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Opinion In Market: The cat who was thankful

In Market: The cat who was thankful

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This is the one about

The Thanksgiving miracle

There are plenty of Christmas miracle stories, but I’ve not run across such Thanksgiving tales. Little wonder.

We celebrate that day and the day off that usually follows by wallowing in an excess of food, football and family tension. And then there’s Black Friday.

But about 20 years ago I witnessed a Thanksgiving miracle. A miracle? I’ll let you be the judge. I know this. My story is truer than the fanciful happy B.S. land of devout religious Pilgrims and Native Americans carving up a turkey in a blissful utopia in the New World.

It happened in Austin. My girlfriend at the time lived there with her two brothers, who attended the University of Texas and she invited me down for turkey day. They were all relatively poor students, so it would be one big potluck party.

We gathered at a post-war suburban home in an older part of town. Wanting to avoid the inevitable tension in the kitchen (none of that in the Pilgrims’ tale) several of us headed out on errands, real and imagined. Buy stuffing. Procure wine. Gather last minute provisions. Rent a movie to watch after the feast.

Yes, it was the days of Blockbuster Video. Nearby was a store at the intersection of two busy streets, isolated on a narrow block with just enough room for the video store and inadequate parking. We picked a few choice flicks and headed back to our car.

Sitting by our car, waiting impatiently for our return was an orange and white cat. My girlfriend picked up the cat and when someone else walked out the door, asked them, “Is this your cat?”

“No,” one said. “Who would take a cat to a video store?”

Good point.

As I mentioned, the store was situated between two busy streets. It looked perilous for the cat – or for any living being – to cross four lanes of Austin traffic.

“He’s got a collar on,” I said. “Let’s take him home and call his owner.”

The cat thought all this was a reasonable, viable and sound plan

My girlfriend handed him to me. “Allergies,” she sneezed.

We arrived at the house and it was full of other students. Loud, boisterous people, singing, playing guitars, cooking, laughing, screaming, watching football, a few couples always on the edge of a cataclysmic breakup. In other words, Thanksgiving. The Pilgrims never mentioned that part either.

The cat, whose collar identified him as Fred, seemed nonplussed.

My girlfriend called the phone number on the collar while I held purring Fred. I could tell by the look on my girlfriend’s face that something was up during the phone call. Her forehead wrinkled, her mouth grimaced and she did one of those looks where she puts the phone out at a distance and stares at it. Finally, she hung up.

What’s the scoop?

“Well, they’re coming over, but they acted like I was some con artist and this was some pussycat Ponzi scheme,” my girlfriend said unhappily, downing a glass of red quickly.

My girlfriend said a woman answered the phone and she told the woman that we had Fred.

“Fred’s right here,” the woman replied.

“No, we just picked him up at the Blockbuster and he has a collar on with your phone number,” my girlfriend said.

“No,” the woman said. “Fred’s right here. I’m petting him now.”

That was when my girlfriend held the phone out and stared at it. Twilight Zone Thanksgiving.

“He’s here. My boyfriend is holding him. Fred is here,” my girlfriend emphasized.

The woman, who lived several miles away, finally agreed to come see this mysterious con of a cat that was wearing a collar with her phone number on it.

We downed more wine as Fred made himself at home as if he had been invited for Thanksgiving, which he sort of had.

Eventually the doorbell rang and my girlfriend answered. The woman and her husband entered.

I won’t be able to forget the look of absolute, unfiltered joy on the woman’s face as she spotted Fred. Tears? Oh yeah. Mascara running? You bet. Hugging of cats? Yep. Baby talk to cats? It happened, I can testify. Nothing like that happened at that first Thanksgiving, I’ll bet.

Fred? Believe it or not. He seemed happy, revving his purr up to jet engine levels as the woman who loved him held him tight. A thankful cat? That’s the Thanksgiving miracle to me. Judge for yourself.

The woman explained that Fred had disappeared about two years ago. Her husband said his wife was so heartbroken, distraught and despairing, he got her another cat, which she dutifully named Fred, in honor of … well, Fred.

“It was never the same,” he said. “She loves Fred.”

Yes, she did.

Where had Fred been for two years? Who knows? How did he cross that street to end up at a Blockbuster Video where the only likely food source was a dropped Twizzlers? But Fred didn’t need food. He needed someone to get him where he needed to be on that Thanksgiving night. And he did.

What are we supposed to be thankful for at Thanksgiving? The same things Fred was thankful for, the people that love us.

And that’s the story of Fred, the cat who was thankful.

A miracle? Hey, it’ll do until something better comes along.

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