Well that was a long night. I got home later yesterday than I have been these past couple that Susan’s been away on biz in Denver. Whereas the last time she was out of town, her stubborn Bink decided coming in at night wasn’t something he was obliged to do (and thus left me stressed out and severely sleep-deprived over several days), this time Bink was the picture of perfection; coming in when called, or just being there in his usual spot on the bed when I arrived. Hallelujah!

Rolling in around 8 p.m. last night, I was very pleasantly surprised to find Bink was once again on the bed and making my life easier for what would be the last night before Susan gets home. Jig came inside shortly thereafter, but Pepper and Pumpkin were nowhere to be seen.

After a few more consternated minutes of calling for them, I adjourned inside to feed the dogs and two cats present and accounted for, then I went back outside for another round of repeatedly calling out “Pepper!” and “Pumpkin!” over and over and over.

Finally, near 9 p.m. Pepper appeared and we went inside to grub him up.

But still no Pumpkin. And now my consternation transformed into increasing worry. See, our beloved orange feline isn’t the brightest cat in the cradle. He exhibits definitively dopey behavior pretty regularly, and can go from serene to startled on a moment’s notice — usually by his own tail. Worse, he has a history of also getting himself into predicaments. There was the time in 2004 when he treed himself across the street, and then a year or so later he seemingly vanished without a trace until Susan’s sharp ears picked up his signature near-silent mewing and we traced it to the house next door coming from a crawlspace entrance that had been open long enough for him to enter and get under the neighbor’s house where he went exploring long enough for the access panel to be closed back up, trapping him.

Needless to say I checked the area trees and fine tuned my ears for any distress calls. And I looked everywhere. I did a perimeter check around the house a dozen times. I went up and down the street calling out “Pumpkin!” repeatedly with little regard for how foolish it might look/sound.

Nothing.

Finally at 10:30 I called off the search. Leaving the backdoor open and the screendoor latched I put a circle of love around him so that he’d be safe wherever he was and tried to get some sleep. I suppose technically I got some, but I was also up and looking at even the slightest hint of a meow or a push of the screen or Ranger reacting to something going on outside.

Exhausted I ignored my two alarms that would usually have me up by 5 a.m. and didn’t rise until 6. An initial glance through the screendoor into the backyard showed it devoid of Pumpkin, but after grabbing a cup of coffee I turned around filled with a horrible sense of helplessness… and there was Pumpkin sitting there, finally at the end of his all-nighter.

I don’t know where he was or what prevented him from coming in, say, about nine hours earlier, but as I ushered him in any frustration was swept away by the relief that he was safe and home. And now he’s curled up on the pillow in the study as if nothing out of the ordinary happened.

The wonderful bastard.