Alley Cats

Alley Cats

A Story by Tony

One time I ran away from home and went out to ride the rails. For me, the reality of the hobo life was recorded well by the authors of books I read when I was a kid. I know this because I have been there, done that. For a tramp, it is hard to carry water, hard to find shelter, railroad bulls are generally to be avoided, and there is a whole lot more walking involved in riding freight trains than there is riding. Seriously, anything but the healthiest examples of walking apparati just will not work for this adventure.  All that hobo stuff is for another story though, and  in spite of the inconveniences, I liked the roaming around a lot, and had the weather approved, I would not have been motivated to habitate.

In the pacific northwest fall is cold, winter is wet and cold, and spring is usually salvation about halfway through. The slow moving junker I was riding lost it's charm fast as September eased into October. So happens, we were pulling into Reno, Nevada at the same time I was looking for some winter shelter.

I had only been to this little gaming town in the middle of the beautiful Truckee Meadows one time, and was too drunk to really remember it. Matter of fact, the only thing I remember about that trip was this girl I met from Europe. She as nuts as me, and her accent sang her frustrations and optimisms. Plus, she carried a bag of Shag and rolled her own smokes.

On this trip, as much as I find difficulty seeing the beauty of bridges and hotels, I had to admit, it was a cool place, all fortune and folly, and lights and buzzers. The Devil's playground, right in the middle of one of the most beautiful mountain valleys I have seen, and I've seen a couple. I shed my coveralls, shaved in a casino bathroom, and camped out in a lumber yard for four days. I landed a miserable job the second day I was there, stripping carpet and glue off of large floor areas. I made a couple of hundred bucks though, and by the time I got around to applying at a casino, I had already rented a really crappy room for 70 a week.

I started out washing dishes, and moved up the proverbial ladder to cooking on the line. I made it look pretty easy, out of luck, but I gotta tell ya, it's tough working the Reno strip. I worked hard, and as usual, It just wasn't quite enough to cover everything. So I started gambling.

With luck still working on my side I landed a job running the Snack Bar#2, downstairs, Club CalNeva. In stead of making the hourly wages of the steak house, I now would make a fraction of the hourly wage and would be dependent on tips. As it worked out, it really worked out. I got that little el shaped bar all cleaned up, and started building a clientele. After a couple of months, largely due to a cleaner and more conversationally inviting atmosphere, I was making plenty.

I met JoAnne about this time, she was a cocktail waitress who came around with a positive attitue even on those crazy full moon festivals. I made her chicken nuggets just so, and she brought me highball glass half full of sour mash or bourbon every evening at 9. An hour before quitting time.

Jo was a pretty half indian girl who had seen some rough reality and still maintained a real smile and encouraging laughter. We both liked to play video poker with all our tips, and slowly worked into a routine of prime rib nights and Top Ramen afternoons. Without bothering to ask, we just decided to shack up together, for convenience. Two, can indeed, live cheaper than one. We rented a much better room at the Aspen motel, #25, upstairs, end of the alcove. Now we had all the amenities, microwave, cable, and hot water.

The thing I personally liked the best about our new digs was the location at the end of the building. To the immediate left of my door as you leave, was the iron guard rail, overlooking the Alley. Two blocks up and in full view were the flashing colored lights of the Hotel/Casinos, but that viewpoint doesn't hold the interest of the intellectual for long.

The Alley was pretty entertaining. I walked it twice a day to and from work. At each intersection there was usually one of those stores that just has a big sign saying, LIQUOR. In and around these lived a cultural intersection. In one day, these little stores sell to a huge variety of people, in all classes and cultures. Baseball hats and turbans, painted ladies and professionals, crack heads and drug dealers, thieves and religious fanatics. It was great, and I tried to have at least one conversation with every person, at times when the environment is right. People are so ugly and so beautiful.

One time I noticed this guy, who was fairly clean, bumming change on the corner every day as I walked to work. I gave him some the first day, then, when he was there after five, I  had to know.

Out here every day, huh?

Yeah, mostly.

How much?

How much what?

I gave him a half smile.  It's none of my business.....I said.

Well, he said, shuffling his feet, I'm only here an hour or so.

How come?

Because I have to wait for my girlfriend, we work over at the Pelican but she get's off an hour after me.

So I gave him a buck, and went to work, fascinated.

The people who use the alley in the day are much different than those you see late at night. In the day it is largely a short cut for casino workers, and a thoroughfare for various delivery vehicles and the occasional patrol. In the night, the alley is not well lit, and the creatures who travel here are either creepy people or people hurrying somewhere avoiding the creepy people. I observed the things you might expect, such as drug dealers, bums, fighting, fornicating, and so forth. I saw a lot of funny things. Once a drunk guy was perusing through a dumpster. He was hanging half in, half out. I waited and sure enough, he lost balance and fell in. What was funny was that he jumped out real quick, as though young and sober, and looked to the left and to the right, obviously wondering if anyone had seen him. Dignity is a peculiar thing, I suppose.

