Last week was a short week but a long week. It was a short week because Monday's Labor Day holiday chopped off one whole day. It was a long week because I didn't get home until after dark on two of the remaining four days.
Late day #1: I stayed late on Tuesday because the school board was having its first meeting of the school year that evening, and our principal had asked me to give a short presentation. This was a relatively easy assignment because all I had to do was show a PowerPoint I'd put together last year on some funny/eloquent/wise quotes I'd lifted from my 4th graders' Writer's Notebooks. Showing off students' work is as easy as showing off a really cute puppy -- you just have to hold it up and everyone in the room is smiling and going, "Ahhhh..." Still, I did have to do a bit of talking on my own and my stress level was, shall we say, rather elevated. The clicker to change the slides remotely didn't work, and the multi-purpose room echoed like a cavern (could anyone actually hear me?); but it all went well enough. There was some laughter and a number of, "Ahhh's" as I read the student's quotes and polite, but genuine, applause at the end. I see this as humble but solid success. That and a commute home in the dark.
Late day #2: My teaching partner, Sue, and I do our next week's lesson planning after school on Thursday afternoons. Some weeks we're able to keep our conversation strictly to lesson planning and then it's a fast and efficient process that's over in less than 45 minutes. Most of the time, though, we sprinkle in conversation about other things and lesson planning stretches out accordingly. Very occasionally (thank God), our conversations turn into marathons, and then the actual lesson planning is shoe-horned into the tiny slices of time between our enthusiastic rants and ramblings about everything under the sun except what we'll teaching the following week. Thursday afternoon's session was such a planning session and we sat at our laptops in my classroom for two hours, happily yapping away. This wouldn't have been so bad if we also hadn't planned to drive to Modesto afterwards to buy some fish to put in our new classroom aquariums. It wasn't until almost six that we left school for the pet shop, and not until seven that we were back in the parking lot, each clutching a bag of five tiny fish. Sue lives near the school, so she offered to settle both sets of fish into their respective aquariums so I could get home.
Even so, it was almost completely dark when I finally pulled into the carport. I changed out of my school clothes and then hurried through the outdoor chores before the last of the daylight was gone. I quickly gathered eggs from underneath grumpy chickens, refilled their water dishes, closed up the coop, fed a starving Corny his meager flake of hay, and herded the ducklings from the dog kennel where they spend the day back into their nighttime quarters in the barn. Then Bruce came home and we came in for dinner and then on to bed.
Those first moments when I'm finally safe in bed and my head hits the pillows and my toes wiggle under the blankets are always some of the best of the day. But this night something was missing -- no Arby settling in, carving out a small cat-sized space between my right side and the edge of the bed. I knew I should get up and go outside to call him, but I was so sleepy that I decided to let it go. He'd come inside later and it was silly to worry.
I was awakened a little before 2:00 a.m. by the howling of a coyote pack somewhere very close to the house. I felt along my side for Arby's round little cat head, but his spot was still empty. Very occasionally Arby will feel the need to march down the driveway or go down to the pond all by himself. I dashed outside, calling Arby's name and the coyote's instantly became quiet. I called and called -- I woke up the other four cats and they came to me from the house, stretching and yawning. But no Arby. With a worried heart, I finally went back to bed. I lay there awake until almost 3:00 a.m., and then gave up, got up, made tea and sat down at the dining table to do schoolwork.
At 6:00, Bruce got up and I told him that Arby was missing and I'd heard coyotes very close to the house. He didn't say much, and went outside to do morning chores. A few minutes later, he came back inside and, smiling a big smile, asked, "So, why did you lock Arby in the chicken coop?"
My fuzzy boy had followed me into the coop when I refilled the chicken's water pans and then had been locked in the pen after I closed the gate behind me when I left. He'd been there all night and must have been quite upset when he heard me calling for him but couldn't get out to come to me.
I do so love a happy ending.