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19th May
posted by amber

The Quest

This is not the best part of town, yet my trail has led me here.

I’ve been on the trail of my mother’s cat, Everett. He went missing five weeks ago and at first we feared the worst – his crushed body on the street or in the yard of the Rottweiler down the street – but Mother insisted on putting up a poster and soon reports started rolling in.

Our theory is that Everett’s new veterinarian-prescribed low fat diet sent the amiable but undeniably gluttonous feline on a search for better eats.

A woman two blocks over took him in; she said she thought he was a stray. Yeah, sure, a 16 pound perfectly groomed stray. He stayed with her only one day. She said that he never developed a taste for the vegan cat food that her two tabbies ‘adore.’

Three days later he was sighted in the elementary school yard where he benefited from innumerable tuna fish sandwiches the children seemed happy to donate to his cause until the principal put the run on him.

We had to widen our poster campaign to pick up his trail after that because it turns out he hitched a ride with the woman who delivers early morning newspapers. She was certain he resembled a cat missing in her neighbourhood. Everett is so car-phobic that she didn’t really get a good look at him – not enough to know he was a ‘him.’ One minute she was holding a purring affectionate pussycat, then she slipped him into her car and he turned into a yowling furry pinball rocketing around until she’d driven him to her neighbour’s house. When she opened the door, he shot out and hid in some bushes. She woke her neighbour who took one look and declared, “No, that’s not our Pusskins,” and went back to bed.

Everett meanwhile slunk away, no doubt afraid another car ride was in the offing. He stayed on that block four days, each day taken in and fed (usually cans of human-intended salmon or tuna, once he got canned shrimp) by someone who thought he was Pusskins. Then they’d kick him out, each and every one with the apology to me that he seemed well-fed so they thought he’d find his own way home.

An old widower on the next block was Everett’s next port of call. The man had every intention of taking him to the animal shelter, but the girl who comes in to cut his toenails told him that they euthanise most of the cats and dogs, so he followed her suggestion that she take the cat to live in the factory downtown where her mother sews knock-off handbags in an attic room with 30 or 40 other women. The place is plagued with rats, so they figured a cat would be a good idea.

And so it might be, but not Everett. He’s afraid of mice. A rat would be his worst nightmare. He spent one night in the sweat shop and bolted out the door when they arrived at 5 a.m.

And now he was downtown.

And soon he was in the area of flop houses and soup kitchens, pawn shops and back alley drug deals. So I’m here too.

The people here call him ‘Boss.’ He’s been here less than two weeks, but everyone seems to know and love him. They boast about finding tasty tidbits for him in dumpsters, the ones who sleep on the street try to tempt him to sleep under their blanket and share his warmth and gentleness with them.

“Angie, she loves him best,” a social worker told me. “She really shouldn’t be on the street. She’s a 22 year old schizophrenic, pregnant with her third child. She’s such an addict, they took the first two away from her pretty much at birth. I’ve never seen her as calm and, well, normal as she is with that cat. She came by and asked if I could get her a new prescription for her meds – she’s afraid she’ll have an incident and…”

“And what?”

“She said she was afraid she’d lose that cat’s respect.”

I watched as the social worker brought a meal to Angie from the soup kitchen (no pets allowed inside). I watched her eat and share her food with Everett aka Boss.

“I found a room for her where the cat will be allowed,” she told me, and gave me a look.

Mother still has Pablo and Essie. I wonder if I can convince her to do without Everett.

StoryADay’s challenge to us today was to write a story about a quest.

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