Things moved along pretty nicely for JoAnn and I. Seems we managed to be up or down, rich or poor, in a harmonious fashion. I smoked merch and drank too many of those most excellent handcrafted porters and pales that have become so wonderfully plentiful in the western US. JoAnn's cousin was a deputy sherrif who always seemed to have crystal meth, and kept her supplied for various opportunities she could provide as a fluent cocktail waitress. We still lived a dollar past poverty all the time. But, the line held and we even managed to save some money. We bought a 68 chevy half ton pickup. It wasn't real pretty, but the price was right and what was wrong, I could fix. Once we had the brakes and tires good, we often took long drives up through the mountains, and around the desert. We didn't lose any money gambling this way, and Jo was satisfied to thumb away at an electronic poker game she carried around.  For her, a Royal was pretty exciting whether there was money involved or not. This comes, I suppose, from the realization that you have to play a whole lot of hands before that one comes up. It was almost like, Holy crap! I already got another royal......I must be playing a Lot!

Sometimes, we would go for a walk down the alley and back. The city lights were one way and the backs of the various hotels, restaurants, and storage units lay the other. Once you got way down you could cross the freeway and head up a residential area that had houses lining the streets, and the alley passed the back fences, yards, and an occasional garden. We thought it would be cool to live in this neighborhood, and so were always watching for a rental. One day we noticed that a  2 bedroom cottage with a garage and back yard appeared vacant.  We looked around and then trespassed. It was indeed, empty, and we peered in the windows, and noted things we would change, if it were ours. I went over to look in the garage window and JoAnn looked in the old wooden flower boxes, sad and empty. Suddenly, she says,

Can you hear that?

Nope.

You're not listening, really I hear something....

I trained my ear and then, I heard it too. It sounded like wailing. We looked at each other, eyes big in the coming dusk. Then we laughed and looked for the source. Upon investigation, it seemed the noise was coming from the top of the garage. Moving to the alley side, it got louder, and was obviously an animal in peril. There was a little access door above the carport, but it was too high for me to reach. We looked for height and the only thing we could see was a dumpster halfway down the block. It was only partially filled but the tiny useless wheels were incorrigible and kept getting stuck on little pieces of gravel. We were determined though, and in a bit had it shoved up against the garage. I climbed up and opened the little door to a cloud of dust and layers of cobweb. I peered into the darkness looking for the source of the wailing, which had grown much louder now. Once my eyes adjusted to the gloom, I could see it was kittens. There were three of them there, alive, and two more plus the mother who were dead. We got there in the nick of time.

They drew away as I reached for them but not much, and I handed them down, one by one, to Jo. She took her scarf off and layed them in it, and we looked them over, as they howled. Knowing they needed to eat right off, we headed for home, stopping only for an eyedropper and some milk. Cats were strictly prohibited by our rental agreement, but what are you gonna do? In our room, we heated milk and administered it with the eyedropper. Wails turned to growls as they ate, obviously starved. After their bellies were round and fat, we washed them off and put them in a shoebox with some rags, and slid the sleeping trio under the bed.

We ordered pizza and watched the tube for a couple of hours and then we heard rustling from under the bed. I pulled the box out and handed Jo the two who were awake. The other little guy wasn't going too. He was taking the long sleep. I wrapped the tiny body in an old shirt and put him in the toolbox of the pickup. Later I made a hole for him above town while we were exploring.

In the morning the kittens were eating like they never had and I examined them carefully. Their eyes were bright and shiny, and their noses were wet and cool. We determined that one was a male, the other a female. The male was black with white trim, with slick short fur. The female was a dirty gray, and her fur was more of the fuzzball type. We named the male tiger, because he looked absolutely nothing like his namesake. The female we named Molly. Because she was such a curious creature, and just looked like a Molly. The two became accustomed to motel life and as the weeks rolled by we referred to them as 'the kids'. The two Alley Cats (that's what I thought of them as) were very different animals. Tiger was tigerish, living for food and ambush. Molly was lazy and unkempt. Occasionally she would play, but only for the show, not because she wanted to, really.

Molly was so dirty that, in addition to keeping his own fur perfect, Tiger would groom his sister every evening like clockwork. He seemed to know that she wasn't playing with a full deck, and took up the slack. I always have thought that said tendency in some creatures assumes intelligence they supposedly don't have. Because neither of them had been weaned properly, one would expect psychological trauma and odd behavior. I assure you, neither of them were short of peculiarities. Tiger seemed pretty normal, but he too had some issues. As soon as they escaped the shoe box they made a habit of sleeping with us. Every night, Tiger would burrow his nose into my armpit, looking for a tit. Which would signal sandman.

