Nine Lives: Part 1
May 7, 2018
Risking my life to save a kitten’s was not something I ever thought I would do. I don’t even like cats.
But there I was, climbing up a tree next to an apartment building with smoke and flames billowing out of the left wall. All to rescue a frail, short-haired, orange kitten sitting in the third story window, screeching. It was terrified and frantically searching for its owner, but the building had been evacuated and no one was allowed back in.
While I’d never seen the cat before, I couldn’t ignore its helpless cries. So I decided to set aside my prejudice and come up with a rescue plan.
Hence, I now found myself climbing the tree with a crowbar that I bought from the hardware store across the street in my back pocket. My intention: break the window, stuff the cat in my jacket, and shimmy back down the tree.
Easier said than done.
I finally reached the window and perched on a thick branch. I clutched the crowbar and tapped it against the glass. Green eyes glared back at me as the kitten meowed furiously as the flames licked at the walls surrounding it. I tried to shoo it as far away from the window as possible before raising the crowbar above my head and swinging it down. The loud bang forced the kitten to jump back in terror and the glass cracked slightly. I brought the crowbar down on the window again and again until the window gave way under my attack. It shattered completely and I was able to reach in toward the kitten.
It hissed and clawed at my outstretched hand. I jerked my hand back in pain and glared at the kitten. I knew shouting would only frighten it further. Finally noticing its bright red collar with a name tag that read “Gabriel,” I tried a softer approach, “Look, Gabriel, I’m your only hope right now, unless you plan on jumping. So what’s it gonna be? Me or the ground?”
The kitten hissed again and I sighed in frustration. I was at a loss on how to save the stubborn animal when a crash came from below me. The building was collapsing and if I didn’t get the kitten out of there soon, I would have no choice but to leave it to die.
I tried speaking to it again. “The building is coming down whether you’re in it or not, cat! Come here and I’ll keep you safe. I promise.” It still looked apprehensive, but after another loud crash, it glanced at the flames and smoke behind it and slowly crawled toward me. I picked it up with no resistance this time and tucked it into the interior pocket of my jacket. Its head popped out of the top and its claws poked through as it shook with fear. I threw the crowbar to the ground and began to descend the tree. Once I reached the bottom, I went to take the kitten out of my pocket, but it refused to leave. It clutched onto me desperately and I decided to leave it be. I approached the growing crowd in an attempt to find the kitten’s owner.
Firefighters and police officers rushed past me to search the building for survivors. People were frantically speaking into their phones and trying to reach the front of the crowd to get a glimpse of the burning building. I decided it would be best to search for the kitten’s owner after the panic died down. Firefighters began bringing out survivors and their loved ones rushed to greet them, hugging them and crying tears of relief as they were escorted to an ambulance. With each passing second, the building groaned and threatened to fall. A few minutes had passed before the chief fireman ordered everyone to evacuate the building. The last firefighter had just made it out of the building when it came crashing down. Later, the sheriff and the chief fireman exchanged a few words before addressing the crowd.
“We have yet to determine the source of the fire, but we are pleased to announce that no one was killed and few were seriously injured,” said the sheriff. A collective sigh of relief passed through the crowd, then slowly dissipated. No one remained to search for the kitten, so I approached the sheriff, who was still talking to the chief fireman.
“Sorry to interrupt, but I was wondering if I could speak with the sheriff for a moment?” I asked tentatively. The sheriff and the fire chief exchanged curious looks before the fire chief nodded and walked back to his crew.
“May I ask what this is about?” the sheriff asked.
“Of course. My friend lived in that apartment building. Luckily, she wasn’t home, but she asked me to retrieve a file she needed at work. Obviously, I saw the fire and I noticed this little one was stuck in the third story,” I gestured to the kitten peeking out of my pocket. “I didn’t see anyone else in the room, so I saved the kitten. No one has attempted to claim the kitten as theirs,” I explained hoping he would be able to help. He pondered over my story for a few seconds before replying.
“Give me your contact information and I’ll make sure to question everyone on the third floor about the kitten.” I sighed in relief and quickly wrote down my name and number. I thanked him and turned to walk home. The kitten snuggled deeper into my pocket with a yawn and closed its eyes. Realizing that I’d be stuck with the kitten until the owner was found, I changed directions and headed towards the local pet shop. Once I bought cat food, a bed, and some toys I walked home.
