The Story of O(scar)

The Story of O (scar)

I don't really know his name. I felt an intense need to give him one, though, so I named him Oscar. In my head, anyway. I never got to call him that, at least while he was alive. My mind often wanders to thoughts of him in those small moments of the day that creep up on me - those tiny moments when my mind isn't really focusing on anything at all. No thoughts of car payments or code fragments or who I was supposed to call but forgot. I see him briefly. That fluffy, lifeless, ginger-colored mass lying by the side of the road.

It was just a normal day. I was out walking my dog along one of the many semi-busy suburban streets that litter my neighborhood. Traffic was whizzing by at the usual 40 miles an hour, the drivers looking to get home in time for dinner or to make it to the store or whatever it is they look to do in such a hurry. None of them paid me any attention. It was just your garden-variety summer afternoon, hazy sun, buzzing insects, and all.

As we walked down the street, my dog became a bit more animated. She craned her head and pulled at her leash a bit, interested in something about 15 feet up the road. Approaching the area, I noticed first the flies. There weren't many, but flies aren't exactly noted for hanging around the side of the road unless there is something there to interest them. Steeling myself against the site of some unfortunate raccoon or possum, I kept walking. But it wasn't a raccoon. Or a possum. There, lying in the shaded grass to the right of the sidewalk, partially hidden by the branches of a bush poking through an adjoining fence, was a fluffy, almost fat, ginger striped cat.

I just stood there, looking at that cat, my dog sitting behind me, oddly subdued, as if she knew this was a solemn thing not to be taken lightly. He was a big boy. I don't even know for sure that he actually was a boy, but my mind won't let me think of him in any other way for some reason, so he's a boy to me. His fur was glossy and relatively clean; this had been someone's pet. Someone had either let their cat out or he'd escaped for a bit of short-lived freedom. I stood there, thinking of how he must have tried to crawl home, perhaps looking for his family to comfort him in his time of need. He was too far from the road to have been flung there with so little damage and the position of his lifeless body spoke of an animal that had tried to walk, but had fallen over on his side and stayed that way. There were no marks on him aside from a little trickle of blood from the corner of his mouth. Internal injuries killed this lovely boy, I'd say. He was on the opposite side of the sidewalk from traffic and near a fence - was that his home? Did some child cry for him somewhere?

Was he afraid in the moments before his death? Was he crying for his family to come help him? Did the driver who hit him even see him? Did that driver care that he or she had just killed someone's pet? Was he cherished by his family as I cherish my pets? Did his family care about him enough to have tried to keep him inside away from harm, or had they let him wander about and be exposed to just this sort of danger, thinking that he was just a cat and they can get another?

I bent down and very gently touched the cat's fur. I don't know if I harbored a tiny hope that the cat was still alive and able to be saved. I just know I wanted to pet him and let him know that someone cared that he'd died. I didn't cry until I began to walk away. Then the tears came. Sometimes, when I think of him, they still do. I wonder if he's in heaven, or at the Rainbow Bridge, or wherever pets go when they die, waiting for his family. And I think of him as Oscar. Because he deserved a name and someone to cry for him.

-- In memory of all the pets killed by cars every year