In the distance he heard a faint sound. A ringing sound. After a brief pause, he heard it again, only louder this time. Slowly he awoke and realized that he must have fallen asleep in his chair. Not unusual. He did that a lot anymore.
Again, a ringing sound. He realized it was the doorbell. Someone was at the door.
“Who the hell could that be” he grumbled. “I ain’t expecting no one. Maybe they will go away”.
He sat for a moment listening to the silence. Then it rang again.
“Damnit” he said as he struggled to get out of his chair. His arthritis didn’t help, and it took a while to get everything moving. Slowly, leaning on his cane, he made his way to the door as the bell rang again.
“I hear you. I hear you” he called. “Stop ringing the damn bell.”
When he reached the door, he grabbed the knob and yanked the door open. Standing before him was a small boy holding a big cat.
“What the hell do you want” he growled.
“Hi” the boy said. “Would you like a cat?”
“A cat” he said with surprise. “Now why the hell would I want some mangy old cat?”
“To keep you company” the boy said. “My mom said you live here alone”
“It’s none of your business what I do, and you can tell your mother that. I just want to be left alone, ya hear. Now get out of here and take that damn cat with you”, he said while beginning to close the door.
“Purvis” the boy said
“Purvis” the boy repeated. “His name is Purvis”.
“I could care less what his name is. I don’t want any damn cat hanging around. Now leave me alone. I’ve got stuff to do.”
“Like what” the boy asked.
“Like uh, well, lots of things that don’t concern you and it’s none of your business anyway.”
“I’ll bet you’re just saying that to get rid of me” the boy ventured. “Every time my mom wants me to stop bothering her, she tells me to go find something to do because she is busy.”
“You’re a very smart lad. Now goodbye”
At about that moment the cat, which had been wiggling in the boys arms broke free and, jumping down, ran right into the house.
“Oh for Christ’s sake” the man said. “Now look what you have done. That Goddamned cat is running around somewhere in my house”.
“I can catch him” the boy said, and without further invitation, he pushed past the man and entered the house.
“Hey, wait a minute” the man yelled. “Where the hell do you think you’re going?”
“To find Purvis” the boy replied, disappearing into the living room.
The man shut the door and followed, leaning heavily on his cane. “You come back here” he called. “You ain’t got no right running around someone else’s house.”
Undeterred, the boy called back “He’s not in here or the kitchen” he said.”He must have gone upstairs”, and without delay, he quickly climbed the stairs.
“Young man, I demand that you come back down here immediately. Do you hear me. I mean right now.”
There was silence from upstairs, save the sound of the boys footsteps moving from room to room. Finally he appeared at the top of the stairs and while making his way down said “I found him.”
Looking at the boys empty arms, the man said “Well, where is he then?”
“He’s curled up on your bed. He likes to do that. How come it is almost noon and your bed isn’t made. My mom makes ours every morning”.
“Never mind why my bed isn’t made. I’ll get to it when I can. Why am I explaining this to you? Why didn’t you bring the cat down with you?”
“Purvis” the boy said. His name is Purvis.”
“I don’t give a damn what his name is. Go back up there and get your damned cat. Right now.”
“I can’t” the boy said. “He’s asleep”.
“Look” the man said, fighting desperately to hold his temper, while inwardly starting to feel a sense of amusement at the insolence and innocence of the boy. “Go get the cat. I want you and him out of here. Do you hear me?”
“He’s probably hungry. He hasn’t had anything to eat yet today.”
“All the more reason that it is time for you to take him home.”
“He probably wouldn’t have run away if he wasn’t hungry.”
The man stared at the boy for a moment and finally said “I’ll make you a deal. You go get Purpous.”
“Purvis” the boy interrupted.
“OK. Purvis. Just go get him and I will fix him some milk. Then you can both go home.”
“I can stay for lunch. You got any peanut butter and jelly?’
The man was again taken aback by the boy’s impertinence. Memories of when he was a boy started to force their way into his consciousness. Finally, he said “just go get Purvis”, as he turned and slowly made his way to the kitchen.
Shortly, the boy, carrying the cat, walked into the kitchen. Waiting was a saucer of milk on the floor, and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on the table. “All’s I got is water or milk” the man said. “Take your pick”.
