A Marlow-esque story of stray cats in New York
Sure, I knew Lonely – well, leastwise, as well as anyone could know Lonely. She wasn't – you know - like the most social cat. That's why we called her Lonely; Jasper started it. Jasper was a rangy black tom, real good to look at, but not the sharpest claw in the paw, if you get my meaning. Missy – a full bred Siamese, as she never tired of telling you – snorted with disgust at it. “ Alone doesn't mean lonely, fathead!” she said to Jasper. But it was too late, the name had stuck. Though not with Lonely herself; she thought names were only fit for People, and she wanted none of it. “I know who I am.” she'd say “That's enough!”
Still an all, she'd sometimes join us round the back of Toni's Italian Pizzeria. Toni was about as Italian as hash browns, but he were good to us. If the boys working for him tried to chase us off with brooms or – worse - buckets of cold water, Toni would rush out screaming “No! No! Leave zem, leave zem! Zey God's critters too, zey have right to life!” Yeah, right, but that was how Toni talked. Still, like I say, he was good to us. He's throw us bits of sausage or ham, fish heads, some ground beef, even some times a whole fish if it was going off. In the summer, he'd leave a pan of water out for us, and in the winter we'd warm ourselves by some hot air vents at the back of his joint. And for all Lonely's independence, she'd join us there, if the weather was bad or the hunting scarce. She was a real pretty cat too, a rich tortoiseshell, so Missy, natch, hated her, called her a “half-breed” and worse. Lonely didn't care, she'd calmly go on washing herself as if Missy weren't there. She was like that with Jasper, too, though he was real stuck on her, even gave her the best bits of any food he'd got. Lonely took the food but ignored Jasper. Once, I got real mad with her, and asked her why she treated him so mean. She didn't answer for a bit, looked real thoughtful, then said finally “Don't pay to care, it really don't. I learned that young.” Then she ran off, like she couldn't stand to be with us – or anyone - right that minute. (418)
Then, suddenly, Lonely wasn't around any more. And not just round Toni's. She was nowhere. Jasper scoured the neighborhood, but came back tired, dirty and sad, with no news of her. Missy was real mean to him at that time. “Don't know why you bother.” she'd say “She never cared about you!” Jasper looked puzzled “That don't matter.” he replied. “I worry about her.” I felt real sorry for Jasper, and went over to him. “She'll be okay, man. Lonely can take care of herself, you know that.” But Jasper shook his head. “I'm scared, ?????? The van's been out, been rounding 'em up. If they got Lonely – I dunno what she'd do!.”
I saw his point. Lonely would never give in, she'd never live with People. She hated People, she'd said so time out of mind. If she'd been caught then...... well, it just didn't bear thinking about.