None of us knew his name, if he even had one.
We just knew him — this free-spirited feline — as the lithe little cat cutting around corners of the Chatham News + Record’s building at the corner of Raleigh Street and S. Cedar Avenue as he went about his daily, routine patrols of the neighborhood.
Who knows what he was looking for, but it seemed a constant quest.
No doubt this nameless yellow, white-striped cat — his appearance recalled Morris, the famous “9 Lives” cat food pitchman, only thinner and with a more angular face and a less-beatific expression — called one of the nearby houses home, but which household he claimed, or which claimed him, we weren’t sure.
He seemed to belong to no one, answer only to himself, and live at-large, which is how we got to know him — this four-legged explorer — in the first place.
Not warm and friendly, exactly, he kept a bit of a distance from us News + Record employees, though we all encountered him over the last few months and, in our own ways, we all got to know him.
And though he wasn’t a cat you picked up and hugged — too tough and stand-offish for that kind of affection, he was — he never seemed especially skittish of us, either.
Striding casually past with admirable nonchalance, he’d sometimes offer acknowledgment in the form of a “meow,” uttered usually without even a glance in the direction of whichever human he happened to be directing the sound towards.
I guess he didn’t mind that we sometimes inhabited some of the same spaces.
So were all shaken a bit when we came to work last Wednesday morning to find our unofficial mascot-in-the-making dead.
Sometime between closing time Tuesday and early Wednesday, he’d been struck by a vehicle and killed, his life ending — head smashed — in the middle of the eastbound lane of Raleigh Street.
It was there his body stayed for a few hours into mid-morning, until someone removed him from the road, pulling him out of further harm’s way onto the grass in the median; by noon, someone else had scooped him up and placed him in a trash can to be hauled away with the garbage.
It was a brutal way to go and a harsh place to end up.
To be sure, a life outdoors — familiar territory for this cat and many others — is often difficult.
An indoor cat — think fat and happy Morris again — can live 17 years and better; the life expectancy of an outdoor cat, however, is two to five years.
I offer no lectures here to motorists about avoiding animals on the road. As careful and conscientious as I consider myself, not many months ago I ran over another cat, on Cedar Street, killing the poor thing in place. In another scenario, the death maybe could have been avoided; but not that day.
And it happened to “our” cat last week. He’ll turn no more corners of our building, offer no more “meows” to whomever is in earshot, hunt no more of whatever it was for which he seemed perpetually on the prowl.
What I can offer is a simple epitaph:
He was cool. We miss him.