Monday, March 16, 2009

Ollie and Delia - Story #1, Part 3

In the morning, Fred wasn’t sure what to do with the cat. He didn’t like to leave him cooped up in the apartment all day, but he certainly didn’t want to put him back on the street. He wondered if Mr. Bailey wouldn’t mind keeping an eye on him, but when he peered down the stairway, all the lights were out in the downstairs apartment and the door was firmly shut.

“What do I do with you?” he asked the cat.

Finally, he made a decision. “Alright, you’re coming with me!”

He headed out the door, holding it ajar until the cat followed him through. “You can get a good look at the city,” Fred said, thinking to himself that maybe the little cat had already seen enough of San Francisco to last him awhile.

Fred walked along, with the cat jogging behind. They passed Annie, just opening the corner store. She waved good morning and laughed. “Looks like you have a new friend, Fred,” she said.

“That’s right,” he said, still walking. “Have a good one.”

When they reached the terminal at Powell and Market Streets, there was a hubbub going on. One of the recently refurbished trolleys, now ready to go back into service, had gotten the wrong number painted on it. Some of the conductors were arguing about what to do. Fred made his way through the small crowd of employees and impatient commuters, looking for Leonard and #24. Suddenly, he realized that the cat was nowhere to be seen. Fred looked around and then retraced his steps to the edge of the group. Still no cat.

“Oh no,” he thought. “Where’s he gotten to?” He searched the area, even walking partway back down Powell Street.

Some minutes later, he heard Leonard calling to him from down the street. “Fred, what are you doing? It’s time to get moving!”

Fred sighed and headed back towards the terminal. The skinny cat was now lost again in the city. Fred felt guilty.

All day long he ruminated. He hadn’t been sure what he would even do with a cat, but now he missed him and worried. When they made their first stop at Powell and O’Farrell, Fred peered around, hoping to spot a bit of orange fur. He even asked a few commuters as they boarded, “Did you happen to see a young orange cat this morning?”

As the day wore on, the trolley got busier and busier and the traffic got thicker and thicker. Fred had less time to ask riders about a lost orange cat, but he didn’t stop thinking about it.

During their short lunch break, Leonard asked him, “What’s this about a lost pet?”

Fred told him about finding the cat down on Bay Street the evening before.

“Ahhhh,” said Leonard. “Well, maybe all he needed was a meal and a safe place for the night.”

“Perhaps,” was all Fred said in reply.

Fred walked home that night with slow steps and a heavy head. He was still upset about losing the cat, and mad at himself for not taking more care in the crowd at the terminal. With so many people shouting and the noise of the trolleys coming and going, it was no wonder the cat had run off. Turning onto his block, he heard the sounds of a child playing. There weren’t many young children among his neighbors and he picked up his head.

What a sight! Ahead of him, playing together on his front stoop were a little girl of about six and the missing orange cat! The girl was laughing, holding a miniature fishing rod that had a fluffy green feather attached to its string. The cat was hopping about, trying to catch the feather. Fred arrived at the stoop and the cat and the little girl both looked up.

“Hello,” she said, “are you Mr. Brown?”

“Yes, I am.” he replied. “What’s your name?”

“I’m Delia. I’m staying here with my grandpa for the summer.”

“Mr. Bailey?” Fred asked.

“Yup, that’s him. My parents had to go to England and he’s takin’ care of me. He picked me
up at the airport this mornin’,” she added.

“And I see that you’re taking care of this cat here,” Fred said.

“Yup, we’re playing,” Delia laughed. “He came right up to the door this morning and cried and cried. Grandpa and I thought he might be hungry or lost, so we let him in and fed him. His name is Ollie.”

“Ollie? Is that right?” asked Fred. He paused a moment, looking fondly at them both, then said, “Well, let’s take Ollie and go say good evening to your grandpa.”

Delia scooped up Ollie and took Fred’s hand. “Home again, home again, jiggity jig,” she sang as they walked inside.

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