Eli could not wait for get home to see his kitten named Kitty. Tomorrow was Christmas and Eli wanted to give Kitty her present, even if it was a day early. He could not hold out.
When the school bell rang marking the end of the school day, Eli shot from his chair. He slid down stairwell handrails. He vaulted a set of stairs leading to the streets. Running full tilt, Eli bobbed and weaved between other students. A poor old woman, clearly not moving fast enough, was nearly pushed out of Eli’s way. Nothing could prevent him from seeing his Kitty.
He rounded the last corner. His apartment was just coming into view. A great blue four-story apartment complex shoved between even larger buildings on either side. Its white shutters matched the white painted metal fence Eli hated. Every time he tried to ride his bike on the sidewalk, he would fall into that metal fence.
Skipping two stairs with each stride, Eli ran up the first set of stairs. Then the second set. His apartment key was already jingling in his hand at the ready.
“Kitty,” he exclaimed. “Where are you, Kitty? I’m home.”
Kitty did not answer. Eli looked in the kitchen. No Kitty. He peered into the bathroom. No Kitty. He crawled around his bedroom. No Kitty there either. Eli began to worry.
“Where could Kitty be?”
Then he ran to his mother’s room. Clasping his chest to catch his breath, Eli gulped a few times.
“Mom,” he breathed again, “Where…is…Kitty?”
“Oh Sweetie,” mom sighed from her bathroom just out of Eli’s view, “You left the front door open this morning on your way to school.”
Scared, he yelled the same question with greater resolve, “Where’s Kitty!”
His mom came around the corner with a towel wrapped around her head like a beehive. She knelt down to Eli’s level, “Kitty’s lost in the city.”
Eli started to cry. Kitty was his favorite cat. She slept on his tummy at night. In the mornings, Eli poured her fresh milk before pouring his own for his cereal. Mom still had to pour the cereal though. Kitty followed Eli around the apartment whenever he was home. She waited in the window whenever he was not home.
Eli cried a river before his eyes dried up. Then he thought, “Kitty would not have run away. She loves me. I love her. She is a good Kitty.”
“Mom,” he said aloud, “If Kitty is lost in the city, I’m going to find her.”
“Oh, Sweetie. I really don’t think that’s possible. It’s a big city. You couldn’t possibly find Kitty.”
“I will! I will find Kitty.”
Eli’s mom just looked at her son with sad eyes and a heavy heart.
“Can I go outside?”
“To look for Kitty?
“Take your picture of Kitty with you.”
“Dress warm and be home before…” Eli grabbed his picture of him and Kitty off his dresser and was off in a sprint. He slammed the front door behind him before his mom finished her sentence.
Being in a big apartment building, Eli decided to start by asking his neighbors that lived on his floor. He knocked on the first door.
“What,” asked a deep monstrous voice from beyond the door.
“Have you seen my cat,” Eli asked at the top of his small voice. “Her name is Kitty and she’s…”
“Go away. I don’t have your cat.”
Eli ran to the next apartment, not phased by the angry man behind the door.
“What can I do for you, little Eli,” asked Mrs. Jackson.
“My Kitty. Have you seen her?”
“My goodness, no,” said Mrs. Jackson. “But come inside and I’ll make you some hot cocoa.”
“I have to find Kitty. Kitty’s lost in the city.”
As Eli ran down to the last apartment door on his floor, Mrs. Jackson added, “Come by when you find Kitty and I’ll make you both something warm.”
Normally a very polite young boy, Eli was too focused on finding Kitty to respond to Mrs. Jackson. Seeing he was on a mission and not easily distracted, she smiled and closed the door softly behind her.
“Hi, ma’am. Have you seen my Kitty.” He held up his picture for the young woman to see.
“No,” said a young woman, “Sorry, I haven’t. She’s very cute though.”
“Thank you. Bye.”
Down the stairs to the next level of his apartment building. Door after door Eli knocked. Nobody in his building had seen Kitty. He zipped up his coat, tugged it down like a soldier prepping for battle, and marched out into the cold to find Kitty.
First he asked the boys twice his age on the stoop outside his apartment building. They laughed at him. Eli did not care about them. They were always mean.
He entered the flower shop next.
“Have you seen Kitty,” he announced as he held up Kitty’s picture for everyone the store to see. “She’s lost in the city.”
A couple holding hands shook their heads ‘No’. The jolly clerk behind the desk said, “No, but if you let me copy that picture, I’ll post it in my window.” Eli smiled at this first sign of help from someone.
As the clerk disappeared to copy his picture of him holding Kitty, Eli paced like no boy had ever paced. He ran back and forth like his pants were on fire. His winter coat squeaked as he time seemed to stop.
Just as he was about to give up hope and go looking for the jolly clerk with the red cheeks and nose, the clerk rounded the corner. Eli nearly ran into the laughing clerk as he grabbed his picture of Kitty and ran out the door of the flower shop without even a thank you.
He passed a man in a suit and long coat on the sidewalk, “Have you seen Kitty? She’s lost somewhere in the city.” The man in the suit ignored Eli.
Eli saw his mailman, Mr. Frank, and ran up to him.
“Mr. Frank, have you seen Kitty,” he held up his picture, “She’s lost in the city.”
Mr. Frank jumped and dropped an envelope.
“Sorry, Mr. Frank,” said Eli as he picked up the envelope and handed it back to him.
“What was that, Eli?”
“Kitty. Have you seen her? She’s lost in the city.”
“Nope. Can’t say that I have. But I haven’t…” Eli was off running again.
To the butcher, the coffee shop where everything smelled like Grandma’s house on Sunday mornings, and the community center Eli went. Everywhere he asked. Nowhere did he find Kitty. Hours and hours went by. The sun was starting to set. Eli lost hope Kitty could ever be found.
“I’ll never find Kitty,” Eli cried softly on the front steps of the community center. “She’s probably lost and scared. Poor Kitty. Lost in the city. All alone. I’ll never see her again. I’ll never be able to give her her present.”
Eli wiped his nose on his sleeve. Mom would be angry if he did not get home soon. Kitty or no Kitty, he had to go home.
Somehow the city felt colder than when he was looking for Kitty. It got even colder still when he thought of poor Kitty lost in the city. The passed the butcher’s, the coffee shop, the flower shop.
“Hey, kid,” asked the jolly red man from the flower shop, “Did you find your cat?”
Eli just shook his head.
“Well, kid, I’m sure your cat’s ‘round here somewhere.”
The jolly man disappeared back into his flower shop.