Ollie & Spuds – Chapter 1

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. red cat from free digital

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

Chapter 2: https://untoldanimalstories.org/2014/02/21/ollie-spuds-chapter-2/

photo by Dan courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

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The Starry Night Was My Blanket

My path here was roundabout, here being a place with space to roam and explore within a context of belonging.  Here I’ve come to know something I’d not known before: trust.  Sometimes it feels foreign, and I retreat back to my native high alertness.

I had lived on a ranch where I had a job to do: tending the livestock.  I took my job seriously and performed it with singular focus, but the time came when the cattle were moved and the people left.  I ran after their truck, sure there had been some mistake, until I could run no longer.  I returned to the empty place; knowing no other place else since puppyhood, I stayed.

There was a trickle of water at the edge of the property from which I drank.  I passed my days foraging for food.  The starry night was my blanket, the warm sun my companion, the rain my welcome, thirst-quenching friend.  And so I passed my time.

One day I saw a car coming from a distance, a cloud of dust trailing behind it.  People I didn’t know emerged from the car.  It was the woman who saw me first, pointing me out to the others then calling to me.  I approached her cautiously.

She stooped down, holding her hand out to me.  I looked into her eyes then walked to her.  She touched my forehead, my ears, my neck and spoke to me quietly.  I didn’t understand her words, but I understood her.  She placed her hand on my spiny back, each finger resting in an indent between my ribs.

They took me to their house.  I hung behind as we walked in, as I’d never before been inside a house.  A cat at the far side of the room arched his back and widened his eyes.  I looked toward the woman for reassurance, who nodded.  I moved slowly toward the cat, my head hung low to show respect.  I reached my neck forward and touched his nose with my nose.  The cat sat down and began bathing his paw.  I went back and stood beside the woman, glancing up to her to make sure I’d done the right thing.  She placed her hand gently on my head.  I closed my eyes.

These days, there is a cedar-smelling bed near the woodstove and bowls of fresh food and water for me, always.  Sometimes I walk to the far edge of the property and sit on the bluff.  From there I gaze out toward the place I used to live and back toward the place I now call home.  I almost always lay my head on my paws and, under the big sky, doze.  Later, I rise, shake myself off, and follow the familiar path home.  There, I am greeted with love, always.

•photo by untoldanimalstories.org co-founder Cherie Damron, http://cdamron.exposuremanager.com/