“He is yelling at his cat again. He is such a grumpy old man,” Mia said.
“Well it’s not really his cat. It's his daughter’s but she got a new job and she travels a lot so now he is stuck cat-sitting,” Andy explained.
“How do you know that? We just moved in two weeks ago,” Mia said, surprised at the amount of information Andy had just shared.
“I overheard him talking on the phone with her. He kept asking her when she was going to come to pick up her stupid cat. He was very loud. You were asleep but I thought he was going to wake you,” Andy explained.
“Oh, and now he’s stuck with him,” Mia concluded.
Mia and Andy had recently moved into this apartment and they were starting to figure out who the neighbors were. The best place to observe in private was the street facing balcony which had quickly become Mia’s favorite place in the late afternoons after a long day of work.
Some afternoons Mia would see the neighbor’s not cat walking the edge of the balcony and jumping down to the ground using one of the large tree branches that hung nearby.
“You taking a break from him? I don’t blame you," Mia would say playfully to the cat from time to time, "he is such a pain."
The cat would look at her and give her a little head tilt before jumping on the tree branch. Once he was safely on the ground the cat would look at her one more time before casually walking away with all his sexy cat swagger.
One afternoon Mia and Andy were out on the balcony sipping their cold tea and the cat jumped on to their side of the balcony.
“Hi Harold,” Mia said.
“Harold, you gave him a name,” Andy asked.
“He looks like a Harold. His walk is so proper. He places one foot in front of the other like he is walking a modeling runway. Have you noticed," Mia asked.
"No, actually I have not," Andy replied.
"I can’t call him by some basic name. He is a star,” Mia pressed on.
“Oh no! Here comes trouble,” Andy said playfully.
“Plus, cats always need real names. When have you heard of a cat named Lulu or Snowball for that matter,” Mia said in more of a statement than a question, “I think we should sponsor him, what do you say," another statement, not a question.
“What does that even mean,” Andy asked.
“Well we can’t take Harold away from the neighbor. But we can still care for him. Harold has been coming over for weeks now. He jumps from his balcony to ours all the time,” Mia explained.
“Wait, you want to pretend he is our cat,” Andy asked looking confused and interested, “Like imaginary adopt him,” Andy finished.
“Yeah...kind of. Look it’s not Harold’s fault that his real owner can’t care for him any more and now he is stuck with a grumpy old man that does not want him,” Mia said.
“But how would that even work? Wouldn’t Harold get confused? What if he stops going back home all together,” Any asked.
“Well who would blame him. We are going to be the amazing sponsors! Amazing I tell you,” Mia said raising her arms making a giant circle when she said amazing the second time.
“What if the old man accuses us of stealing him,” Andy asked
“Oh come on, what is he going to say, that we are cat burglars,” Mia laughed as she realized what she had said.
“Oh my gosh, do you hear yourself,” Andy laughed, “You have officially lost it.”
“Come on live a little. Let’s be cat burgers together,” Mia said very enthusiastically.
After a few seconds of silence; to tease Mia more than anything since he knew her mind was made up; Andy finally said, “Fine, we can sponsor Harold."
After that when Mia and Andy would go shopping they made sure to pick up a few cans of cat food and a cat toy or two. Harold lost his toys often since he would take them in his mouth when he went to his “other” house and they never made it back. Harold seemed to understand their arrangement. He would come over a few times a week. He would eat and play with his toys or simply sit on Mia’s lap and enjoy the breeze.
One afternoon there was a loud screech of car breaks coming from the street followed by someone yelling very loudly, “You stupid cat! Why are you crossing the street! You are supposed to stay inside.”
Mia recognized the old man's voice and ran out to the balcony to see what the commotion was about.
“What was that,” Andy asked as he quickly followed Mia outside.
“He hit him, he hit him!” Mia said pointing down at the street.
Andy followed her finger and saw Harold lying on the street motionless.
“Oh no,” Andy said as he wrapped his arms around Mia.
Andy could feel Mia's breathing become heavy as she buried her face in his chest. He knew that Mia had grown very fond of Harold over the past few months and that Harold had filled a gap in Mia’s life that she didn't know existed. Over Mia’s shoulder Andy saw the old man pick up Harold from the floor and place him in the back of his car. Harold did not move. What had happened was very obvious. Mia and Andy had lost Harold forever.
Over the next several days Andy went out to the balcony by himself to clear out Harold’s things. He discreetly got rid of the extra cat food in the cupboard and toys so that Mia would not have to be reminded that Harold was gone.
**** Two Weeks Later ****
Andy was sitting out on the balcony when a woman came out from the old man’s apartment onto his balcony. Her hair was messy and eyes were puffy and red like she had been crying.
“Hi,” Andy said from where he was sitting.
“Hello,” she answered, “you must be the one that took care of my cat,” she finished.
“Um, what makes you say that,” Andy asked, trying to sound surprised.
“My father told me. He also told me that Fluffy had been putting on some weight ever since you moved in next to him,” she said.
Fluffy, oh Mia would not approve Andy thought.
“Oh. I haven’t seen your father in a couple weeks. How is he doing,” Andy asked.
“He passed away a week and a half ago,” the woman answered, “that is why I am here. I should be in Toronto at a conference,” she continued.
“I am so sorry to hear that,” Andy said.
“He slipped and fell in the bathtub trying to kill a mouse,” she said, fighting off her tears.
The woman shrugged her shoulders and walked back inside her father’s apartment.
Mia walked outside to see who Andy was talking to but when she arrived there was no one there.
“Are you talking to yourself,” Mia asked.
“No. That was the neighbor’s daughter,” Andy answered.
“What did she want,” Mia asked.
“Her dad died. He split and fell trying to kill a mouse,” Andy said.
“Ohhhh-kay,” Mia said in disbelief.
Mia and Andy looked at each other knowing they both were thinking the same thing if only he had been nicer to Harold…
Later that evening Mia was out on the balcony looking down at the spot in the street where she last saw her cat. After her conversation with Andy she was feeling very melancholic. As Mia looked on, a moving shadow across the street caught her attention.
“I know that walk,” she said to herself.
The shadowy figure stepped into the light under a street lamp and there he was. Harold! Her cat Harold. He was coming home.