Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Talking with Strangers

You know how when you're a kid, you have to watch these terrifying videos at school about not talking to strangers?

Or maybe you had to read a book where a perfectly handsome young man (or normal-looking woman) lures a girl into his car with a puppy?

[Lesson: not all child abductors are dirty old men]

In any event, my mother always obsessed over the possibility that I might be swiped up from our yard by the nomads who frequented the nearby "dormitory," and I was never allowed to play outside alone.

Not until I was in college, in fact.

But we'll save those emotional scars for another day. And, please, whatever you do: don't tell her what I did last Thursday.

You see, last Thursday I went into a stranger's house.

Completely uninvited...

Completely alone...

In a big city...

In a neighborhood that's anything but perfect.

And it didn't even occur to me, until later, that what I did wasn't necessarily the "smartest" thing to do.

It just sort of... happened. And then later I laughed to myself, thinking of what my mother would say.

You see, I was taking out the trash when an orange and white cat ran up to me, meowing.

I didn't want to touch him — for fear of what I could transmit to my cat, and also for fear that he would then insist on following me — but the poor thing wouldn't give in. In fact, when I walked to my car to get something out of the trunk, he insisted on following me.

He crossed the road behind me and kept meowing. And when I returned to my apartment, he followed me back across the street, still meowing and rubbing up against my legs.

"All right," I said, giving in, picking him up, and looking for his tags. "Let's see your name."

His tag happened to include his owner's phone number AND address. They lived about four blocks away — close enough that the cat probably wasn't entirely lost, but far enough away that the distance, coupled with his persistence, made me feel like I should at least try to return him.

So wearing socks and flip flops along with a business suit (don't ask), I headed east towards the address on his tag. The cat purred all the while, and was honestly one of the friendliest I've ever had the honor of escorting home (not that I do this often, but you get the idea).

What happened when I arrived was something out of a cheesy movie: a little girl, about 6 or 7, answered the door and actually started crying when she saw the cat in my arms.

"Jasper!" she screamed. "I've missed you so much!"

Her parents stood a few feet behind her, smiling at their daughter's delight. At this point, Jasper jumped out of my arms and began nestling up against the girl. She picked him up using both her hands, squeezing him just under his front legs.

"Where did you find him?" the father asked. "He's been missing for almost two weeks!"

I explained to them how Jasper was following me around, and they were amazed to learn he was actually so close to their house.

"I wonder if he wandered too far from home but was trying to find his way back?" the mother speculated.

"Whatever it was, thank you so much for bringing him back," continued her husband.

"Yes," added the little girl. "I've never been so happy!"

OK, so by this point you're probably thinking: there's no way that happened.

And so to you skeptics out there, I say: you're exactly right.

Yeah, a cat was following me around. Yeah, I picked him up and took him to the address on his tags.

But what followed was much more boring; certainly not worth the time to tell a story. So I fabricated a few details.

Like the gleeful kid. And the happy family. And I left out the part where I rang the wrong buzzer at first. I left out the growling dogs. And also the part where a neighbor told me to just "put the cat in the backyard if no one answers [once I rang the proper buzzer]."

And, yeah, maybe the lady that owned the cat actually lets her cat outside from time to time. But she did say "Oh, I wondered where he'd gone off to! He's usually not gone so long, I was just thinking of looking for him." So that's something... right?

Honestly? I felt like a jerk for bringing him back.

I mean, they let him out. And he'd probably have found his way back.

But, yeah, I'd still do it again — 'cause I'm a sucker like that.

But, please, don't tell Mom.


Franki said...

You are a bad little girl who is lucky she still has her innocence.

Technomonk said...

A cute "stray" kitten like that followed me once when I was in my teenage years. It kept meowing and meowing and following me. I growled and shouted at it to go away but to no avail. So I got fed up and kicked it. It landed three or four feet away. It walked away, message received and didn't seem worse for wear, but I on the other hand felt like I had been kicked in the gut. I felt bad staring after it, thinking that it was just hungry and I had kicked the poor thing.

Now I fear ever meeting a cat in that situation again because I will most certainly be unable to resist the poor kitten in distress. The memory of the short flight of that kitten from my youth, will cripple my will power,and I will be a "sucker like that" for sure :-)

XOXO said...

So the gleeful kid was a little much. It was very nice of you to return the cat regardless of whether or not it was truly missing. Watch that cat-scratch fever.

Eli Edmundson said...

I have to say I was getting pretty dubious, well told though, enjoyed it!

disgruntled world citizen said...

*chuckles* the world of the thirdworst is certainly different than mine. its the same world, but your world has off kilter corners and bright colors. i imagine tim burton would fit very well in your world. i liked this, by the by. :D