Hood River Man Saves Cat From Tree
by Henry True
Old scratchy was yowling up at the top. The orange-coated tabby was sure able to cause havoc from afar. Many figured she knew how to get down from the tree, but only want their attention. After all, what cat climbs a tree, but does not know how to get down? The neighborhood had put up with enough of her crying for the last few nights, so they decided to call the Hood River Man.
He was your typical handy man, in terms of skills. Many did not think of him as their typical man. His arms were dotted in purple lines, and his clothes were a mismatch of ragged patches. He could lay siding, or place new shingles on your roof, but his appearance off set much of his usefulness. In a small town, your options were limited on who you could call to get work done. Most residents either did not have the skills or the time to take care of their own home maintenance. Therefore, the Hood River Man always had a steady supply of clients, even if they did not extend their hand in friendship. It was an arrangement that suited him well.
After work, he always slinked back to his residence to sleep. Beneath his eyelids, he watched shadows crawl back and forth as cyclists and children crossed in front of his sunbeams. He doubted any of them knew they were blocking his light. Their sounds of play echoed through his screen door, and he imagined a life outside of his own. His life as a handy man had not been his first career choice. He won the job in a contest. The small town lacked a repairman to undertake the many jobs they required. Their last worker retired, and left them to face the world of faucet repair, circuit breaking, and leak closing alone. Their town council decided to pay for the training and services to retain a new repairman in their time of need.
The Hood River Man answered their ad for two reasons, a desire to leave behind his current residence, and a desire to learn new skills. The town council did not care for his reasons, but gladly trained their only applicant. He sat through the classes, which did not take place in the community. While he was trying to pay attention to an older man explain the difference between grout and mortar, he thought about why the community did not have their own classes? He had yet to move there, but it seemed strange that a community so invested in it’s own upkeep did not attempt to train any of it’s own citizens.
He offered to teach his own weeknight class at the community center. The town council felt the residents were too busy. They had children to pick up from school, and soccer practice to take them too afterward. They had meals to make, errands to run, and taxes to file. The Hood River Man let the suggestion die. He continued to take jobs to fix squeaky doors, and tighten loose hinges. It was easy money, and he still liked to eat.
Eventually, he moved to his tiny rent house right above the creek, not a river, as the kids like to call it. His job was at first to wait by the phone from nine to five on Monday to Friday, but the jobs kept being called in. He was there only source of relief when the shower faucet broke, or the pipes beneath their house burst, and now for when a cat was stuck in a tree for too long. He approached the tall pine tree, and looked up to see the tiny orange cat dangle onto a thin branch.
“Isn’t this a fireman’s job?” He asked the woman who called him.
She shrugged, before scowling at his joke.
“I think they have fires to fight.”
The Hood River Man did not carry a ladder tall enough to reach the top of the tree. He would have to shimmy up the trunk in order to catch the furry critter. If she did not want to come down, he was in for a hell of a fight. He was not a pest control specialist, but he had been pulled into jobs of collecting raccoons from attics. He asked for some money to take additional classes, but the town had yet to hear complaints about his possum collecting, besides his own, so they denied his request. While climbing up the tree to retrieve a stray, he wished he had fought harder. Maybe they could at least invest in some new equipment.
At the top, the cat was not unfriendly or welcoming, just scared. He tried the typical tactics he remembered from his own childhood. Both the pressing of lips to squeak out here kitty kitty, and the soft whistling that was supposed to entice the beast to slink over, failed in to lure the cat into relinquishing her grip. He tested the strength of a lower branch, and began to edge out towards her. Her claws dug in tight to the swaying branch. Instead of trying to pry them free, he stroked her back hoping to hear a purr that might loosen her stranglehold. Her eyes turned to the strange figure that grasped her. Was she willing to trust the Hood River Man? The townsfolk had often trusted him, even if they did not care for his presence. He spent much time inside their homes, and greeted them as friendly as he could muster. The cat was a completely stranger. He had never seen her stalk around the block. Her meows were a completely new phenomenon on this street corner.
Two strangers stranded in a tree. He hoped it was enough of a connection to pull her out. It did not have to be because as she was considering crawling over to him, she arched her back, revealing a space between her stomach and the branch. He scooped her, and placed her between his arm and the tree trunk. Shocked at being tricked, she tried to wriggle her way free, before unfortunately being faced with the ground below. Then, she attempted to claw her way into the Hood River Man. Her grip, as tight as it was on the tree, now felt the same on the Hood River Man’s side. Still, he managed to walk her down to the base of the tree.
He offered the cat to the neighbor lady who called, but she turned away and walked back into her house. The town was not a place for animal shelters, so the man took the cat home. Maybe, it would one day repay the Hood River Man for the marks it left in his side.
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Henry True is a writer born and raised in Austin, Texas. He has been previously published in Sigma Tau Delta’s The Rectangle.