I took my first walk through the new neighborhood today with my friend Christine. It was warm and breezy and adventure was calling. About two houses, away a boy with a voluminous, red fro tousled the fur of some sort of animal. Upon closer inspection, that animal was a cat.
“Hey kitty,” I called out in a high-pitched voice to the cat, who was more interesting to me than the person.
“My friend is going to get her some food,” the boy announced. I took a few steps back and stopped in front of the boy and the purring black cat. “Is that your cat?”
“This is a stray. We found him right here,” he said.
I was stricken with jealousy. However intense the cat lady vibes I emit may be, I have never been approached by a stray on the street, nor has a skinny tom ever appeared on my doorstep. This boy was living my dream.
“Why don’t you love me?” I thought, hoping the cat could telepathically hear my thoughts. The cat was receiving an intoxicating belly rub and did not concern himself with my dreams.
Soon another young boy sprinted down the street with no food to give the cat.
“If you need some cat food, I have some in my apartment,” I said.
“You have cat food at your house? Do you have a cat?” the fellow with the fro asked.
“No!” the other boy said. “That’s why she has cat food!”
“I’ll go back and grab a couple of cans,” I said.
Christine and I returned to my apartment, where I stuffed my purse with a few cans of Science Diet and a Ziploc full of cat treats. We walked back to the yard two houses over. The boy was still tending to the cat, which had retreated under a thorny bush.
“Did you bring food?” the boy asked. “The cat is hiding now, but I think I could put a can in there.”
The boy with the fro opened up the can of turkey giblets and slid it under the bush. The cat devoured the gravy with relish.
“I think that cat belongs to the lady across the street,” the boy’s friend said. He had picked up his bike and rolled it back and forth on the pavement.
“That cat is awfully friendly for a stray,” I said. “He might be right. You should ask your neighbors if they’re missing a cat.”
Just then, a woman in purple sweatpants came outside. I assumed that she was the boy’s mother.
“What are you guys doing?” she asked.
“He found a stray cat,” I said.
“That’s not a stray. That’s my cat, Jake.”
And there was the switch. What kind of game were they playing?
“I can see why you might think Jake is a stray,” the woman continued. “He never eats and he’s so skinny. Did you feed my cat?”
“She brought us some cans of food,” the boy said.
“Well, that’s nice of you. Jake never eats anything, but he seems to like whatever you gave him.”
“It’s Science Diet turkey giblets,” I said. I was blushing now and Christine and I started to back away from the stranger’s yard. The boy with the fro and his friend both ran off to their own houses.
“He’s only eating the gravy. Jake loves gravy. He doesn’t usually like cat food.”
“Well, now at least you know that he likes Science Diet,” I said, laughing nervously.
A man in a suit emerged from the house and headed towards the car with his briefcase.
“Look, Paul, some kids fed our cat. They went out to the store and bought him canned food,” said the woman.
“I didn’t buy them,” I said, backing towards the sidewalk. “I have a cat. That’s her food.”
A teenage boy came out of the house.
“Look, Sam, this girl was feeding our cat.”
“Well, bye,” I said, starting down the street with Christine. The two boys rode by on their bicycles.
“You can come over and feed our cat whenever you like,” the woman called out.
This is a strange place.