There is a lane I recall, somewhere deep in dim memory. I see it snow covered and winding and edged by black trees. It is the way home. I never returned there.
© 2014 Carolyn Cott
He lifts his nose to the wind and sniffs. Something new. With his head still resting on his paws, he opens his eyes and sees a flash of a ginger-colored cat, skinny and in pursuit of something, at the far end of the alley.
Ollie climbs out from under a pile of rags and cardboard and stretches, keeping an eye on the cat. The cat pounces and misses as the mouse leaps into a small hole in the brick wall and disappears. The cat saunters into the one ray of sunlight angling between the tall buildings, sits down and begins washing herself. The sun sparks on her ginger-colored fur. Her movements are measured and deliberate. Her eyes are slits, but she sees, she knows he is there. She is watching.
It’s been three days now that the cat has appeared in his alley. He thinks of it as his alley because he’s been there how long now? Maybe two months, maybe four. He remembers coming there. There was snow.
The man had hunched over the steering wheel, his jaw set. Ollie wanted to enjoy the car ride, but something was very wrong. The kids weren’t there, although the back seat smelled vaguely of peanut butter. The woman wasn’t there. She had cried and stroked his fur before the man unchained him and yanked him toward the car. The woman had whispered something to the man, who swung around toward her, his teeth clenched, saying, “No. No.”
The man stopped the car on a deserted street. He looked both ways before opening the back seat door, pulled Ollie out by the scruff of the neck, and sped off.
Ollie ran after the car as it moved farther and farther away, turned, and was gone. He memorized the place where the car had turned. It might be important. Panting, he sat down, only then noticing the coldness of the snow. He looked around. The sun had just risen, casting chilly light on the faces of the buildings. There were no people. A tattered awning blew in the wind. A spear of an icicle crashed onto the sidewalk.
For two days Ollie ate only snow to quench his thirst, but it made him shiver. He wandered the streets, looking for a familiar landmark and searching for food. Then he found the alley. It smelled of garbage and food.
Ollie tucked himself behind a stack of wooden palettes and waited. A man in a stained apron pushed his way out a door and heaved a luscious-smelling bag into a dumpster. When the door clanged shut behind the man, Ollie scampered up a pile of cinder blocks and bricks, dropped down into the dumpster, tore at the bag with his teeth, and ate.
He fell into a routine, wandering the streets in the night and returning to his alley in the early morning when cars and people came into the streets. He had learned it was not good to be out when people were on the streets. There was an afternoon when the boys chased him: chubby-cheeked, dressed in blue uniforms, with book bags dragging behind them, they ran after him pitching stones at him. Most whistled past, but one hit. He yelped and slowed down, and the boys laughed. They were almost upon him when he ran again, cutting across a busy road and turning a corner to lose them. Returning to his alley exhausted and thirsty, he went to the low depression in the concrete at the base of a downspout looking for water, where a small puddle remained. Then he curled up into the tightest ball he could, and slept.
Ollie & Spuds…to be continued
photo by Dan courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net