Marty showed up at my book signing for Weekends with Daisy last Sunday with blood on his pants and shoes. On the way there, he had noticed a cat, injured and bleeding by the side of the road. While he and another driver waited for animal control to arrive, the kitty wandered over to Marty and rested its head on his shoe.
When Marty told me the story, our son, Josh reminded me of an embarrassing incident six months ago when I helped rescue a cat, too. Embarrassing, because in a fit of panic I crawled under a bus on a busy city street, convinced that if I didn't, the cat would be crushed.
Josh, my aunt, and I were walking through downtown Providence when we saw a guy in hipster glasses and a leather jacket at a bus stop. He was leaning over a young cat. The animal was panting heavily and drooling. It seemed sick, rather than injured.
We joined the man and were speculating on what could be wrong with the cat when I looked up. A bus was heading straight for us and the cat. I shooed Josh and my aunt onto the sidewalk and ran toward the bus, holding up my arms to signal the driver to stop. When she did, the cat sprang to life and bolted under the giant front tire, where it dropped to its side, terrified. I could see only one of two things happening: either the cat would be flattened by the bus or it would run out the other side into oncoming traffic.
I looked around helplessly at the small crowd watching from the sidewalk. No one seemed to know what to do. The hipster man was standing next to a motorcycle talking on his cell phone. The driver got off the bus and stood next to me, looking at the cat. I knew what she was thinking: she had a route to finish. Traffic rushed past. Time ticked on. And this is where I lost my mind. "Josh, don't ever do this," I said, lowering myself to the pavement onto my belly. My arms were too short to reach the cat and the underside of the bus too low for me to wiggle my way in any further.
A boy around 11 years old stepped forward to volunteer to retrieve the cat. I peered up at him from the ground. He looked like he might fit. I got to my feet. "Where are your parents?" I asked, looking from him to the crowd. "At home," he told me.
I felt like a sergeant sending the troops into battle. "Okay, but you need something to protect yourself from getting scratched." I ordered Josh to hand me his sweatshirt. Josh started to pull it off, but the bus driver disappeared into her bus and returned with a blanket.
The boy took it from her, testing its weight in his hands before dropping to his stomach and crawling under the bus. I ran to the other side of the vehicle where I positioned myself to block the cat (or stop traffic) if it tried to bolt. A minute later, the boy emerged with the cat wrapped in the blanket. The animal barely moved. It was too sick to scratch or bite.
The bus driver radioed her dispatcher to call animal control, then pulled away to continue her route. Josh, my aunt, and I joined the boy on the sidewalk where he huddled against a building, trying to entice the cat to drink water from a bottle cap. She wouldn't take it. I held out a freeze-dried liver dog treat. She wouldn't even sniff it. We waited for what seemed like an eternity. Animal control was not showing up. The cat's pupils were dilated. Her breathing was fast and shallow. I didn't know how much longer the cat could hold on. Then we noticed the hipster coming toward us. He was wrapping up his phone conversation. Tucking the phone between his shoulder and ear, he nudged Josh and my aunt aside and, with a leather-gloved hand, picked up the cat, blanket and all, and carefully lowered it into a backpack. We watched in shocked silence as he zipped the animal inside. He started to walk away. "Um. Are you taking her somewhere?" I asked.
"To a shelter," he said. "I was just calling for directions." We watched him climb onto his motorcycle and, with the backpack nestled securely in front of him, he started the engine. We waved weakly as he roared past. The hipster gave us a thumbs up. And just like that, the cat was gone.
I looked at the boy for his reaction. He was still staring at the spot where the hipster had disappeared from view. "Make sure you wash your hands really well," I told him. The boy turned to me. "Are you kidding me? I'm going home to take a shower!" he said.
I thought about calling around to shelters the next day to describe the cat and ask if it was okay. But I didn't. I was afraid of what I'd learn. Marty is pretty sure his cat survived.