Orange Tom

Warning: this post contains graphic imagery.

Tiny and I were at Target Monday morning when Josh texted me to say he had a migraine and he’d be coming home early from work.

Tiny and I finished our shopping and I headed home. As I approached our street, I saw an orange cat lying in it, almost in the center, almost touching the intersection.

Cats don’t just lie in the middle of roads.

Josh’s truck was parked in front of the house already. I called him to come downstairs and help somehow. I heard the urgency in my voice which only made me feel more anxious.

While I was getting Tiny out of her car seat, he went and looked at the cat. As he was walking back to us, the cat yowled. It stayed on the street.

“It’s alive,” I said.

“For now,” said Josh, taking Tiny from me.

I decided to call Animal Control. I walked toward the cat. (Did you know that St. Louis City Animal Control has an automated menu when you call them?) I tried to focus on the menu options, but the cat’s glassy eyes and attempts to get away from me as I came closer told me that we – he – didn’t have that kind of time.

Plus, the smell. It smelled like absolute rot by that cat.

I rushed back to Josh.

“Honey, – “

“I’ll do whatever you want,” he said.

I wanted him to put the cat into his truck and rush it to an animal hospital.

He found a box in his truck, opened the flaps, dumped the contents onto his seat, and somehow slid the cat into the box. He put the box in the bed of his truck and then he left.

Tiny and I went inside.


Nearly ten years ago, I was the passenger in a car when we came across an injured cat lying in the road. It was twitching and thrashing, but not going anywhere.

“Oh, god,” the driver said.

“We need to hit it,” I said. “It’s suffering.”

“I can’t,” she said.

“You have to.”

“I can’t.” Her voice cracked.

“I’ll take the wheel. Just close your eyes and I’ll do it. Please.”

“I’m sorry.” She switched lanes so I couldn’t swerve into the cat.

The cat’s body had been crushed. Its left eye had burst forth from the socket. Its tongue lolled out of its mouth.

I couldn’t stop myself from looking.


I knew the cat wasn’t going to make it, even if he made it to the hospital alive.

Josh later said it stopped crying a couple minutes before they got there. He took it inside anyway. You never know.

He told the vet tech how I’d found the cat and called him, how he’d hurried this random cat to the hospital because I wanted him to.

“Sir,” she said, “did you hit the cat?”

“No, ma’am. I told you that my wife found it.”

She sighed and took it into the back. Josh called me to tell me he didn’t think the cat made it and that the tech thought he hit the cat.

“Did she see how big your truck is?” I asked.


“If she saw that thing, she’d know you didn’t hit him.”

He told me how she was being rude and giving him dirty looks while they waited to hear the fate of the cat.

“I’ll call you when I know,” he said.

He called a few minutes later and said the cat didn’t make it.

“They gave me his collar. But I told them it wasn’t my cat.”


We decided to find out whose cat it was. There are some apartments near us, and Josh thought the owners might live there. I thought maybe he belonged to the neighbors at the end of the block, right by where I found the cat.

“They’re moving,” Josh said.

“Well then we better ask them soon.”

No one was around that day. But later in the evening, people started coming home. Josh talked to the neighbors who are moving and the cat wasn’t theirs. The man said he thought it belonged to a couple in the apartment building.

Josh came home and told me.

“He said he’s pretty sure the couple who owned the cat are on drugs.”

“Great,” I said.

“Yeah. He said the lady looks strung out.”

“Do you think they’ll assume you hit the cat?”

“I mean, the vet tech thought so.”

“Then should we tell them?” I asked. “I feel bad not telling them, but…”

“Right,” said Josh. “We don’t know how they’ll act.”

We went out to dinner. We ran some errands. During blips of silence, my mind wandered to the cat.

“They’re going to wonder where he is. Maybe we should tell them?” I said.



Last night, while I was getting Tiny to sleep, Josh went to pick up dinner. When he got home, a guy from the apartment complex – a guy Josh knows from a long time ago when they worked at a restaurant together – asked Josh if he’d seen an orange cat around lately.

Josh told him the story, about how I found the orange tom, how he’d taken it to the hospital. But that unfortunately the cat hadn’t made it.

“Oh, man. I better go get my buddy,” the guy said.

Josh waited outside while the guy retrieved his friend. And when Josh told him what happened, the orange tom’s owner wept.

“I told him I had his cat’s collar and asked if he wanted it. He said yes,” Josh said.

“And then I hugged him.”


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