“What happened to Ozzie?”
When I moved into this neighborhood three and a half years ago, I would frequently see a black and white cat walking back and forth on the block, presumably keeping it safe for us two-legged inhabitants. Whenever it decided it was time for a break, it would spring up on a neighbor’s bench and then take a leap up to the top of the wall that ran a good part of the way on the opposite side of the street. From there it would find its way home.
It was a friendly cat, and sometimes when I’d sit out on my stoop waiting for a delivery, it would keep me company for awhile, all the time watching to make sure the street remained free of undesirables.
One time I saw it confront one of those undesirables in the form of a black cat. The black cat realized pretty quickly it had wandered into the wrong street and it hightailed it out of here.
Eventually my next door neighbor, Joelle, told me the cat’s name was Ozzie. Apparently Ozzie and Joelle’s tiny dog Carrington had formed a bond of sorts. Sometimes Joelle opened her inner door to let Carrington watch the street from the storm door, and if Ozzie was around they’d each press their paws against the glass, Carrington from the inside, Ozzie outside, in a show of solidarity.
Then sometime last year Ozzie became noticeably less friendly. He was less patient with being petted and could sometimes seem actually annoyed, or worse. Someone told me that he had had an altercation with some other animal and hadn’t come out of it in the best shape.
But I’d still see him patrolling the block, and I found it comforting somehow, just seeing him around.
Until one day I realized I hadn’t seen him in awhile. It had been weeks. Those weeks stretched into months.
Then the other day I saw one of the people who lived in the same house with him. We had only been nodding acquaintances till now, and we nodded again and I started to go into my house, and then I stopped.
“Oh, excuse me!” I called out to her.
“Yes?” she replied from across the street. She had just been about to go inside her gate.
“What happened to Ozzie?” I hadn’t meant to blurt it out so bluntly, but there it was.
She started crossing the street, smiling. “Oh, he’s fine. We just have to keep him inside now. He had a run-in with some other animal awhile back, and now he has leukemia.”
Leukemia? Can getting into a fight cause leukemia? Maybe just a coincidence? Or maybe he was weakened by the leukemia which led to his losing the fight? Or it was the trip to the vet necessitated by the altercation that revealed the leukemia? Oh, but she was still talking.
“So we try to keep him happy. He doesn’t like staying inside.”
“I’m sure of that. I miss seeing him patrolling the neighborhood.”
“It’s so nice of you to ask about him.”
“I’m JT, by the way.”
“Abbie. Several of the neighbors have asked about him. This is such a nice neighborhood.”
We exchanged a few more pleasantries. It was just good to hear that Ozzie is still ok, a little the worse for wear, but still being taken care of.