I started feeding him about six months ago.
He sat outside the sliding doors of my kitchen window peering in as I shuffled half asleep through my early morning routine – turn on Keurig, take vitamins, feed Buzz, my old cat swirling between my legs, make the kids’ lunches.
It was Buzz who alerted me to his presence by howling and hissing at the glass screen loudly. I looked and saw him there, staring back unaffected, his coat scraggly but his stance proud. Immediately I noticed that he resembled a cat I once had many years before who had died.
“Well, hello Jeffy,” I said to the stray, making the mistake of naming him out loud. I may as well have bought him a collar. “Fancy seeing you here.”
“I’ve got to feed him,” I apologized to my own feisty feline, stroking her behind the ears and looking her in the face. “But don’t worry, you’re in here and he’s out there.”
I slid open the door and Jeffy instinctually peddled back a few paces. I placed a paper bowl filled with food down, introduced myself, then headed back inside. When the sliding door closed, Jeffy padded back and ate. The next morning, he greeted us again, and the next, and the next. He became a frequent guest at dinner as well.
Our arrangement continued through Fall with my kids now well aware of the new extended member of our family. “Jeffy’s here!” They’d cry excitedly and race to find me. “He looks hungry,” My middle son worried and I’d roll my eyes. We were feeding him twice a day. And not the cheap crap either.
Winter and colder weather arrived. It was freezing and I hunkered down, barely going out except when necessary. I couldn’t imagine Jeffy surviving snow and temperatures that seemed to never stop falling. Inch after inch, foot after foot piled up.
Many days, my kids and I stared through the glass doors peering out in the frosty night wondering if Jeffy would make it. At times, the snow was so high he was almost just a head. Other days he carefully careened the mountains of crunchy ice to reach us. Every time he did we cheered and I peppered his dish with fresh chicken or juice from the tuna can. It seemed so unlikely he’d survive the single digit temps and crippling wind, but storm after storm, we’d spy those little foot (and body) imprints in the snow. Somehow against all odds he’d make it to our door.
This last storm took us all by surprise. It came hard and fast. The two feet of snow already in my yard quickly turned to three. For three days, we didn’t see him and feared the worst, but then the sun came out strong and my town began to melt. People walked the streets in open coats and no coats. Everyone was smiling, stretching out and thawing after the long winter freeze. Within a day, Winter had retreated and Spring had unofficially arrived.
And there in my vision stood Jeff, his fur weathered and matted but his posture still strong and proud.
He had made it through.
And now he would feast.