The sun hung low in the evening sky and its light no longer warmed Jesse’s fur. Soon it would be dark.
Jesse’s tummy rumbled. When had he eaten last? Breakfast? Had he been outside for the entire day? It was no wonder he was so hungry.
Padding across the backyard, Jesse almost immediately noticed that something was amiss. Usually at this time, the warmth of lights blazed from inside and his human mum and dad could be seen busily preparing dinner while the kids did their homework or watched television but today, the windows were dark and there were no signs of life. The house looked strangely lonely and deserted.
The driveway stood empty so Jesse assumed his family had all gone out together. Perhaps for dinner or to see a movie. Seeing nothing for it but to wait until their return, he jumped onto the deck and curled up by the back door, drawing his paws toward himself to conserve warmth, not knowing how long he would be outdoors.
Jesse awoke with a start. Any lingering traces of sunlight were long gone now, having been replaced by the cold, faint light of the moon. He peered into the darkness, trying to discern what had made the noise he had heard. A neighbourhood dog? A raccoon? Could it be something worse? A coyote, perhaps. Jesse sniffed the air. A multitude of smells assaulted his olfactory senses but as none appeared to be dangerous, he closed his eyes once more and drifted off to sleep.
Sounds of birds, singing, awakened the little black cat and he slowing rose to his paws. He felt stiff after being outdoors in the cold and damp all night. Jesse stretched his front legs first and then his back ones, before arching his back. After giving himself a good shake, he stood up on his hind legs and clawed at the door, crying to his family, pleading with them to let him in. Pangs of hunger shot through his tummy and he realized he’d not eaten since the morning before.
But Jesse’s plaintive cries didn't succeed in bringing anyone to the door. Were they all still asleep? He glanced over at the driveway. The car hadn't returned. Had all four members of his human family been gone all night long? Jesse sat back on his haunches, staring at the door. He was locked out with no one to let him in.
His tummy again reminded Jesse of his immediate hunger but what was he to do? The food was inside the house and he had no way to get at it. He needed to think.
Jesse had chased his fair share of flying insects while playing in the garden and fields behind his house, but even though he enjoyed the chase very much, he really wasn't a very good hunter. Most of the things Jesse chased got away. No cat could exist on the spoils of his hunts. Although he had always been allowed outside, hunting did not come naturally to him, at all.
Then Jesse had a brilliant idea. Perhaps the neighbours would find it in their hearts to give him a meal. Just enough to tide him over, mind you, until his family returned home. With anxious anticipation and his tail held high, the little black cat trotted across the lawn and into the adjoining yard. And what luck! Looking through the window into what he thought must be the kitchen, he could see a man and woman. Perhaps they were making breakfast. Surely if he cried for attention, they would invite him in for a bite to eat.
Unfortunately, Jesse’s cries were met with the sound of a door, slamming, as he narrowly dodged the foot of a horrid man yelling, “Get the Hell out of here!” Jesse remembered why he had always avoided the neighbours’ house before.
But he was so hungry and his family had not yet returned. He couldn't give up yet. Maybe the people in the next house would be kinder. Jesse approached their door, hesitant to cry out because of the response he had received at the first. But knowing he had to get their attention somehow, he let out a small mew. Nothing. He cried a little louder. Still no answer. Sadly, there was no one at home. Dejectedly, Jesse slowly returned to his own house.
He skirted the immediate neighbours’ yard, fearing he would be seen by that horrid man. Crossing his own yard, a fly passed in front of his nose and Jesse instinctively snapped at it. He swallowed the fly but his hunger did not subside.
Curling up at the back door once again, Jesse squeezed his eyes tight. He was sure that he wouldn't feel the pain of his hunger while sleeping and perhaps, when he awoke, his family would be home.
A month later, Jesse was still locked out of his house. His family had never returned and he was all alone.
Jesse had reconciled himself to living the life of an outdoor cat. He now lived in constant fear, never knowing what dangers might be lurking around the next corner. He had already had several narrow escapes from neighbourhood dogs, local wildlife, and that horrible, awful, nasty man who lived next door. His tummy always ached, for it was perpetually empty. Although still not very good at hunting, Jesse had discovered there were often edible scraps to be found in garbage cans left out for collection. He was hungry but he was getting by. He would survive. But the worst thing about living outside was the constant cold. On sunny days, the sun warmed his fur but at night, a constant chill travelled through his young bones.
And through it all, Jesse stayed close to home… WAITING. Waiting for his family to return and let him inside.
And then one day, a strange car pulled into the driveway. A woman he had never seen before climbed out and walked toward his back door. In her hand, she held a key.
Jesse’s heart filled with joy. Someone had been sent to let him in.
Although anxious to get inside, Jesse approached gingerly, remembering the neighbour’s treatment of him. He would wait until the door was open and then dash past the woman. If he were lucky, she wouldn't even see him. He could hide indoors until his family returned.
Luckily for Jesse, the woman did see him as he sped past her feet. Although taken by surprise, she had the composure to close the door behind her and seek him out. Scooping Jesse up into her arms after finding him cowering behind a chair in the family room, the woman stroked his fur and tickled him beneath his chin. In a soft voice she explained that his family had moved away and would never return. She had been sent to prepare the house for its sale so he wouldn't be able to stay there, either inside or out. But perhaps he would like to come live with her.
Although the woman never said it… Never said the actual words… Jesse realized, right there and then, that the family he had loved with all his heart… The family he had relied and depended upon… That family had left him behind. He hadn't just been locked out. He had been abandoned and forgotten but now, thanks to this wonderful stranger, he would have a loving home once again.