By the time it got to Saturday evening, none of us could remember exactly when we’d last seen him, we only knew he was missing.
We’d rolled in at 2am that morning after an evening of wine and music with an octogenarian friend of ours (these 80 somethings know how to party).
“Did you see him when we got back?” Rupert asked me.
“I’ve no idea,” I replied.
Sunday morning we started to look for him. We walked in all directions from the house whistling and calling his name. Only the cicadas responded. All day Sunday we searched, frantic to find him before his owner, Leo, came home from a camping trip.
“Leo’s not going to be happy,” said Rupert.
“I know,” I replied.
“Where the hell can he have got to?” he asked.
“I have no idea,” I said. “Where has he got to?” I asked his sister Minnie, but she just purred, delighted with all the attention we were lavishing on her.
By Monday morning there was still no sign of him. I had spent most of the night imagining all kinds of dreadful fates that might befall a tabby cat called Tiger in the garrigue; hunter’s traps, kidnapping, mauling by a wild boar, fighting with a fox. Three days on what was he eating, and more importantly drinking? I began to lose hope of ever seeing him again.
Leo came back around midday Monday and spent the afternoon calling him, using the special whistle he has for him. “He’s heard my whistling, I can feel it,” he told me at one point. I nodded and tried to look encouraging. Every ten minutes or so I called Tiger from various vantage points all around the garden. Every sound I reacted to, wondering if it might be him. I longed more than anything to see him padding up the road. The worst thing of all was watching Leo, optimistic at first, slowly getting despondent, shoulders slouching, kicking the gravel on the drive as he returned disconsolate from yet another fruitless search.
It was the uncertainty that was so awful, the not knowing what had happened, not knowing if he was still alive, or suffering. I know he’s just a cat, but it was utterly all-encompassing. I don’t think half an hour passed when we didn’t think about him, and either Rupert or I asked one another: “Where the hell can he have got to?” Although Rupert remained optimistic, confidently declaring “He’ll be back.”
But by 11pm on Monday I had begun to give up hope of ever seeing him again. I was cleansing my face when I heard a strange peep. Then another one. I thought it must be a mouse, or maybe Minnie. Suddenly from under our bed sprang Tiger. He looked dishevelled and slightly freaked out, but he was in one piece. I took him into the kitchen where he ate two pouches of food in very quick succession and drank some water.
“He’s back!” I told Bea who had walked in to make a cup of tea.
“He was just with his girlfriend,” she said. “All’s good in the hood.”