A cold wind slapped me in the face the moment I stepped off my car.
It was a stunning day despite the odd breeze; the sun at its zenith and the trees looking as majestic as they could be on a hot spring day. Their leaves shook with the wind in such a way as if they were almost dancing to a joyous day. I was having none of that.
From the four or so odd cars in the parking lot, I had the one grey 1989 Opel. Almost a relic of the past that thing and it did not do for an enjoyable driving experience. The past few days were a little short of nightmarish, with the gear stick being stuck most of the times and not going into the gear I wanted. Today, it was being okay for once, though I was sure it would act up as soon as I left the park.
The nearby park is a bit of a special place for me. This is where I always come to blow off steam after a bad day and where my supposed runs took place. I say supposed, as more often than not I end up lightly jogging the periphery of the park. Don’t get me wrong, that’s still something but not what I signed up for initially. The scenery is always pleasant, the folks few and far in-between (which works wonders for my social anxiety) and you can always count on one thing to brighten the mood.
A cherished treasure in these parts of town, they often wander the greenery with a mind set to finding food or company along the way. There’s a great variety of them and some I’ve seen so often so as to give them names of their own (though I admit, I do not know their actual names). A cute little orange Bengal, which is probably no older than three, is always a sight to see and every time we locked eyes it approached me with a delicate playfulness. I call her Johanna. Contrary to her cuteness, there is Ben. A gruffy old British Shorthair, whose fur is always mangled and I believe he has a problem with his jaw too, as the tongue always lolls out. There are more of course, a spirited Ragdoll and a few tabbies, but these too I admit have made quite the remark.
But none of the park kittens were around to be seen today. This worsened my mood, as I expected a bit of a reprieve from the day’s hassles and those kittens would have offered it in spades. Still, I cut my losses short and made for the running track. Or at least, what I call the running track.
Following the bright red sand on the ground for a short while had me puffing for air and coupled with the uproar in the air I wasn’t quite sure I was ready for a stop. It really was freezing, despite the clear sky and sun shining directly through the treeline. A sight to behold for sure, if you had the time to stop and gawk.
As I was nearing the second parking lot, still wondering where all the cats had gone, I spotted an old Honda civic with the trunk open. This wasn’t unusual by itself, but I also noticed a furry little friend circling the car. Curious, yet also hesitant, I approached from a safe distance, rounding on the front of the car through a nearby empty parking slot. It was then that I saw them.
A conglomeration of four-legged creatures, all hustled together close. In their centre rose a lady in her fifties who had one arm outstretched and petting a black kitten whose eyes were bleary and the other grasping a bag of cat food. They were gathered around her like she was a form of deity, come to liberate them from their daily struggle to find food.
That explains where all the cats had gone, I thought and when I saw Johanna’s distinct striped fur making its way through the procession, a huge smile appeared on my face. The first of the day in fact.
Seeing Johanna made me wonder whether my other companion was anywhere nearby. I tried standing on the toes of my feet, eager to get a better look as the lady inclined her head my way. I quickly spun around, red faced and resumed my jog at a ginger pace. What a blunder!
I dared a small peak back, but the lady was already back at her business, feeding the strays and giving them a good petting, smiling at them. I exhaled a breath I hadn’t realised I was holding and went on my way. I didn’t get a good two paces in when an all-too familiar grey coat appeared in front of me.
A sad face looked up at me and it instantly warmed my heart to see my old pal alive and well. We played for a bit on the side of the second parking lot, near a dusty old lamp. Ben always has an innocent style to his playing and coupled with that lolling tongue of his makes me love him all the more.
I said my farewells and was about to leave when I saw my short friend take pause. He was staring into the gathering with almost dreamy eyes and that’s when it hit me. He probably feels left out and too much of an outsider to do much. I tried tackling this predicament in my head for a short while and when Ben still hadn’t made a move, I knew there was only one solution. It was solidified even further when my friend looked at me with those big blue eyes of his.
I gathered my courage and scooped him up. To be honest, the trip there didn’t even last a minute and when I laid him down amongst his kind and fed him the first fistful of food, I didn’t even mind the looks the lady was giving me.
They were all smiles anyhow.