Juju was the leader.
A mama’s boy, sleek black with disarming green eyes.
Pumpkin is the baby. Born in a barn, black and fancy with a fluffy tail.
Our third cat is black too, with gold eyes squinted in enduring suspicion. He is nameless, but in a pinch I call him Juney, after the double bass genius.
We all live in Fort Greene, in the top two apartments of a three unit tenement.
A paradise for cats. And us too.
Downstairs lives a beautiful young couple right out of a 1950s movie, with Frankie the hellhound.
By now the cats and dog are old friends.
So we leave our front doors open between the two floors, and the cats wander freely.
One morning we woke to find Juju nowhere.
We knocked to ask if maybe he was mauled by Frankie, but no.
So he must have slipped out when the workers loaded in to fix the stairs.
Out of nowhere sprung a great sadness.
A mama’s boy could not survive on the Brooklyn streets.
We printed up posters and taped them up all over the neighborhood.
The people at the laundromat, bodega, bar and hardware store met this news with concern and pledged their assistance.
We even appointed Jamel, the neighborhood addict, with guileless eyes just like Juju’s, bounty hunter.
And by night the calls came rolling in.
All those new New Yorkers, from the freshly minted skyrises, apparently care for furry creatures in a most earnest manner.
We got to know every stray black cat within a ten block radius. And some friendly gentrifiers too.
A network of calls and texts charting the movements of these castaway creatures jumped me into my coat and shoes late into the night.
An outsider couple from Texas held the cat until I could respond.
Juju never would let me hold him, but she was a cat lady and the cat looked at home in her arms. I could not rightly say if this cat was Juju so asked if she would carry him a block to show his mom.
In the hallway even Juju’s mom had to admit that he looked every bit like Juju.
Some brownstone people called. Mother and Scientist son. This cat too looked every bit like Juju. He fed off a can of tuna they put out until I could get there. But I saw a small white patch at his throat. The mother and Scientist son wondered where, then, this cat belonged.
Next day came the quarantine, no calls. Black cats roamed the night unobserved.
I jumped into my coat and shoes to wander the windswept streets.
Just when the spring chill began to sting my fingertips turning me back home, I saw a black something dash off the corner.
I ran in pursuit, peering down the deserted sidewalks but found there only shadows, and traffic lights blinking for no traffic.
He couldn’t have gone so far.
I looked under the cars. Just then he poked his head out from his hiding place beneath the SUV, a black plastic bag blown by the wind, with just the spirit of a black cat.