“Hey stop that,” Big Bessie the cat said as she hustled away from the stone throwing teen. The plump pussy ran through the alley littered with stinky garbage, bald tires, and broken bottles. A shard of glass nicked her pad but Big Bessie didn’t have time to lick the blood. The bad boy was on her trail.
Big Bessie climbed over a fence and shimmied across the empty courtyard. “Jeez, I wish he’d leave me alone. I didn’t do anything but claw my through their garbage can for food.”
The fluffy white cat hid behind a dumpster for what felt like hours. She was glad she didn’t meet up with any dogs. Canines were usually friendly, but one big brute tried to chew off her ears. Life on the streets was so harsh and unpredictable.
Darkness finally blanketed the city so Big Bessie squeezed herself out of hiding. She stretched then sniffed for food scraps lying around. Nothing, not even a measly piece of bread or a banana peal. Since the miscreant lived nearby, Big Bessie figured she’d better move on.
Big Bessie scampered down pitch black streets, careful to avoid cars. On a chilly blustery night, most neighbors were inside. Years as a stray taught the cat savvy skills about traffic. She’d seen friends mowed down by speeding cars or trucks hugging curves too tightly. A drunk staggered down the block so Big Bessie ducked under a beat up car to avoid trouble. She was shocked to bump into another cat.
“What’re you doing here?” Big Bessie asked.
“I could ask you the same thing,” the skinny gray cat said. “I’m the great Harriet and you’re crowding my space.”
“How come it’s your space?”
“I found the car first. Now get out. Find your own,” Harriet said.
“Be that way. I’d rather face the crummy weather than hang around with a cranky cat like you.”
Big Bessie made it a few steps away when Harriet said, “Wait, don’t go.”
“Why should I stay? I get enough abuse living on the streets.”
“I’m hurt, that’s why. The great Harriet once ruled an alley so asking for help from a strange cat isn’t easy.”
Bessie flopped down next to Harriet. “What’s wrong?”
“A car hit me and my leg hurts. My gang deserted me.”
“I’m sorry Harriet,” Big Bessie said. “What can I do?”
“Hang out by the big buildings and wait for someone who looks friendly. Then try and lure them to the car.” Harriet hissed. “When I get better, I’ll teach those cats a lesson for stranding me.”
“I’ve been looking for my own friendly face for a long time,” Big Bessie said. “Stray cats don’t win many friends around here but I’ll try.”
“Find me a mouse or something,” Harriet said. “I’m so hungry.”
“Around this dumpy place finding a mouse will be easy.”
After buckets of rain stopped punishing the city, Big Bessie wandered the neighborhood hoping to help Harriet. Neighbors emptied out of a tattered apartment building headed in different directions but no one noticed Big Bessie as she pawed for attention. By sundown, she moped back to the car.
“Here,” she said as she dropped a mouse next to Harriet’s face. “That’s the only help I could find today.”
“Where’s my savior?”
“Harriet, I said I tried.”
“I’ve been under this car for a long time. Get me out of here,” Harriet said.
“Don’t blame me. I didn’t cause your problems,” Big Bessie said.
“Cool your cat litter. I guess I’m irritable from being here so long.”
“Do you mind if I snuggle next to you?” Big Bessie asked. “I’m cold.”
“I’m not that kind of cat,” Harriet said. “I suppose if you want to just this once, it’ll be OK. Don’t tell any of the other street cats. I have a reputation to uphold.”
The next morning Big Bessie hurried through the neighborhood. She parked herself in front of another multi-story apartment building, waiting for someone to notice her antics. No one did. Later, she fussed through an empty lot looking for something to eat. Harriet will be so upset with me, she thought, when I come back alone. What would Big Bessie do now? She could go on her own but that would be like stabbing Harriet in the heart. She opted to keep trying. There had to be someone out there who wanted to help a pair of scraggly cats.
On her way back, a mouse crossed her path and Big Bessie pounced on it. She presented her find to Harriet.
“No one paid attention to me today either.”
“So I see. What exactly are you doing? Maybe you should spruce up your act. Try harder, my leg is really sore. I’d have found help for you by now. That’s why they call me the great Harriet. Look at you, a big ball of blubber.”
“That hurts, say you’re sorry.”
“Why? It’s true.”
“The heck with you. I’m out of here.” Big Bessie hissed, spun around and trotted away.
Big Bessie skittered down an alley, saw an empty cardboard box and jumped in. She curled up and tried to stay warm. Sleep came quickly, but the distant sound of dog yapping woke her. Hunger rocked her belly so she thought of looking for something to eat. As she nosed through discarded food wrappers, images of Harriet and her lame leg haunted her. The cat had an ego the size of a lion but she was in trouble. Big Bessie decided to try one more time, even if Harriet mocked her with names.
The cat changed strategies. Maybe tenants flocking out of the big apartment towers were in too much of a hurry to notice a cat pleading for help. So Big Bessie found a smaller building and waited. A man wearing a blue suit tried to shoo her away. Someone else said the neighborhood was overflowing with street cats.
After the morning rush, Big Bessie plunked down on the front steps, feeling dejected. What else could she do for Harriet? Was Harriet even still under the car? Footsteps caught Big Bessie’s attention. She turned to see a young woman with dazzling brown eyes and a smile that made her feel like a playful kitten again.
“Aren’t you a pretty cat?” the tender faced woman said. “I haven’t seen you before. I wonder who you belong to.”
Big Bessie wanted to soak up the affection but now wasn’t the time. She made a move towards the corner.
“Don’t be afraid. My name is Mary and I won’t hurt you.” Mary stood in front of her tidy little building.
Darn, Big Bessie said to herself. She doesn’t understand. She rambled back to Mary’s extended arms.
“That’s better,” Mary said, stroking Big Bessie’s unkempt fur.
Big Bessie jumped down and again headed to the corner.
“For a cat, you’re strange. I get the impression I should follow you. You look too old to have kittens. But what the heck.”
Big Bessie sniffed her way down the block, trying to recapture the scent back to Harriet. She wasn’t quite sure where the abandoned car was but this was now or never time. She had to find Harriet. Her nose couldn’t fail.
Mary followed Big Bessie through the neighborhood. At the traffic light, she tried to pick up the cat but the big ball of fluffy white fur squirmed until Mary put her down. “You’re determined to lead me somewhere, aren’t you?”
About 10 minutes slipped by when Big Bessie found the old car. She poked her head underneath and found Harriet snuggled inside one of the back tires. “What took you so long?” Harriet said.
“How’d you know I’d be back?”
Mary bent down and saw the injured cat. “So this was your plan? Your friend is hurt.”
Mary stretched to pick up Harriet. Tenderly, she held the injured cat. Then Mary reached into her back pocket and pulled out her cell phone. Within minutes her husband drove up in his yellow cab. Mary placed both cats in the back seat.
“Let’s get them to a vet,” Mary said. “One of them is injured.”
“What’ll we do with them?” her husband asked.
“What else can we do? Bring them home with us and let them blend in with the others.”