by Floyd A. Hyatt
Far below, through the picture window, flashing yellow lights sent waves of colored shadow over the mounded snows of the deep ravine, punctuated by pin-points of bright, oscillating red. These glittered too, but didn't seem to spread across the ravine as did the yellow. Stuck in the snow, were small black and broken strut affairs strewed across a ten yard spot, intermixed with brightly painted shards of wooden panel. The snow's surface there was disturbed, like lumpy scrambled eggs on a clean white plate. From my window high on the ravine's edge, the hook and ladder looked to be about ten inches long. I couldn't imagine why they had sent it, the EMS truck would have been sufficient, as there wasn't a fire. Two black-and-whites sat off the threading road's berm, like match box toys abandoned by some distracted child.
It had been a typical day for Skat, our short haired tabby. Coming downstairs Christmas evening, I had almost tripped over the Tom, as it lay on a tread in the staircase's middle. Then later, after dinner, we had caught him batting bulbs off the tree, almost toppling our evergreen. It wasn't until he jumped on the table and knocked over the holiday candle arrangement that we had temporarily put him out.
What with presents still to wrap, and all the last minute bustle, we had remanded the cat to the front yard. This was not a cruelty for the big tom. The front is fenced, and with his thick fur, he actually likes this for short periods. What happened after wasn't his fault.
The presents were ready and the stockings tacked up over the fireplace. Exhausted, we trudged up to bed, Scat forgotten. Terrible to say, but on the rare occasion we forget to call him in, he generally climbed the elm in the front yard and leaped over to the window casing, shredding the screen until we let him in. It wass usually only summers that he parked himself on the roof to sun. On such occasions I've had to get the ladder out and get him down.
Anyway, we had forgotten, and left Scat out.
About four AM, there had been a clatter and scraping impact on the roof, some surprised exclamations, and a loud Tom-cat yowl. I arose from my bed to see what was the matter and ran down the stairs in time to see a large colorful mass, preceded by some deer, pitch past the picture window through the dark. I wonderingly eyed the window for a second, stunned, then remembered Scat. I threw on my coat and ran to the garage, retrieved the ladder, and mounted to the roof from the side yard, to inspect the rear pitch.
I fumbled out the flashlight and clicked it on. There was a small cat shaped depression in the snow at the roof center, and from there, a snow trail led off in that clear and mess manner cats do when leaping away. Preceding this, clear in the snow, were two rail straight tracks and deer hoof prints for twelve feet, then a messy skid just before the cat nest, skewing downward, ending at the roof-edge on the ravine side.
Even from here, the ravine had been just a black shadow stretching away from the yardless rear of the house. We have a small retaining wall there and four feet beyond that, a mandatory snow fence just before the drop off.
There was a second yowl from the base of the ladder, so with some relief, I climbed back down. Sure enough, Skat was winding around the ladder's legs, looking agitated. I picked him up, and went back inside.
It was almost daylight when I called the police - anonymously, I didn't want police knocking on my door Christmas day to make some droll report. I just mentioned that there might be some animal carcasses on the ravine road, and since I knew the mile marker by heart, they must have sent someone right out.
Just before turning away from the window, I saw two EMS guys carrying a stretcher towards the ambulance. I could just make out a bright red snowsuit on it.