Encounter

by Kai Schreiber

up

The day has just begun to end. Iím sitting in the living roomís semidarkness, watching TV. The cat, manís second best friend, watches the patio, melancholically, for sheíd like to go out and is not allowed to. Suddenly there is screaming, hissing, and itís not on the TV. The cat is producing sounds I never heard before, she pules and she yowls. Iím not even sure I heard those words before. Dangling from the window sill she utters miserable catwords, clutching with her paws, gurgling in panic. Finally, watched by a bewildered human, she jumps down to the floor and from a safe distance stares at the patio door. I get up and turn on the outside light, but of course thereís nothing. Mad cat disease? I eye the beast suspiciously and start talking to her in a comforting voice, telling her soothingly how stupid she is and that I will consider sending her to cat therapy if this goes on (assuming thatís what american cats want to hear in situations like this), when she freezes up again and stares frightenedly. She seems to be fixating a deadly danger about half a meter outside the wooden and - to my weak human eyes - quite opaque door. I walk over to look out of the window, and there he sits, silently, and stares back. Big eyes in a long pointed face, interested and calm. We examine each other for a few seconds, until it sinks in and I squeak and jump up with excitement. A raccoon! A real, breathing raccoon! Excitement sweeps through me, I bounce through the apartment to fetch some stale bread and my camera. In the meantime the wraith conquers the window sill and the cat withdraws further, fearing the worst. Briefly I wonder whether she is thinking Iím as stupid for being so excited as I think she is for being so frightened, but then Iím back at the window. I have to concentrate.
Only centimeters away heís sitting when I flash, still not moving and mildly interested. As I slide open the window, however, he quickly retreats, and my throwing out a dry bagel seems to insult him deeply. Slowly he turns his back, wobbles gracefully over to the fire ladder and starts an incorruptible descent. I run out, to spy over the brink and see him one floor below, briefly and seemingly disgustedly looking at the thrown bagel piece, then trodding off. Iím not talking his language, it seems.
Back in the apartment the cat watches me placing the Bagel out on the patio, meowing protestantly. Brings danger near! But then, of course, Iím catholic.

The next morning: Bagel gone.

My second try ends with a clear and complete victory of the other team. While a giant cockroach from outer space had kept Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith occupied on the screen and me in front of it, yesterdayĎs visitor, I have to assume, happily munched away at the plate with the catĎs food I placed on the patio. Or was it some neighborĎs devillish cat, posing as my dear raccoon, gaining evil advantage by it? Looking at my own cat, I strongly have to doubt that.

Iím standing in the living room. I have placed another plate with cat food on the patio, now Iím setting up my surveillance camp. The camp consists of a chair, my camera, a book, several cookies and a big bottle of Ginger Ale. Iím all prepared. No matter when heíll come, Iíll be there, watching. Proving the sensation with photos to my friends back in germany, who never saw a raccoon in their whole life (while I did, just two paragraphs ago). They probably never even heard of one.
One final time I make sure, checking through the window, that the plate is clearly visible and placed far enough from the door. I had put it besides a small wet spot, and sure enough: there is the dark patch on the floorboard. But beside it: no plate. Puzzled, I stare for a few seconds until my brain processes the dimly lit scene correctly. The patch is composed of a puddle-, a plate- and a connecting raccoon-part. No two minutes after the opening of the buffet, itís being plundered already.

When I open the door, he moves away a few meters, but returns after a few seconds. Slowly I sit down while he gobbles away. The autofocus light shines on his nose, the whiskers twitch. My camera flashes and he backs away, only to return immediately. My camera flashes again. Rocky doesnít care. He does care though, when the former tenant of my room appears on the fire ladder to fetch her mail. Rocky trods over to a bench, carefully watching the intruder, hiding under it, and hissing at the human blocking his exit.

"Oh yes", she says bluntly. "We have an infestation here. Better call in pest-control soon."
I stare, not understanding at all, camera in my hand, at her dark silhouette in the night. What a strange country I came to.