The Bandit, a South Bronx survivor (RIP)  

Posted by Cat in the road

One cold day in December my partner and I ventured into the basement of an abandoned building. During the 70's this was a common sight in the South Bronx. Little did I know on that day that a new addition would be added to my life. A soft blanket of snow lightly covered the ground and your breath was frozen in midair, it was a bitter winter. We walked down the deserted alleyway towards the entrance of the old tenement. Every step ever so cautious since the unknown lurked around each and every corner.

The door was unlocked and fresh footprints disturbed the new fallen snow, we were not alone. With finely honed survival instincts I slowly open the door. A few stones were tossed inside to scare away any rats that may have taken up residency in the building. When no scurries were heard we cautiously entered.

Both of us walked with the distinct knowledge of expecting the unexpected. The dark, desolate, rooms were illuminated only by the flicker of our flashlights. Each step was taken softly since we didn't want to make our presence known.

As we reached the center of the building a sound caught our attention. It was coming from an old dumbwaiter. I glanced over and saw that my partner’s eyes were as wide as mine. With our flashlights leading the path  we slowly made our way towards the source of the sound. Hand signals were given as I approached the door from the hinged side. With the nod of heads the non-verbal signal was given to open the door. I knew I was covered, but what lay inside?

Holding my breath and with one quick motion the door flew open, my heart was pounding in my chest. Suddenly the sound of my partner's laughter filled the room. OK, this was not the reaction I expected. What could be so funny? As I peered through the slit I saw a comical sight. A stray black and white cat stood guard over the carcass of a dead rat.

As I walked around to the front this ferocious feline stared at me with a blood thirsty look. It was as if to say, "I'm the one in control." Sitting on his hind legs and swiping his claws through the air he wanted to make it clear; “Don’t fuck with me man.” He showed us who was boss. At that moment I couldn’t help but think of the scene in West Side Story were the Sharks meet the Jets in a knife fight.

Living up to the reputation of my patron saint (St Francis), I offered him some dry cat food that was hidden in one of the pockets of my field jacket. Little did I know at that moment that a lifelong friendship was about to develop. Once pacified by a full belly my new friend was as docile as could be. That’s when I learned, once you feed a cat, you’re stuck with him for life.

The most suitable name for this character was, "The Bandit," and he lived with me for ‘21’ years. He was an outdoor cat who fought many a skirmish. Some he won, some he lost. He used up all of his 9 lives. My kids feared him, my dog respected him, my ex-wife was his servant, but he knew that I was his master.

Towards the twilight of his life he became more passive and my kids were finally able to cradle him. As the days ticked by and his end came closer it was apparent that he knew something was wrong. I find it ironic that he died on Veteran's Day since he was a warrior his whole life. The day he died I knew I had lost one of my best friends.

This entry was posted on Friday, December 23, 2016 at Friday, December 23, 2016 . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .


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