The Alley Cats were mostly enjoyable, not always by any means. It was interesting to note later that after the two of them moved in, our attraction for 25cent four-of-a-kind poker machines kind of slipped away. It was nice, if not weird, to see JoAnne smoking Camels and watching CMT while Molly snoozed on her lap and Tiger did backflips off the headboard. Chasing specks of dust dancing on the narrow sunbeam that shown through the curtains.

 

© 2011 Tony


Author's Note

Tony
Well, how'm ah doin?

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Featured Review

Hee, it took me a while to finish this one, but I did!
Sorry, I'm so distracted right now.

Aanyway, I really liked this piece. No, I mean... there's just something about your writing. So personal, or at least. Maybe it's just more relatable. Ah... I'm not making any sense. But that's not the point, the point is that I really liked your piece. IT's great.

You know what I just realized, most of my reviews are really redundant. Or, not redundant, wrong word. They're all just... almost the same! I mean, I always begin by saying exactly how much I liked or disliked the piece, I just did. See? Then I go on and point out anything I found fault in, or if I didn't then I'll say that I didn't. Afterwards I'll usually-- actually, after that I just go on to say that I liked reading it and that I'll probably go on to read something more of that particular writer later on in my day. Then I end. Quite abruptly, I think. I should work on that. A little variety would be good, no?

Posted 9 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.




Reviews

Gotta shelve this story, if I can learn how to do it. Loved this whole theme. Jack Kerouac came to mind, you write as good as him. Great descriptive bits i.e. folly, fortune, light, then mountain valleys.
It was a kind of how to live rough manual (I was taking notes!)
A realy colourful history - fascinating to read, and how you worked up to getting a bar! by persevering!
I like how you just kinda drifted together with people.
People are so ugly and so beautiful (That was pure poetry)
Ha ha Dignity is a peculiar thing, your right!
Aw the poor mother cat! your animal story is beautiful. What can I say, I just read something magic. Thankyou.

Posted 9 Years Ago


that is some mighty fine story telling there , enjoyed listening ~

Posted 9 Years Ago


This is a piece of Americana my friend the likes that only you can write. Its a poster child for a voice over by Wilford Brimley. You have a natural style and flow that leads a reader by the nose into the cracks and crevices of all that is good and not so good and when mixed together makes up this life. Great job...I loved it.

Posted 9 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Hee, it took me a while to finish this one, but I did!
Sorry, I'm so distracted right now.

Aanyway, I really liked this piece. No, I mean... there's just something about your writing. So personal, or at least. Maybe it's just more relatable. Ah... I'm not making any sense. But that's not the point, the point is that I really liked your piece. IT's great.

You know what I just realized, most of my reviews are really redundant. Or, not redundant, wrong word. They're all just... almost the same! I mean, I always begin by saying exactly how much I liked or disliked the piece, I just did. See? Then I go on and point out anything I found fault in, or if I didn't then I'll say that I didn't. Afterwards I'll usually-- actually, after that I just go on to say that I liked reading it and that I'll probably go on to read something more of that particular writer later on in my day. Then I end. Quite abruptly, I think. I should work on that. A little variety would be good, no?

Posted 9 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Nice job. The whole experience was well done and the charachters and kittens became real with the descriptions you provided. Glad I read it!

SA

Posted 10 Years Ago


You have a style of writing that just sets me at ease.....very comfortating yet informative....thanks for sharing :)
Peace
Robin

Posted 10 Years Ago


this is amazing! i'm glad i checked back in on this because what you've added has made it so much more personal. the Alley Cats made me melt..

so many of your observations are so on point. When i read "People are so ugly and so beautiful." i smiled, because i can feel your true interest in how society moves around you in that simple phrase. you have an admiration for what makes the human animal tick - good or bad.

Posted 10 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Interesting recollections. Cats, alley cats or otherwise are interesting creatures. I have barn cats. It's not uncommon to see one of the mom cats "set the table" for all the kittens. Very cute until half those kittens are nearly her size and she's sitting there looking at you with 8 bodies slung out in all directions from her. Even my toms take turns baby sitting the kittens. Not uncommon to see several snuggled up to the one huge male that is blind in one eye.


Posted 10 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Very well written, I like your writing style, and your descriptions of animals and people. Loved the line, "People are so ugly and so beautiful" which has given me something to think about.

Posted 10 Years Ago


A great little story--I enjoyed it immensely. Is it true? Seems that it might be. You have a clear, easy style of writing, much like that which I strive for. Additionally, simple stories like this are full of heart and hold great appeal for me.

Posted 10 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.


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22 Reviews
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Added on November 4, 2009
Last Updated on May 30, 2011

Author

Tony
Tony

Mexico...... Tan Lejos



About
I am a guy, 49. I am spirit residing in a carbon based life form. The god I know can be found in motion and rest. I live in Mexico because it's very free, and community still means something. .. more..

Writing
Born Again Born Again

A Story by Tony