Oreo had made her bed atop the coffee bean dispenser. She was asleep.
You will recall King - the king of all the New York deli cats. I had hoped to see him again. Needing to save a little money, it had been my plan to find an economical motel somewhere away from the city, near a train station tied into the subway system, because, you understand, in New York City, downtown Manhattan, even a cheap hotel is expensive.
Still, my sister Sal Tien was with me and had never before been in New York City, so it seemed only right that before doing anything else, I should first drive her into the heart of The Big Apple. Of course, I also wanted to impress her with how I, an Alaskan country boy, knew my way around the biggest city in the United States, just like it was nothing.
So, not long after driving her into Manhattan, I said, “Central Park is just ahead.” Sure enough, I drove another three blocks and Central Park was right there.
Oreo hears me taking pictures. She wakes up.
“Now,” I said to Sal Tien, “I’m going to drive you to Times Square. You don’t think I can do it, but I’m going to take you there - just like it was nothing.”
And, sure enough I did. Suddenly, I felt far too tired to drive out into what they call hinter lands in New York to find a cheap stay. And there was the Hotel Edison, on 47th, just off Times Square. So we checked in, then stepped out onto the street to take a walk. (Please note: this was in 2002. There is no way I could afford a New York hotel today. Fortunately, on my latest trip, I was a guest in a very fine home of some people who used to live in Alaska.)
Naturally, Sal Tien wanted to head straight to Times Square. “No,” I said, “Let’s go this way,” and headed in the opposite direction. She was puzzled, but followed. I found a certain Deli and went inside, searching up and down the aisles, looking for a black cat, but I did not see one.
“Where is the black cat?” I finally asked the owner, who was at the cash register.
“The black cat?” he answered, sadly. “You want to know where the black cat is?”
Oreo seems to be wondering if she is still asleep, perhaps having a nightmare. She hopes she is asleep.
“The black cat is gone.”
“Yes. Gone. She was 15 years old and she died.”
“Oh, no,” I said, puzzled that he was calling the cat “she,” since I had understood, or perhaps misunderstood, her name to have been King.
“But look,” he said, pointing to a coffee bean dispenser perched high above the floor. I looked and there, sleeping atop the coffee, was a comfy tabby.
“Her name is Oreo,” he said. “She is one and a half years old.”
“Oreo!” I said admiringly, even as Sal Tien oohed and aahed with praises of her own. “Where did you get her?”
The deli owner, who appears to be of mid-eastern origin, looked at me as if I were stupid. “At the pet store,” he answered in a derogatory tone, as if all cats come from pet stores. I asked for a story, but he was not a story teller - at least, not in English. “She is like a human,” he answered. “My customers all love her. A customer bought her a collar. She is just like a human.”
And that is all that I learned about Oreo. I wonder if she likes to dip herself in coffee?