Aziz and the Alley Cat
When I was six, I saw a calico cat turn albino. I saw it with my own two eyes.
Alley cats were common visitors at grandpa’s house. They arrived at odd hours and left as they pleased. They roamed around the court yard, lingered by the rectangular pool, and drooled over a few goldfish that were oblivious to the nearby danger. Sometimes, these stray cats perched quietly on the brick wall that separated houses. Often they explored the roofs, jumped from one to another, and at times fought and growled at each other, God knows over what. These gypsy cats never stayed in one place. Certainly they were not invited to come inside the rooms in grandpa’s house. It was absolutely prohibited.
If I saw a visiting cat getting close to the pool, I imitated Aziz by stomping my feet down and waving my hands, dismissing the cat while loudly yelling “Peesht.” The cat then would be scared - would jump over the wall and into the neighbor’s courtyard. The neighbor then had to decide what to do with the new visitor.
But once a plump calico cat did not want to leave our courtyard and lingered for days and weeks. Aziz kept saying “Peesht” and even once threw a shoe at it. Still the cat did not budge. That prompted Aziz to devise a plan of action.
She grabbed a big burlap sack from the cellar - the flour sacks that Mash Gharib, the farmer, had brought from the village, and we had plenty of those in the cellar. The sack still had some flour left in it, but Aziz didn’t care. She put some delicacy that cats like inside the sack and left its top open. She put the sack in the yard, near her room. Then she kept watch from her window. The greedy cat found its way inside the sack and while it was busy chewing on the delicious morsel Aziz ran to the yard, grabbed and pulled the draw strings, and tied the top of the sack.
The cat growled, kicked and pushed. But Aziz did not give in. I didn’t know what she was going to do with this bundle of joy. Cats are smart and Aziz knew if she let the cat out several blocks from the house, it would find its way back. But Aziz was smarter than the cat.
She put on her chador, grabbed the sack – the cat still growling and fighting to get out – and with Homa and me in tow she led the way to the nearest bus stop. She paid the fare and instructed us to move all the way to the back of the bus.
Suddenly the cat was silent. Maybe it was trying to figure out what was happening or where we were going. But its vigorous moving inside the sack continued. This made Aziz’s chador sway left and right, back and forth. Homa started giggling and I followed suit, but Aziz frowned and told us to be quiet. A few passengers sat in front of the bus and no one paid any attention to the back row. We were on the bus for a long time until it reached the end of its route. That was the destination Aziz had in mind.
We got off the bus in a part of the city I had never seen before: a new subdivision, sparse houses, and plenty of land. Still Aziz made us walk for a while. Then she stopped at the corner of an empty lot.
Slowly, she opened her chador and put the sack down. Gingerly, using extreme caution, she untied the drawstring away from herself and loosened the top. As soon as the sack opened, the prisoner that had kept quiet and still darted out in a flash and ran without looking back. It was not the same calico cat, but an albino – a white creature from head to the end of its tail.