intersection of life and death

image courtesy of

Fall is my favorite time of year, although it does seem to happen a little later here in the Southwest desert. I’ve shared with readers in the past how the smell of burning wood in fireplaces pulls this aging body back in time to when I was a kid.

The first smell of the wood burning in the cooling damp dusk air brings the reminiscing of my teenage years. A year has never gone by since that one so many years ago and I don’t think about that black cat and Joe.

Walking home barefooted after football practice, enjoying the cool feel of the concrete that could have been used to cook an egg just a month before, I heard it. Faintly, from where I didn’t know. I thought maybe I was hearing things, but then I heard it again.

I stopped dead still trying to hear what I thought I heard. Sure enough, I heard it again. This time, it was unmistakable. A cat. In fact, what sounded like a kitten. I squatted straight down in the middle of the sidewalk to peer under some bushes. Sure enough, there he was, a little black kitten scared and obviously lost, 30 feet from one of the busiest and dangerous streets in that area of the city.

I called the little guy, “Heeeeer-kitty-kitty-kitty-kitty”! – “Mkq-mkq-mkq-mkq”! He hesitated before wandering over to me in a cautious zig-zag pattern. I petted his head, scratched behind his little ears for a minute, then kept on walking home.

The little black furry cat began to follow me, which at first I thought was a good idea to get him away from that busy road, the intersection of life and death, where he most certainly would have died. As I got about an eighth of a mile down the road where I would normally cross the street diagonally when no cars were coming, I noticed the little fella was still following me. Actually trotting to keep up.

I picked the little guy up and put him under some nearby bushes for protection. Once I took off again my little black shadow was once again in tow. When I realized he was going home with me whether I wanted him to or not, I picked him up and carried the little fur ball.

I talked to him all the way home, “You little pest”! – “You have any idea how mad my dad’s gonna be”? – “You don’t think I get in enough trouble without you showing up needing a home”? He didn’t answer me… He just purred…

We continued our one-way conversation, “You might be in luck little guy”! – “Once my mom sees you – your worries might be over”! – “That is if Bugs doesn’t get hold of you first”! (Our 25 pound half crazed tomcat).

I played football with Joe our freshman year and had a few classes with him. He was short and stocky, built like a little tank. We talked and were friendly, but were never close friends. Joe didn’t play football after freshman year, but we lived in the same neighborhood and saw each other daily walking to school together.

A year or two after I brought home our newest edition to the family, they widened that busy street where I picked up that little black fluff ball, who did garner me a bit of grief from my dad, but not enough to not keep the little guy.

It was right at that same spot I had saved Furrball’s life I spotted it. I’d heard the sounds of squealing tires on pavement in front of me, but that’s not unusual in the city. As I got beside those old familiar bushes, I saw Mark, another kid from our neighborhood.

Mark was dragging himself and his busted up legs across the new pavement with his arms toward where I was by the bushes. I spotted his cowboy hat still in the middle of the new road.

Then I spotted Joe… He wasn’t moving… He was lying in the middle of the street, blood pooling from under his head.

I’ll never forget the look on the face of the driver of that cobalt blue, 72′ Dodge Demon, as he was getting out of his car walking like he was barefooted on glass over to where Joe was lying…

It’s that time of year again, I can smell the wood burning fireplaces… Man, this air sure feels good.

I remember the spot I found Furrball and the last time I ever saw Joe…

I usually crossed that crosswalk in step with Mark and Joe. I can’t remember why I was a little late that day…

Fall is my favorite time of year…