116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
One morning as the sun rose, an incident is remembered in Hopkinton, a circumstance when a dark gray cat shook off the morning dew at its paws, dashed after an intruding cat, an interloper who spied a handful of cat food, and became irretrievable, as lost as a drifting branch on the nearby river. During the next three days, 10 percent of the town's population were searching the community, block by block, for the 10 pound cat called Finnegan.
This was a song of community that whispers to us when we're young and we can hear it like a chorus, a song that becomes the song of our own, a rhythm blending family and community. It's about where we traded our first baseball card, toy soldier or doll. It's about community empathy, feeling another's loss, a neighbor's cat, white or black, striped or spotted, lost and now missing.
This song is that rhythm Steinbeck named in The Pearl, a warming glow set against the enemies we know as doubt, discomfort and exclusion. When a newcomer enters the town circle, the people surround that one, and sing the song, welcoming and certain, a 'we are here for you', chorus.
The song lives in the heart.
In the third week in May, a former mayor led a queue driving from street to street, from the south to the north, all the way to the Nutrien plant on Route 38. One cat lady left extra niblets. At the counter of the feed store a picture and phone with the cat's name was taped down to stay put until the missing kitten was located. In the town utilities office the photo set at the window looking out to the sidewalk, those paying bills were confronted by Finnegan, and the dilemma of an elder couple who were unable to find the fierce gray who protected their yard.
The post office taped the picture up, as conversation grew dramatic. At the bank, the tellers watched from their windows. One thought she'd seen the cat nearby. A c-store on highway 38 taped the picture to the counter bottom, the clerk promising she'd spread the word. At the library, Finnegan grew in stature if not fame. At the biggest garage in town, a semi truck rim polisher said, "Believe me. I understand!" when told about the missing feline.
The couple waited, spoke to neighbors and prayed. Several people said they asked God for help. On the third day, at 2 a.m., a soft, beleaguered sound lifted across the back window into the bedroom. The older man arose. He walked to his door in the back of the property. Through the window, from under a deck chair, wobbly, haggard but determined, Finnegan slowly shuffled. She'd lost weight, her eyes were weakly tearing.
"Finnegan!" The man shouted. He embraced his cat and called his wife. Through the three days, a mist and rain of cloud covered skies had dominated. Loss had engulfed the couple. And through the weather and the unknown, a small Iowa community had herded a little gray cat back home.
Tim Trenkle lives in Hopkinton.