Our silky and extremely athletic cat was aptly named Shadow. Though mostly a pet of sweet disposition Shadow could exhibit a stubborn black streak to get what she wanted in her own time and way. This cat had developed a bad habit of mysteriously interrupting the pattern of her nightly hunting rounds to insist on immediate entry to the shelter of our Inn. Her mood-swings could overtake her anytime from dusk till dawn. Shadow had intuited, that if there was no activity at the entranceway, she could still agitate us to proper action by scaling the angled roofs and take up her meowing station next to our bedroom skylight.
We had recently brought home from the hospital our third baby, which made our tally three kids in three and one-half years. It was quite a trick to keep everything on track, what with the careening, and often colliding, schedules of toddlers and infants and the endless daily chores of inn keeping. With early summer the tourist season had come into full swing and we were busy at the Inn. For our ease, we relocated the family to a couple of rooms on the ground floor where we could more easily monitor naps and still respond to the needs of our clientele.
I was pouring coffee for the guests who had already gathered for breakfast, around the common dining table, when another couple came in to join our merry company. Our new companions wore upon their faces some strained look of mild annoyance. After the fortifying effects of the first cup pulsed through their veins, and having endured long enough the pleasantries and banter that issued from the cheery gathering, these two could bear it no longer and burst forth. They simultaneously launched into a tale of woe, with the staccato precession possible only to those long linked in matrimony. And woe, indeed, it was. The wife’s inordinate fear of things that fly in the night, be they bats or spirits of the dearly departed, took center stage.
They continued; that they had gone soundly to sleep in the canopy bed under the open skylight, when, at about 2:00 A.M…
As their story unraveled before the now silent gathering I could only too clearly envision the entire escapade unfolding:
The cool, sweet summer breezes wafting through the skylight and the lingering smell of grasses and dew. The cat, who we had neglected to inform of our move, blackening out the stars as it padded with purpose to the open portal of the skylight. The first tentative step and then the full weight of paws upon the mosquito screen, a hurtling fall through the empty void and then the jarring impact as the screen impales itself on the bed finial and the black demon crashes through the woven canopy, dragging it down, down, onto the bed, weighted as a fish flailing in a cast net.
The couple awoke to a crash and a heavy black form thrashing about them and they found themselves likewise ensnared by beasties and canopies and the dark night. With a struggle as heroic as any Labor of Hercules, they beat back the intruder and gained the light. The poor cat was soon ejected to the hall and cat and couple were both left to lick their emotional wounds.
Rather than to commiserate their terrible fate, as the couple had surely expected and felt rightly earned, the table full of fellow travelers erupted in a grand round of laughter and congratulations. The offended couple sat in stunned, round-eyed silence.
“Don’t you see?” one tablemate exclaimed. “You now have a great story. You can tell it where ever you go.”
The couple finally came to realize, that what they had identified as a tragedy and a travesty was, in actuality, a treasure. They now owned a nugget of gold that they could use to crack the ice at any party, any dinner engagement. They now owned, their own, Inn story.
We all seek stories. We seek context for our existence. We yearn to be woven into the fiction of our lives and to become minor heroes, foils and sages.
This one couple had simply sought a night away, an inn experience, and they got the story of a lifetime.