Frank and Baby Anxiety

This was originally an essay I wrote for my Creative Nonfiction class last semester. I thought it was blog-worthy. Enjoy!

It had just started getting cold in the mornings. My windshields weren’t quite icing over yet, but the weather was definitely calling for more than just the navy blue shorts I was wearing. I put on Melissa’s black hoodie, which barely fit me, walked out to the front door and unlocked it. Peering outside, I saw that the grass was frosted at the tips.

Shit, I thought, I hope he’s ok.

Closing the front door, I walked back into the center of the house as Melissa came out of the bedroom, “Frank’s not out there.” My voice had a noticeable touch of concern in it. “Where is he?” was her reply, matching my worry. “I don’t know, I’ll go look around.”

Last night, when we returned from grocery shopping, Frank bolted outside. Our arms were full of groceries, so neither Melissa nor I were able to catch him in time; His lithe body took off right past us. “Frank! Frank!! Meeeeeeeoww?” I didn’t really think he could actually understand what I was saying, but it was always fun to entertain the notion that I could speak his language. He briefly glanced back at me for a moment, paused mid-step. Several feet from him, under Melissa’s car, I saw another cat – an alley cat. A cat from “the bad crowds.” Frank looked at me, then at the other cat, then at me again, then ran off, chasing the mystery cat.

I closed and locked the door, turning the porch light on. “Frank just ran off with another cat!” I exclaimed, somewhat exasperated. I explained to Melissa what I just saw. Her reply was something like “What an ass-cat!”

“Ass-cat” is an appellation he acquired months ago, after we had only had him for a couple weeks. I think it was Melissa that coined the term, although I don’t recall exactly what kind of Ass-cattery Frank had done to deserve it.

This wasn’t the first time Frank had run out of the house. The past two months Frank had been pretty regularly running around outside on his own, usually skulking around underneath the mangy hedges in our front yard. Sometimes he would run out at night, for who-knows-why, but after an hour or two we would hear the gentle pounding of Frank’s paws against the glass of our paned storm door. What was different about this time was that Frank didn’t come home at night. This was the first time that Frank had been out all night by himself, and it was pretty cold.

I put on my blue winter jacket and tied on my ratty old white Adidas’s, and went out the front door. Is this what it’s going to be like when our child is in its teen years? I thought, feeling a mixture of both fear and pre-emptive exhaustion. Melissa was due in late March, and we were both apprehensive, as most new parents are, about our abilities to parent properly. This whole ordeal was beginning to remind me of what it must have been like for my parents on those few occasions when I ran away from home, pissed off about something or other.

I couldn’t help but feel somewhat responsible for Frank running away. Maybe it’s because he’s been having a tough time adjusting to Bowie, our dog, who recently re-joined us. Maybe it’s because I only feed Frank three times a day, even though he meows for food all day long. Maybe it’s because I don’t pay enough attention to him. These thoughts raced through my head as I walked down the porch stairs.

I crouched down several feet from the stairs and peered back at the house, focusing my view under the mangy green hedges. It wasn’t too difficult to see under them since the foliage was so sparse. I hoped to see him huddled up under some leaves, or against the wall. No sign of him.

Did he run away? I wish he would understand! My mom had just told me over the phone last month that our childhood cat, Chip, was just recently hit by a car on the road at the end of their rural driveway. I got a little scared and my pace quickened.

As I rounded the corner of the house, heading towards the back, I began to think that maybe he was just in the backyard somewhere. I still saw the same vision, his huddled little tiger-cat body desperately pressed against something, and how grateful he would be that I found him and could take him back indoors. Man, it was cold out.

Looking into the backyard with a cursory glance, I didn’t see any sign of him but I did notice that the side door to the garage was open. The other day we had moved some things out of the house into the garage, and I remembered that I had forgotten to lock the regular door. Frank knew how doors work, and he has this bizarre curiosity about closed doors. If a door is wide open he will likely just pass it by, but if the door is closed, he’ll paw at the door until it opens on its own, or someone lets him in.

I pushed open the door and called out “Fraaaaaank?” It was more of a question really. “Fraaaaa-aaaaaaaank…” I didn’t see him, but it was dark in there. I glanced over at the garage door, and saw a pile of boxes and rubbish near it. I called out one more time, moving towards the heap. I half expected a homeless person to attack me at this point; Someone had opened the door last night, I was just hoping it was my cat.

I heard rustle near my feet, and then a jingle. Frank’s collar! I saw him sleepily saunter out from underneath some cardboard. He had been in here all night long. I felt relief wash the worry away. I squatted down and beckoned him to come towards me. There was no huddling, no shivering. He looked like he had just spent the night in a broom closet at the Hilton. I scooped him up and cradled him in my arms the way people do with cats. I couldn’t help but feel like I was picking up our future teenager from a holding cell at the police station after he got picked up for some kind of petty crime.

We walked back towards the house. As we got about halfway back to the front door, Frank started to fight me. Claws out and all. He didn’t want to go back inside! Come on, Frank. It’s really best for you to come back inside. I held onto him tightly, and continued to the front door. He got a couple scratches in on my chest, but we made it inside. Once indoors, I set him down on the floor and quickly shut the door. He paced away, as if nothing had happened, and even took a swipe at Bowie and gave him a dirty look.

What an ass-cat.