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Orange Kitten, Black Cat

May 5, 2020

When I was a teenager, I was working on an Eagle Scout project.   It was the last thing I had to do to get to the highest rank in the boy scouts.  This was back when the boy scouts still meant something, even though it was being rapidly diminished by its feckless national council even then.

The project was to build new bleachers in a city park.  I don’t remember the name of the park now, although I could find it easily if I went back home.  I was taken out to the location where I would begin my project with a gentleman of the parks and recreation department.

He was a jovial and friendly man that appeared to be well liked among the other city employees.  We hopped into the standard slightly beat up white government pickup truck, with the green and gold emblem of the city on the doors and head to the area where my project would begin.  I had with me my lunch because we were going to spend a couple hours out there.

There were baseball fields, which when I was younger I had played at, and the old rotting wood bleachers had been torn down, leaving the cement foundations.  It was there that several new aluminum bleachers would be built, the materials would be delivered, and a number of teenage boys under my supervision would construct it.

It was secluded enough that this was also the dumping ground for unwanted pets.  Upon arriving we walked around the location and almost immediately I heard a mewing nearby.  A tiny orange striped kitten saw us among the grass and scurried over to us.

The city employee looked briefly at the cat and ignored her.  I had a small bit of cheese in my bag lunch. I unwrapped it, broke off small pieces of the cheddar and fed morsels to the kitten.  I could tell it was starving.  I held it while I fed her and as we walked around, she purred, desperate for any contact.

When were done, the city employee told me to put the kitten down and leave it.  I still remember how she looked and the plaintive noise she made as I left her, got in the vehicle and drove away.

I never saw the orange kitten again.  I remember her, and I still feel pangs about what I did.

Later, as the project was underway, my father was dropping me off at the park.  There were several other scouts there getting ready to work on the bleachers.  My father was a stern man, raised by an old country father.  He was polite, but few would call him overly warm or friendly.  Stern and some would call him rigid.  Especially back then.

As I got out, there was the faint cry of a cat.  My father heard it, and instead of leaving, got out of his car.  There was a steep hill at the back of the park, and the two of us climbed up it towards the sound.  Someone had gone to a fair amount of effort to drop off three kittens in a cardboard box.

My dad did not say anything, but his lips thinly pressed.  He gestured toward the box and I picked it up with the three kitten mulling round.  It wasn’t a large box, and I could see that the kittens had relived themselves in it, but I said nothing as I followed my father back down the hill.

I placed the box in the back of the car at my father’s direction and he drove off while I went back to the project.  In the next few days my father found a home for each of the kittens.  One of them went to a family friend and became a sleek black cat.

Sometimes I would see the black cat, but always when I did I remembered the little orange kitten I left behind.

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