This is a tale from our favorite Chaircat's past that sheds some light on his origins (pun intended) and provides context for other stories on this blog.
Gabriel Fitzgibbon, known as Gabe by neighborhood low lives and law enforcement, deftly opened the side window to his dingy apartment and crawled inside. He could not use the front door barred with an enormous padlock with an eviction notice posted beside it. Gabe fumbled around in the dark as he had to wait until late at night so no one would see him break into his own home. He did not dare to turn on the lights lest he attract unwanted attention to activity in what was supposed to be a vacant residence. The lights were a moot point anyway as he had a tall stack of past due notices for his electric bills piled on his table, along with just about every other delinquent account he had. The power company had long since sent his account into collection. Gabe shrugged and thought that one benefit of not having power was that he no longer had to see the angry red blinking light on his answering machine full of voice mails from debt collectors, so by his reckoning out of sight meant out of mind.
Gabe did not have to pay his debts if his creditors could not find him, so he kept a low profile. Besides, he needed every penny he could get. He already maxed out his line at the payday loan center and his house of cards built with kited checks collapsed as his landlord had finally lost his patience with Gabe’s checks that bounced as if made of rubber. At this point he was desperately low on cash and barely had enough to eat, although he had decent enough digs at the flophouse in Midtown. It was nothing more than a place to sleep, which was all he needed, but he had to come home tonight and risk getting caught for one important reason.
A sharp meow pierced the air and Gabe desperately motioned for the cat to be quiet, as if he were a dog who would listen to a human’s command. The cat’s meow was likely not too loud to begin with and not audible outside of the apartment, but in this dead silence it sounded like a lion’s deafening roar. The grey cat snuggled against his leg and Gabe gently knelt down to lift up his pet and cradle him like a baby.
“Hey there Anton, how are you doing buddy?”
Gabe petted his cat that he named after his older brother. Gabe had not seen Anton in over ten years since they had the misfortune to get arrested after their last caper together. Gabe only got sent to juvie for his age, but Anton had crossed that magical line to be tried as an adult and sentenced to prison. On an impulse one day when he had extra money burning a hole in his pocket, Gabe adopted a cat from the shelter and named him Anton after his brother. Anton the cat provided the company that Anton the human no longer could and throughout his miserable life, this cat had been Gabe’s best friend.
The flophouse did not allow pets, which was the one strict rule that place had that looked the other way on most other things, so Gabe had no choice but to leave Anton in his apartment and sneak in to feed him and clean his litter box whenever he had the time. Gabe’s stomach rumbled as he reached into his pocket and took out a can of cat food. He did not have enough money to feed himself, but he would not let Anton starve. Gabe was thankful that the dollar store gave him a discount because the can was dented. The cat food smelled terrible when he opened the can, but he hoped that it was safe for Anton to eat. He also purchased a bottled water at the dollar store, again receiving a discount because it was past its expiration date. Gabe wondered how water could possibly expire, but he had to do this because the water company had cut him off after five final notices. He again wondered how multiple final notices were possible, but he had more important matters to address at this moment.
Anton’s food and water bowls were ashtrays from the dive bar on the next block that he palmed when the bartender was not paying attention. He washed them before using them, but he hoped that Anton would not taste tobacco ashes in his food and water. Anton meowed appreciatively and quickly set to eating at an eager pace that left Gabe feeling guilty that he could not arrive sooner when his little buddy had clearly been starving. He saw Anton scratch himself with his hind leg as he ate and noticed an exposed patch of skin rubbed red and raw with his fur gone.
“I’m sorry buddy, I’ll take you to the vet when I have the money but I’m short right now.”
He hoped that Anton could survive a few more days until his next paycheck came in, net of garnishment of course. He took a dirty spoon that he saw on the table and removed the plastic bag from the dollar store that he had saved for this purpose. While Anton ate contentedly, Gabe had to go clean his litter box that he could smell from here. This was his least favorite part of owning a cat, but this task was his responsibility. Gabriel had lived a wasted life full of bad decisions and temptations that he could not resist. He had screwed up his own life, but he swore to do right by his closest friend Anton. Gabe petted Anton and whispered to him,
“Hang in there, buddy, better days will be ahead. For what it’s worth, you have my word on that.”
He then held his breath and proceeded to clean Anton’s litter box and in a fit of inspiration decided to leave the bag by the front door as a surprise for any bank or police officers who decided to step inside his apartment.