Gabriel slept through the entire trip home, but once I opened the door and set down the bag of food, he was wide awake. I gently took him out of my pocket and set him on the floor. He left to search my apartment as I retrieved two bowls and filled one with food and the other with water. I set them on the floor and went to see where Gabriel had run off to. “Hey cat. Where’d you go?” I called out. I heard a small shuffling noise coming from my bedroom. I opened the door and saw him pillaging through my closet and knocking down some of my clothes. “I don’t think you’ll find anything to your liking in there,” I told him. The kitten popped his head out of one of my shirts and crawled out of the closet. He padded toward me and meowed.
I laughed and walked back to the kitchen with the kitten lightly pawing at my feet. I got to the kitchen and glanced back at him. He had spotted the food and immediately began chowing down. While he was occupied, I went into the living room to turn the TV on. I turned the channel on to the news and saw the latest update on the burning apartment building. There wasn’t any new information, but they acknowledged that Gabriel had been found and was looking for his owner. My name and number was listed on the screen and I picked up my phone and turned the ringer on in case the owner called. I put my phone back on the coffee table and got up to check on Gabriel.
I entered the kitchen and found him lying next to the empty food bowl, lazily licking his paws. I picked up the bowls and set them in the sink. I hesitantly picked Gabriel up and was surprised at the lack of resistance. I carried him to the living room and set him down on the couch. He climbed into my lap and looked at me with his big brown eyes and meowed. I looked at him curiously and he meowed again. I slowly raised my hand and he stared at it. “Do you want me to pet you?” I questioned him. He continued to stare at my hand and I brought it to his head. He nuzzled his head against my hand and I smiled. Every time I took my hand away he nudged it with his nose so I would continue petting him. He eventually laid down and slowly drifted off to sleep.
I turned my attention back to the TV and noticed the news was almost over. I picked up the remote and flipped through the channels, not finding anything that peaked my interest. I had finally settled on a cooking show when my phone rang. I picked it up and seeing it was an unknown number, I immediately thought of Gabriel’s owner. “Hello?” I answered.
“Hi, is this Gideon Abney?” a young woman asked.
“Yes, this is. May I ask who’s calling?” I questioned.
“My name is Hailey Arrington. My grandmother lived in the apartment building that burned down today. I saw on the news that you had found her cat, Gabriel,” she said. I glanced down at the kitten in question, sleeping peacefully on my lap.
“Yes I have him. When would you like to pick him up?” I asked. The cat had begun to grow on me and I was slightly disappointed that I was unable to spend more time with him.
“Well, the thing is, my grandma is very ill as it is. Inhaling all the smoke from the fire worsened her condition and she won’t be released from the hospital for a couple weeks. No one in the family can take care of the kitten right now, and all of my grandmother’s belongings were burned, including Gabriel’s supplies. I know it’s a lot to ask of a complete stranger, but would you mind pet-sitting for a few weeks? Just until she recovers?” Hailey asked tentatively. To say that I was shocked was an understatement. Pet-sitting for an extended period of time was a big deal, especially for a stranger. I was a little concerned about the length of time, but looking at the cat once again, I decided it would be best for everyone if I accepted.
“Of course. I hope your grandma recovers well,” I replied and smiled at her relieved sigh.
“Thank you so much. I’ll keep in touch to let you know what’s going on with her and to check up on Gabriel. Thanks again,” she said.
“You’re welcome. I’ll make sure to look out for your calls,” I replied. We exchanged goodbyes and hung up. I tossed my phone to the other side of the couch and ran my hand down my face in exasperation. Gabriel must have woken up sometime during the conversation because he slowly arose and stretched his limbs. He leaped off my lap and sauntered out of the room. I followed him to my bedroom to grab my laptop. He tried to crawl onto my bed and I lifted him onto it with a small laugh. The cat sniffed and searched my bed before plopping down next to my pillows and closing his eyes. Leaving him to nap, I picked up my laptop and exited the room.
Sitting on the couch, I turned my laptop on and opened the internet browser. I went to Google and searched for cat supplies. Thankfully, the local pet store I had gotten the food from carried the majority of the products suggested. I made a mental note to drop by the store first thing tomorrow morning, jotted down a list of the necessary supplies, and shut down my laptop.
After eating dinner and watching TV for a couple of hours, I stretched my weary limbs with a yawn and went to bed. I struggled to fall asleep that night since my thoughts kept running to Gabriel and the conversation with his owner’s granddaughter. I liked the kitten, but I wasn’t so sure I could take proper care of it for such a long time. Looking at the clock and realizing I only had a few hours left before I had to get up for work, I rolled over and let out a sigh. Only time would tell how well these next couple of weeks would go with Gabriel.