Thursday, May 29, 2008

Getting Closure

It is 3 a.m. I'm up, awake, and my face is on fire. The fire department just left. It's not what you think.

I heard a cat fight. It woke me up from a sound sleep. It was a terrible, sudden, vicious fight, of an unusually short duration. No yowling and threatening growls, just that wild and wicked, scary cat sound you would make if you were doing the voice-over for a cartoon scene of a cat fight.

The cat sounds stopped mid-scream...and I heard something loping away crunching the dry grasses of the vineyard as it ran along the fence line away from the house. Coyotes lope.

I don't know with absolute certainty, but I suspect our kittie, Bootsie, was the victim of a coyote attack tonight. Her brother, Artsie, was sitting on the bed with the look of...of...well, he had the look of "Good. You're up. Pour yourself some coffee and then you can put some food in my dish, how's that sound?" What he did not have was the look of "What was that sound? Where's my sister? Was that loping? Do you smell coyote? Let's chase after it!" Artsie is a cat. Those are clearly dog words.

I won't know until later today, but I suspect Bootsie is either dead, or injured beyond the point of repair. My angel of optimism is insisting she got away and is hiding until morning. Won't that be a nice surprise.

But wait, there's more.

I stood at the window, yelling "Hey! Hey! Hey!" as if the shouts of a human had any effect on a predator's dinner quest. When the cat sounds stopped suddenly, I listened. I wanted to hear cat sounds. Cat running toward the house sounds. I wanted to see, or hear, Bootsie high tailing it back home with her tail all fluffed out and her eyes all big and glassy. All I heard was loping...and water running?

I put my Ugh boots on, and grabbed my big heavy flashlight, thinking I'd need to fend off a canine creature of the night...yeah right...and I headed out into the night toward the sound of the running water. A pipe had broken off at ground level and gallons of water were spewing out. It was well water, so I didn't panic about my water bill. In fact, I was quite calm and present. I picked up the part that broke off so I could use it to help measure for some kind of plug, and walked back to the house muttering to myself as if I were formulating the plan that would stop the water flow.

I returned with a rubber mallet, a pipe of larger diameter, duct tape and scissors, my glasses and some nylon zip ties. See how calm I was! I fashioned a slip-sleeve that was duct taped closed on one end. I tamped it down with the mallet and the zip ties held it in place. Water is a mighty adversary. My dorky rigging failed miserably.

Thinking of water as my adversary made me think of Bootsie's adversary and I scanned the dark vineyard with my flashlight while occasionally giving my more urgent problem the good old look-see. You know, where you just look at it...and think.

I had to do something, so I did what any child of the 50's would do, I applied a few methods popularized by the Three Stooges. First, put your hand over it, and get splashed in the face. Next, put your foot over it, and get splashed up the leg. Stop. Look at it, and try your foot again. Thanks folks, you've been a great audience. Exit to the garage. No wait, the kitchen!

In the kitchen I found a small bottle that had the same dimension of the inside of the pipe which, clever me, I had been carrying around just in case I ran into a bucket of giant rubber stoppers. I took the little bottle out to the gusher and stuffed it in the hole. Water sprayed out, but I almost had it. The problem was the lid! If I took off the lid, it would be a perfect fit, the water would stop, I'd zip tie the bottle to the iron stake, and there you have it. Except for the fact that it didn't work. Only now my proof of failure was a face full of Hottest F***ing Sauce hot sauce. My right eye, my right ear and my cheek are burning, water is gushing, and I'm standing outside, soaking wet, in the dark at 3 in the morning. Don't let "in the morning" fool you. It is night time. And quite possibly the dead of night for darling Bootsie.

In the house again, I put milk on my face because somewhere I read milk is better than water for stopping a capsaicin burn. Despite the pain and failure, I was able to muster thanks to my lucky stars that my miseries did not involve a skunk.

Gee, here's a thought, call 911. "What is your emergency?" is how the dispatcher answered the phone. I was embarrassed because my so-called emergency was so dumb. I'm pretty sure the 911 tapes will sound something like this: "a coyote got my cat...this is not an emergency really...I mean, no one is person is cat...I heard water...I tried to stop face is burning...I used hot sauce...I'm okay...I have milk on it...the water is running...I can't stop it..." until she interrupted me, and after determining I didn't need a paramedic, suggested I speak with the fire department. She transferred me. Help was coming.

I changed my clothes, washed the milk off my face, brushed my wet hair back and waited in the driveway with my big flashlight. After a few minutes two big diesel trucks and four firemen (one of whom was a woman) arrived. I can't tell you how validating it was to see them point their flashlights at the water and give it the old look-see.

We found the breaker and turned off the well pump so it would stop drawing water from the well, filling the storage tank. Good. Then we tromped down to the well and one of the guys closed a few valves, and made sure I knew which ones. Good. Thanks. We walked back up to find the water had stopped. On the way, one of the firemen sneezed and one of the other guys remarked maybe he was allergic to coyotes. Gallows humor, gotta love it.

Now it's a plumber's job...and maybe a vet's job. If Bootsie comes home happy and safe, or if I find an empty collar, or anything in between, I will be sure to post the news, good or bad.

In life and pipes, closure is important.

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