I think about that black cat this time of year, every year. The mixture of longer shadows, shortening days, and God knockin’ the edge off of the Arizona summer, ensures the memory of that early fall afternoon and the black cat.
It was football season. Two a day summer practices were well behind me and the season that would eventually attract Snowbirds from the other parts of the country to flock here was closing in on us.
It was a Friday, I know that for sure because I had my smelly football uniform stuffed in my tied up jersey that was slung over my back, my socks and tennis shoes along with the other pieces riding along.
The dusk air was cool, but the sidewalk was still warm from the retreating sun. It felt good on my feet. Kids, especially in the desert, just end up with tough feet.
Back then 37th Avenue had a dingy stop sign sunk in the dirt beside the earthen drainage ditch on the north side of a jagged edged two lane Cactus Road. The ditch on the west side was full of grass, weeds and critters and what not on. The other side wasn’t as thick with grass and weeds, but the house on that corner was overgrown with mountain ash bushes. The tiny orange berries were in full bloom and crowding the sidewalk.
As I strolled past the berried bushes I heard a sound. I stopped. I listened. Sure enough I heard it again and it was the faint sound of a cat. I stood listening and heard the soft meow again. I squatted down to peer under the bushes and there he was; the black cat. Except he wasn’t a cat yet, he was still a kitten.
I called him to me with quick multiple kissing sounds and with a little persistence the little guy came to me. I petted him, scratched behind his ears, and rubbed his nose in downward motion. Then I set him back under the bushes. I knew he was in a dangerous spot and his short life was in jeopardy being that close to a busy streets.
I looked back and the little black fur ball with the brilliant green eyes was following me. I picked him up and took him back to the bushes gently. I was two blocks away when I looked back and he was following me again.
I scooped him up and started thinking through the tactics I’d try to use to convince my parents to keep the little guy as I walked home. My mom would be easy to convince, my dad, not so much. Trying to impose your will on parents in those days was a tall order, especially for a freshman in high school…
The little black cat spent the rest of his days with my mom. He was still keeping her company years later. He was around when I started driving, graduated, and got married.
I think that sound, taste, or smell, that transports us back in time, back to a different world, is a gift from God. Each season is a gift as well. Pondering ones long gone add to the treasure of the current one.
I don’t know why, but I think fall is my favorite season. Maybe it’s due, at least in part, to the fact that I live in the desert and the season that follows a brutal summer is appreciated just a little bit more. Or maybe, at least in part, it’s because this season reminds me of the time I saved that little black cat… and we all need Saving…