I did parkour for the first time when I was 62 years old because of Buddy. Buddy was my mother-in-law’s cat until she had to go to a nursing home. Although Jane couldn’t remember the names of her children, she knew enough to address my husband. “I’ll go to Serenity Manor if you take my cat.” That’s how Buddy came to us.
Buddy gradually trained us to do whatever he wanted us to do. Chicken instead of cat food? Sure. Get him a pet fish? Absolutely. Let him go on the roof deck. Of course, but only under supervision. And that’s how it started.
It is a dusky evening with purple clouds that threatened rain. Buddy saunters past me, out the door to the roof deck before I knew it. He trots over to the fence behind the planter. If he can slip through the fence he can go under our neighbor’s deck, a nice dark and narrow space. Perfect for a small predator. And nearly impossible for a human. Buddy is not allowed there.
Trying not to alarm him, I squat down very slowly in order to capture him in my arms. I feel a frisson of pride that I can still squat all the way down at my age. But by the time I have squatted, Buddy is slinking through the worn, wooden fence on the perimeter of my deck. He sniffs his way across my neighbor’s roof. I stand up. With difficulty and a lot of groaning. By the time I am erect, Buddy is marching across the next roof without a single look back.
I gallantly hurdle over the fence and start hiking across my neighbors’ roofs too. It is now night with rain clouds darkening the sky. Have I mentioned Buddy is a black and white cat? Great camouflage. I pull out my cell phone and sweep light across the roofs as I call Buddy’s name.
Buddy makes it to roof #5 and I’m now crawling across the slanted roof of house #3. I choose not to look down and hope the gutters will hold my weight if I start sliding. Buddy is ahead of me. There is a gap of two yards between roofs 5 and 6. Buddy briefly hesitates. I watch helplessly as he launches himself off roof 5 to roof 6. I scramble to 5 as fast as I can manage. I stare down. Below the 3-story house is solid concrete. I decide I shouldn’t have looked down. But Buddy needs rescuing. He was declawed by a previous owner, has 3 teeth, and is utterly fearless around other animals. I jump up and down in place to practice. I eye the gap again. I back up, take a deep breath, and run like an angry bull is chasing me and launch. I land screaming in terror which is certainly no way to catch a cat. Buddy has made it to roof 10. It is the house at the end of the block and has a stalwart oak tree reaching into the power lines. Buddy sniffs the tree. It must smell like squirrels because he starts climbing down.
I run over to the last roof. I gaze down. I decide I shouldn’t have looked down. It starts raining. I gingerly test the nearest branch to see if it would hold my considerably greater weight. The branch shakes when I grab it with both hands and lean. I put one foot on it and swing my other leg around a nearby branch. I got this. Then I glance down and freeze. I don’t want to move. I consider calling the fire station. To rescue me and Buddy.
I watch Buddy nimbly jump to the ground. He turns the corner and I can’t see where he is going next. That gets me moving again. After all, I have to rescue my cat. How would he ever get along without me? He might run into a mean dog. Or an even nastier rat. He might even be dive bombed by a vicious pigeon.
I get to the bottommost branch, hang from my arms, and drop to the ground. I turn the corner and search frantically as I run up the street. Could he be under a car? Is Buddy in one of the empty recycling bins? Finally I see him at the top of the street. A young woman is kneeling down to pet him. As I approach I hear purring like a buzz saw.
I greet the woman and explain that he is my runaway cat. She picks him up to hand him to me. Buddy appears relaxed and perfectly docile. Looks can be deceiving.