It was early in the morning as the young boy, dressed in nothing but some old faded shorts, walked to the two-story house at the end of the block. He was carrying a paper sack in his hand. A chain link fence surrounded the house. The gate made a loud creaking sound as he opened it and it caused him to jump. Looking around, he made his way through the gate before carefully closing it. He began a slow walk to the front of the house. Before reaching the steps that led to the front porch, he stepped off the sidewalk and onto the overgrown grass. He made his way to the back of the house.
The car moved slowly down the residential street in the small neighborhood. The driver looked around as she drove, amazed how little things had changed. She stopped the car in front of the house where she had grown up. The house seemed smaller, older…lonely. She laid her head on the stirring wheel and breathed a heavy sigh. After a few moments, she grabbed the brown envelope that was lying next to her, fished out a set of keys, and climbed out of the car.
Once he had turned the corner, the cats came running. There were three of them, and they all made it to the boy at the same time. Their purring bodies began to circle around and in-between his legs, and they sang a familiar meow as they kept up with the boy. The boy smiled as he walked to the back of the house. He sat down on an old lawn chair, and one of the cats joined him. The smile turned to tears as he opened the bag in his hand.
She closed the gate and then turned to face the old house, the house that she had left years ago. She shook her head as she held back the tears, and tried to remember why she had left, what she had hoped she would find in a big, promising and ultimately less than satisfying world.
He opened the bag of kitty treats. An outsider would have been surprised at how the cats expertly took each morsel from his hand, and waited patiently for their next turn. His face cracked a smile, and his heart broke. This was the third day in a row he’d had to do this alone.
She walked through the house and explored each room, calculating renovation costs compared to a bottom line, envisioning perhaps even a small profit. Room to room she explored, and wondered why she had stayed away so long. She walked down the stairs that led to the kitchen, and that was when she saw the boy.
He jumped out of the chair when the back door opened. The cats meowed their protests as the boy turned and saw the lady. He immediately recognized her from some of the pictures in the house.
“It’s okay, really.” She walked down the steps. One of the cats walked over to her, curious. The other two stayed close to the boy. She reached down and picked up the cat. “Are these my mom’s?”
The boy nodded. “I mow the grass.” He looked around. “Well, I used to.”
She followed his eyes, surveying the much-needed work. She smiled at the boy as her hand ran down the back of the cat she was holding. The tears tried to surface again, and this time she let them flow. She sat down on the steps. Her eyes closed and in a moment it became clear. Purpose sought – purpose found. She opened her eyes and looked at the boy. “Will you continue to mow the lawn…when I move in?”
He smiled. Big. Then he glanced at the cats. He looked again at the lady in front of him, the question clearly written on his face.
“Maybe we both could feed them.” She paused. “And you could tell me stories about my mom.”
He nodded as he silently went back to the lawn chair. The three cats resumed their places, and the feeding began again.
Author’s note: We lost our two cats in the span of one month. We had Tribbles for ten years and Anakin for five. As silly as it may seem, there were those days when they brought purpose to our lives. They will be missed. This story is dedicated to them.
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