossed and turned to continuous cries. Then, we heard voices outside and figured that the kitty was causing some sort of neighborhood commotion. We got up, threw on some clothes, turned on the deck lights, and went outside to find the cat.

No sooner was I outside my gate that one of four twenty-somethings in the street called out, "Dude, do you have a ladder?" I did, indeed -- even a 20-footer -- but a few steps later I realized my ladder wouldn't work. There was a "cat on a cold tin roof," on the second floor of the duplex apartment building. So I told the kids, "Uh, yeah, but it won't reach that high."

The roof where Mr. Gray was

We were stumped. The kitty evidently had climbed up a nearby water oak, jumped to the roof, but now could not figure out how to get back to the tree to shimmy down. Instead, he was attempting to jump, putting himself in the gutter, then out, then back in, then out. The six of us were like a group of fire fighters without a net, looking up and yelling "Don't jump."

With best, albeit clichéd, intentions the girl in the group -- and the owner of the cat -- asked if she should call the fire department to retrieve her "Mr. Gray." Well, they do have very tall ladders, but I don't know if they'll find this an important enough emergency to rouse a crew at 11:30 at night. She called anyway but was told that they don't do that kind of work. It's a shame, too, because their station is only a few blocks away.

So we were left to our own devices. I went to the tree and tried to coax Mr. Gray to jump back to it and shimmy down. Right. He all but shook his head and waved off that idea. Then I went to the other side of the apartment building and noticed that there were two other buildings next door. One was a shed of sorts, about 8 high, and it butted up against another building with a roofline about 4 or 5 feet higher.

The way up to get Mr. Gray

At first sight, I figured he could actually jump from the highest rooftop to the second highest one, then spring to the lower shed roof where we could reach him. I started calling him and he actually ran up the roof, crossed the peak, and came down the other side. I tried to indicate in my best cat mannerisms that he should jump to the lower roof. But in true animal manner, as I pointed to the next tallest building Mr. Gray just stared at my finger. Even though he did glance at the second rooftop a few times, it was obvious that he thought the jump to be too risky. I kept looking at the roofs, Mr. Gray, and the kids. Then I had an idea.

They watched as I went back next door and got my smaller, 6-foot ladder. I put it against the shed and looked back for a volunteer. A kid (also named Gary) came forth, and I suggested, "Climb up on the roof of this shed, then jump up on the roof of the building next to it. I'll hand the ladder up to you. Stand it up and see if you can reach the roof of the apartment." Before I could ask, "Got it?" he was already up the ladder and on the shed roof. He pulled himself up to the second rooftop and reached down as I handed him my aluminum ladder.

He stood the ladder up on the second roof and gingerly reached for the gutter of the apartment building. Contact! The others watched in anticipation as he called to Mr. Gray, who willingly came to him. But as he grabbed hold of him, claws seemed to magnetically attach to the shingles. Gary pulled and tugged but fearing for his own safety let go. If he lost his balance it would mean an instant 20-foot drop onto a concrete sidewalk, although his fall possibly could be broken by a spiked metal hurricane fence.

Gary let go, and Mr. Gray bolted just out of reach. Gary called more, "Here kitty, come here. Come on, boy." Still out of reach. "Here Mr. Gray! Come here! GET OVER HERE!" It was nearly midnight, the mosquitoes were in full force, and the cat was not cooperating in his rescue. "Stop yelling at him," another boy called. "You'll just scare him!" Gary told us that he couldn't get the cat to let go of the roof, and that he didn't want to fall tugging on him. He kept calling, in a nicer tone and Mr. Gray came back to him, obviously wanting to be saved, but in a gentle manner. Gary grabbed the first thing he could reach -- a leg (bad idea) -- and started pulling. Like a spider on a fly, Mr. Gray clung to the gutter and no amount of tugging was going to release him. Gary evidently didn't know about the mother-carrying trick so I told him, "Grab the scruff of his neck and he'll be paralyzed." He looked at me in confusion until someone else explained, "The back of his neck." Kids.

The next time the cat got within reach Gary grabbed him by the scruff and sure enough, Mr. Gray balled up as if he were being carried by his momma. In obvious amazement, Gary handed Mr. Gray down the ladder to the girl who owned him, then threw his arms up Rocky- style and gave a brief victory dance. They jumped down to the second rooftop and handed me the ladder. I positioned it on the ground for them, and then climbed down with an obviously thankful and strikingly beautiful young Korat, similar to my own Chatgris.

As we all walked down the street, Mr. Gray bounced and pranced along with us -- tail high in the air, and quite a spring to his step.

Mr. Gray, relaxing and fine after his rooftop adventure

Gary Michael Smith is a writer,editor, publisher and cat lover in New Orleans. He can be reached at, a URL that translates into Cajun French as "gray cat."