“Milk” the boy said. “My name is Joshua but you can call me Josh. That’s what everyone calls me.” Placing the cat on the floor, Purvis immediately made his way to the saucer of milk and happily began to drink.
The old man took a seat at the table across from the boy and said “Josh, is it? Well I am Mr. Raymond Johnson, but you probably already know that. You seem to know everything else.”
“Are you going to have a sandwich too” the boy asked.
“No, I’m not much for eating a lot anymore. Can’t say when the last time was I had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich though. I just always kept it around for the grand kids, but they don’t stop by much anymore. All grown now you know. Where do you live Josh?”
“I just live a few houses down from here. I pass your house every day on the way to my school bus.”
“Won’t your mother be worried about where you are.”
“No, because I’m not allowed to cross the street.’
“Oh” the man said, smiling to himself. “That explains a lot. You know, on second thought, I think I will try one of those sandwiches.”
Having devoured the saucer of milk, Purvis sat, calmly licking his paws and cleaning his face. After surveying the kitchen, he got up and with an effortless leap, jumped into Mr. Johnson’s lap, startling the man. After a couple of gentle kneeds, he curled up and decided to stay.
‘I think he like’s you Mr Ray” the boy said. “He doesn’t take to everyone, but he likes you”.
“He does look kind of comfortable. When I was a boy, I had a cat. I called him Mr Bojangles after a song that was popular back then. He used to follow me around the house waiting for me to sit down so he could jump up on me. Had him a long time.”
“That’s probably why Purvis likes you so much. He knows you like cats.”
“I don’t like cats” Mr Johnson protested, I just liked my cat. That’s all. So don’t go getting any notions that I like Purvis here. Looking down at the cat now fast asleep in his lap, he was surprised that he had unconsciously been patting him and scratching behind his ear.
“Where did you find Purvis and how do you know his name?’ he asked
“I didn’t find him” Josh said. “He’s mine. I named him Purvis.
Mr Johnson stared at the boy a moment before saying. “I don’t understand. I thought he was a stray you were trying to find a home for.”
“No, he’s mine. I just can’t keep him anymore” he said, while looking down at his hands. “My mom says we have to let him go and tomorrow, we are going to take him to the shelter. So I thought I would try to find someone to keep him so I could visit him without having to cross the street.”
Silence fell over the kitchen as Mr Johnson felt his eyes moisten behind his glasses. Emotions, long stiffled, came racing back. Since the loss of his wife a few years ago, he had pretty much withdrawn from society. Time had eased the pain some, but life as he had known it had changed. He had shut himself off from the world, consoling himself, immersed in sorrow and self pity, effectively isolating himself from having to deal with the day to day issues that society threw at you. In so doing, he had retreated into himself. He knew he was just marking time until it was his turn. There was nothing here for him. Loneliness had hardened his heart. He had become a grumpy old man and could care less. Until today when this young boy had showed up on his doorstep and forced him to face himself and what he had become. When he had called him Mr Ray, it reminded him of one of his grand kids who had always called him Papa Ray. It seemed, he thought to himself, that the odds were being stacked against him.
“I’ll tell you what” he finally said. “I will keep Purvis for you until you can find him a good home. But that’s the best I can do. I’m not wanting some old cat that I have to feed and fawn over. I’m too old for that. He can stay until then, but it’s only temporary. What do you say to that?”
Josh jumped up from his chair, a wide smile on his face. “Really Mr Ray. You will keep him?”
“I didn’t say that” Mr Johnson replied. “What I said was—“
But it was too late. Josh was headed for the front door when he turned and asked “you will let me visit him won’t you?”
“I guess that would be alright”. Maybe you could stop by after school. I might even be able to scare us up some cookies.”
“Thank you Mr Ray. I’ll see you tomorrow” he said, and just as quickly he was gone.
Mr Johnson looked down at the cat peacefully snoozing in his lap. “Well Purvis” he said. “I guess it’s just you and me now. Might as well start getting used to each other. Somehow, I don’t think Josh is going to be looking too hard.
From the archives Aug 2013