in #story6 years ago (edited)

It happened in October 1994 in Novosibirsk, Russia. I was walking towards the place called Student Dorm #3 through the place called a New Dormitory today, which was just a forest back then. I was carrying a bag of food from a nearby store.


On that forest path, I met a cat. A large, furry gray cat with soft darker stripes. "Hi!", I said to him. "Mewo-aa", he responded. I squatted down. He approached my bag and started sniffing at it. Clearly, he was hungry.

An almost-always-hungry-student myself back then, I could not have refused him. I pulled an egg out of the pack that I bought and broke it against a relatively clean rock protruding nearby. "Help yourself", I offered.

The cat ate politely, then looked again in my eyes. I offered him to go with me, and he followed for the next half mile in hopping cat strides.

When I entered my room, my two roommates stared at the cat and exclaimed, "Hey, this is Keshka!"

Keshka was a cat of a family couple from a neighboring room. They had moved to a different dorm a few months ago. Exceptionally lazy, not so smart, but kind and friendly, Keshka lived with them yet often spent hours in our room, laying on a "filthy" chair exclusively dedicated for him, waiting for chunks of food while we cooked.

I was puzzled. Sure, I remembered Keshka, but how could it be that I did not recognize him?

The question was practical. If it was Keshka, we would've assigned him a spot and daily food allotment. It it was not, we still would've treated him, but then kicked him out. Not that we were starving, no. But protein was certainly more of a luxury not to be shared at large with any random eaters.

We looked closer at the cat. A male -- but so was Keshka. Keshka was light gray with a hint of red. This one's coat is much darker gray and thicker. Well, that does not tell much -- cats do change colors a bit with time.

Keshka had a ringworm. This guy showed traces of carefully treated ringworm as well. But for Novosibirsk cats of 1990s, this was a no more identifying sign than having two eyes.

Somebody recalled that Keshka's upper left canine tooth was broken roughly at half length. Next, the poor cat realized he was not happy with our acquaintance anymore. Two people grabbed and held him, the third force-opened his mouth. Indeed, the canine was broken. But only at the very tip of it!

We let the cat free and tried to recall, how fast do their teeth grow? Mind you, this was 1994. There was no Internet or Wikipedia. Theoretically, there was a University library in 10 minutes of walking. But it was already closed for the day, and anyways, how much time would've it taken to find the cat's teeth growth rate data there? So, nobody considered that option seriously.

In the middle of our meeting, we heard a knocking on the door and our former neighbors appeared. "Folks", they said, "have you seen Keshka by any chance? We've lost him.... Ahh! Keshka!"

Thus the cat's identity was confirmed, he was taken back to his new home, and everything got resolved.

Except for the question: how happened that I did not recognize Keshka, while he apparently recognized me? He clearly did. He knew that was me and followed me through the forest and the street and to the 2nd floor of our dorm.

But there is no one to ask. A few months later, Keshka died.

(c) Eugene V. Bobukh

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