Who is Chuck and why does he like to travel?

I was born to be a writer and when I wrote my novel Wild Point Island, Chuck, my orange and white recently rescued feral tabby, got it in his head that he wanted to travel to the island and see the place for himself. Well, of course, Wild Point Island, can only be seen by revenants (you'll have to read the book to find out who they are) and Chuck is no revenant so instead, I concocted a plan to take Chuck with me when I travel around the world, which I do frequently. Not an easy task. First, I have to deflate the poor kid of all air, stuff him in my carry-on bag, remember to bring my portable pump, and when I arrive, I pump him back up. Ouch. But he's used to it by now and given the choice to either stay home in his comfy cat bed or get deflated, he pulls out his passport, ready to travel, every time.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Chuck Has Run-In with Babysitter Hyena

My trip to Kenya, Africa, is a perfect example of Chuck in action because leave it to Chuck to always want to do or see the opposite of what I wanted to do or see.

For example, I had my list prepared of all the animals I wanted to take photos of--the big five--as they are known by the hunters of long ago: the buffalo, rhinoceros, elephant, lion, and leopard.  Not to mention, of course, the giraffe and even the hippopotamus.  Nowhere on that list do you see the hyena. In fact, I would have gone in the other direction to avoid seeing the hyena.

Dirty and filthy animals, I thought.  Scraggly scavengers. 

 But no, Chuck wanted to see hyenas. 

Why, he wouldn’t say, but Chuck has a drawer in my house, where he stores pictures of all his secret desires, and sure enough he has a giant glossy of a hyena. 


And so it happened one day while we were riding along the dusty road in a preserve near Oltukai Lodge at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro that our driver, Stephen, knowing that Chuck was “into” hyenas, and being a “cat person” himself, pulled over to the side of the road and pointed. 

 “And there you have your first glimpse of a hyena,” Stephen said.

 Well, Chuck, who was catnapping in the safari vehicle, literally jumped up and stuck his cat nose out the open window to have a look.  Immediately his tail wagged back and forth.

Ugh, I thought to myself as I gazed at what looked like a spotted wrangled mass of beaten flesh lounging on the ground. “That is the ugliest animal I have ever seen.”

Chuck pretended to ignore my ill placed comments, but I was obviously ruining his moment.

“Now look to your right.” Stephen pointed to a gigantic boulder and there in the overly large crevice, two faces peeked out.  And they weren’t ugly at all.

 “Baby hyenas,” Stephen said, in explanation.  “In their lair.”

 Well,  that’s all Chuck needed to hear.  In one flying leap, he jumped out of the safari vehicle, intent on getting closer to those baby hyenas.

“Chuck, get back here. Are you crazy?” I screamed. “Those hyenas are wild animals.”

But Chuck didn’t listen.  At first he only seemed to want to watch them as they moved about, exploring. 

Then he seemed to prance faster toward the hyena lair, anxious for some kind of cat/hyena encounter. 

And then the unthinkable happened.

The ugly hyena, the one who appeared to be lounging over to the left, sprung into action. 

“Uh, oh,” Stephen said. “Not good. She’s the babysitter.  Her job is to protect the baby hyenas.  She sees Chuck as a threat.”

And sure enough, the babysitter’s beady eyes focused on Chuck, and she dropped into stalking position as she slowly moved forward. 

There was going to be a encounter all right, but it wasn’t going to be between Chuck and the kids. Oh, no.  And my poor Chuck didn’t stand a chance. After all, hyenas tangle with lions in their bid for food.

 “Chuck, to your left.  Look to your left.”

 Well, he must have heard the plea in my voice.  At the exact moment that the babysitter hyena broke into a run toward Chuck, my clever cat jumped sideways about four feet, then somehow propelled himself backwards, and scampered back to the safari vehicle. 

“Jump up, Chuck.  You can do it.  You can do it.”

The entire vehicle began to cheer behind me.
And either the motivational cheer or the hot breath of the babysitter hyena on Chuck’s neck inspired him, but Chuck leapt up into my arms, rattled, but safe and sound. 

“Whatever possessed you?” I asked him later when we were back in the cabin.  “You could have been their dinner tonight.”

Chuck blinked and didn’t say a word, but I noticed that he still had the glossy photo of the hyena, and I figured that even though he’d looked death squarely in the eye, he’d done what he’d had to do, what any cat would do-- to follow his dream and he wasn’t about to let any babysitter hyena stand in his way. 


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