Fritter, the wanderer

Yesterday morning, Tod & I were sitting together in the living room having coffee. I told him I had accepted that Fritter wasn’t coming back and listed numerous possible endings of our furry friend, from a new household to being stolen by monkeys.

Fritter ran off a few days after we moved in and he had been gone for two weeks. No sign of him at all. My psychic friend, Christine, had told me a few days earlier that he was safe but pissed off. But he was still missing.

After breakfast, Tod, Rob & I decided to enjoy the cool weather with a walk up to Oyama Fudouson temple. As we passed by the fancy thatched house and approached Megumi’s cabin, I heard a meow coming from a thick stand of bamboo.

“Fritter?” He meowed back and his voice came closer.

He was uninjured. His collar bell looked rusty. He was loud and hungry. Megumi came out to see what was happening. She brought some katsuobushi (fish flakes) for him. Tod ran back home to get the car, some cat food and the carrier.

That was 11 am. It wasn’t until 5 pm that he made it home.

Fritter is strong-willed and he refuses to do things out of his control. Which is probably why 555 was not acceptable. I told him we were moving but it wasn’t enough.

So when I tried to entice him from the thicket yesterday morning with snacks and snatched him up to get him into the carrier, he quickly figured out what was going on. He flailed, claws out, leaped out of my arms and ran back into the bamboo where I couldn’t reach him. He howled piteously. I thought he was gravely injured. But he was only stunned by my betrayal and I was was the one who was bleeding.

Clearly, I needed to let this reunion unfold at Fritter’s pace. I sent Tod & Rob on their way with the car and I sat on the edge of the thicket with snacks and a calm voice. Eventually, Fritter emerged, climbed down the embankment, and walked with me down the road.

When he got tired, he let me carry him a few paces. But then it was back to the ground. Every car passing sent him into hiding. It took an hour to get 400 meters to the little temple on the corner.

We sat there for 45 minutes or so. It was the crossroads of a decision for Fritter. He could turn left and follow me to 555 or turn right and go down to the old house. I texted Tod & asked him to put the old cat door back in place. Maybe he was going to have an office cat.

But in the end, Fritter decided to turn left and follow me home.

Until a car came by at an inopportune moment and chased him up a 3 meter high wall. And there he stayed, unwilling to move again. He had a safe hiding place behind a tree. I climbed up and peeked to make sure he was okay. Then I climbed down to ground level and waited. It was a beautiful day and I had a nice view to enjoy. Fritter is very good at forcing me to slow down and take in the present moment.

I was in that present moment for about two hours. Fritter would sometimes meow and I talked to him. The road was busy with tourists driving by. Neighbors passed on foot and one lovely woman stopped to chat. She has nine cats herself; she understood the scene. She even made her way around to the other side of the wall to see if she could catch or chase Fritter from his position, but nope. He was not going anywhere until he was ready.

Rob & Tod walked over from 555 with some lunch for me, a snack for Fritter and the cat carrier. Fritter liked the snack, but not the carrier. Lunch for me was a delicious carnitas burrito. I stuck around a little longer after the guys went back, but around 3 pm, I explained to Fritter that I would return after we dropped Rob at the bus. Fritter howled sadly as I walked away.

And when I came back to his hiding place at 5, traffic had eased and he was ready to continue the trip. I coached him down the wall and we walked the remaining 250 meters home.

Maura quickly accepted his brother’s return and they slept together on the bed last night. Fritter had some moments when he was making scared noises, but Maura and I settled him down.

Beryl got out of the way by finding a safe space above the doors. She is hissing at him even this morning. I think she is angry at Fritter for leaving and coming back. Maybe she, like me, had accepted his permanent disappearance.

Was Fritter’s return a miracle? Not quite. It’s just Fritter being himself.

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Mediatinker, Kristen McQuillin, is an American-born resident of Japan since 1998. This blog chronicles her life, projects, thoughts and small adventures.