Ms Danvers was not accustomed to surprises. Even when it rained after the weatherman specifically announced that it was not likely to rain that day, she would be completely caught off guard and would be blaming the weatherman for why she couldn’t go outside and plant her Begonias. So imagine her surprise when one morning, as she went down her front steps to collect the mail, she heard a distinct, soft trill. She stopped half-way to the mailbox and listened again, more carefully this time. When after a few moments she did not hear this little noise save for the rustle of some leaves, she surveyed her street. A few houses down lived Mrs. Winters, she had two very pretty if not extremely ornery Persian cats whom she let outside on the rare occasion the weather was perfectly agreeable. But she was visiting her sister in Oklahoma and always took those two fluff balls with claws with her. So it couldn’t be her. Across the street, where the train tracks passed behind the houses, lived the young eccentric who absolutely wilted inwardly at the sight of a bug. Ms Danvers couldn’t see her owning anything that could dash underfoot or blink back at her much less a cat. But she did not hear the soft trill again and decided to collect her mail, go inside, and think no more about the matter.
By the next afternoon, the minor disturbance now forgotten, Ms Danvers stepped down her walkway to her car. She needed to go to the super market for cereal, potatoes, and coffee (mustn’t forget the coffee!). As she placed her hand on the car door, again came that soft little trill, it sounded so much closer this time, as if it were just underfoot. The thoroughly confused lady looked down at her feet and, as if on cue, a tiny pink nose followed by whiskers and two fuzzy orange ears peeked out from underneath the car. Ms Danvers gasped in mild alarm as more of the tiny orange creature appeared. Two large amber eyes stared up at Ms Danvers. Again came that distinct trill. He was mewling at her. She never thought a stray cat would approach her. She had always been slightly anxious around cats, especially after the unfortunate run-in with Mrs. Winters’ Persians – they nearly tore up her hand when she tried to pet them.
“Shoo!” said Ms Danvers, waving her hands in an obviously shooing motion. The cat responded by rubbing against her shoe.
“You should know, I don’t particularly like cats” she said, trying a different tactic. But the little orange cat only stared up at her with those big amber eyes as if he only understood that she was talking to him, nothing more.
She side-stepped him, careful not to let her feet touch a hair on him and hurriedly got into her car. When she started the engine, the cat only curled up on the bottom step of her walkway and settled in for a nap.
Reluctant to leave this new visitor the run of her whole front yard, she drove off to the local super market. An hour later when she returned, the cat was gone.
A few days passed with no sign of the cat. Ms Danvers had started to think he had finally gone home to his owner when one Sunday afternoon she heard that familiar trill. This time it was right outside her door.
She opened the door to find the little orange cat sitting on her front porch step, swishing his tail, amber eyes lazily following the jaunty movement of a fly.
“What are you doing here?” Ms Danvers scoffed. But then she noticed the cat’s fur. It wasn’t as shiny as before, as if he had been sleeping in the dirt, his stomach appeared slightly sunken in – probably from lack of a decent meal – and there was now an ugly notch in his left ear, as if another animal had beat him up. The little orange cat looked up at Ms Danvers again and gave a muffled, sad cry. The sort of noise that implores more than it greets. And something inside Ms Danvers crumbled, just ever so slightly.
“Fine,” she said aloud, annoyed at herself, “wait right there.” The cat seemed to swish his tail in response.
Moments later, Ms Danvers came back outside with a paper plate. She didn’t have cat food, so she had put a heaping amount of canned tuna onto the plate. The cat’s whiskers twitched and he stood erect at the sight of the plate. As soon as she set the plate of tuna in front of him, he immediately started eating his meal. Ms Danvers went back inside the house and thought about the cat.
The weather began to change, summer slid gradually into fall. It was starting to get that chill in the air. The cat had returned to Ms Danvers’ front step for weeks now. Now he knew the lay of the land as far as Ms Danvers’ front yard and backyard were concerned. His favorite spot to sleep was right underneath the Hydrangea bush outside the bedroom window. His favorite spot to sun himself was right on top of Ms Danvers’ car, somewhat to Ms Danvers’ annoyance though she allowed him that liberty regardless. And though she had started buying actual cat food to put outside for him, his favorite meal was still tuna from a can. Before she realized what had happened, Ms Danvers found herself becoming quite fond of the little orange cat.
One evening, the rain had come, just as the weatherman promised. It poured down in sheets with the force of some unruly winds. It had become decidedly colder, the last traces of summer warmth dissipating and washing away with the rains. It dissolved Ms Danvers’ beautiful kempt backyard into a soaked mud puddle. Water from the eaves rushed down heavily and noisily.
Ms Danvers was making herself a cup of tea. Maybe she’d start that new mystery novel she’d been meaning to pick up. Maybe, if the electricity held up, she’d go online and order a nice fluffy cat bed to put outside for the little orange cat. At the thought of the cat, she went over to open her front door. But the front porch was empty save for some potted plants she took care to shelter closer to the house.
Back in the kitchen, she poured the water fresh from the kettle; the steam rose and curled pleasantly in the air. She slowly moved the spoon around in the cup, enjoying the clink of the metal against the ceramic rim. Ms Danvers’ ears pricked. It wasn’t the little clink, but something else. It was that familiar, and now most welcome, trill. The now not-so-easily-surprised lady turned to observe her kitchen door. The door had a set of windows on each side that revealed a view of her backyard. The rain was pouring down in streaks across the windowpanes, turning the distant neighborhood into a watercolor. She kept a trash can directly outside one of these windows, it was normally used to collect rain water on torrential days like this, only this time she had completely forgotten to open it. Instead, perched atop the trash can was the little orange cat, head cocked to the side and looking in. His poor whiskers were weighed down with rain drops and his fur was completely soaked. He shivered as he meowed. It was the most pitiful sight Ms Danvers had ever seen.
Forgetting all about her tea and her mystery novel, and her total aversion to getting wet, Ms Danvers rushed around grabbing towels and dashed outside. The little orange cat did not make a move toward her when she came outside, but huddled more into himself. Ms Danvers bravely stepped into the mud and mush and wrapped the little shivering creature in a heap of towels. She carefully carried him inside and did her best to dry his fur. After awhile the little cat stopped his shivering and began to purr. He looked up appreciatively at Ms Danvers and Ms Danvers looked thoughtfully down at him.
“Well Oscar,” (she had then and there decided on the name Oscar, since he ended up on top of a trash can after all) “I can’t continue to leave you outside if you’re going to go get yourself soaking wet, all chilled to the bone.”
He continued to purr in her arms. He knew he was now safe, he had found his forever home, he was happy, and above all, Oscar the little orange cat knew he was loved.