I liked the cat. Big orange tomcat named Froggie. I’m guessing that the child named it. My only worry was that Froggie was an outdoor cat, and my apartment a block off Geary Boulevard wasn’t the safest place.
Still, I agreed, and Froggie came to live with me. For a while.
In the apartment building at 495 Third Avenue, there’s a front door with mailboxes, and the stairs lead upward from the tiny lobby. All the downstairs is garages, plus the trash room.
The trash room was serviced by a second set of stairs, descending around a trash chute. In other words, from my hallway on the first floor up, I could step through the frosted glass door, and drop my trash to fall down the chute to the vast bin hidden in the trash room.
From the trash room, Froggie could escape to the fabled interior. You see, in San Francisco, all the victorian buildings are built shoulder to shoulder, meaning no side yards. And these houses are built with their fancy faces right on the street, meaning no front yards.
But in back, each house has a yard, usually fenced in. And what this means is that there’s a space on the inside of every block, which is filled with all the yards. So, houses all around the outside of the block; yards all inside the block. Great for Froggie. Adventures a-plenty.
We were two batchelors, and got along fine. One evening, I was soaking in the bathtub when Froggie found me. From his point of view, I had become trapped in a vat of water. Without hesitation, with one paw he tried over and over again to get my foot out of the water. I finally had to climb out of the tub, thanking him for my rescue.
And each night, when I’d got out my futon and bedding, once I’d bedded down, Froggie would slither under the covers, next to my body, for the warmth. So that he wasn’t squashed, he knew a trick.
He slept with his feet toward me. If, during the night, I rolled over onto his feet, then, without bothering to move, he just unsheathed his claws. Lying upon claws, uncomfortable, I’d roll back off his feet. Worked for him. Worked for me.
In the morning after breakfast, in the hallway, I’d open the frosted-glass door. He would make his way down the back stairs and out into adventureland in the center of the block. Toward days end, hungry, he’d climb the back stairs and squeek behind the frosted-glass door till I let him in.
At that time I was studying magic and meditation, living very cheaply and reading a lot. I made frequent jaunts to the metaphysical bookstore, and on this particular day I came home bearing a little flyer, which told all about how some mysterious guys called the White Brotherhood were watching the world from the Astral Plane, and helping it along.
I’d walked up the stairs to my floor, but for some reason did not go into my apartment, but rather sat on the stairs, reading this little brochure. As I sat there, I heard Froggie squeek, and so I got up to open the frosted-glass door and let him in.
But he wasn’t there.
I went back to reading, sitting on the stairs, and while I was mulling over this White Brotherhood thing, an older lady from the buiding came up to me, with a sad expression.
“I’m so sorry,” she said. It seems that my cat, Froggie, had been hit by a car. She’d brought him in, she said. He was lying, on a towel, just inside the front door.
I ran down to the lobby. There, to the side of the door, was Froggie, very still and quiet. On my way into the building, I had walked past him, unknowing, as he lay dying.
I assume that the squeek I’d heard was his last. Unless the lady was right. She said he’d died on the street, before I came home. But I know, in my heart, that I heard him.
Was he calling to me, to come and help him?
Or was he saying good-bye?