For the old tom, it had started like any of the last thirty days. Food, water. Quiet parents restraining the hands of overly anxious children. The gentle holding and petting by those who loved cats, even a battle weary, tooth and nail scarred, but solid old tomcat like himself. He had even lost half his tail in the door of a previous lifetime.

It was a hard life, being discarded after a youth with filled bowls of milk, cozy blankets, and toys. He was a tough survivor. Mice feared him, cats were wary, and the felines, they adored him. Occasionally, a caring person would tender some milk for his raccoon sounding purr. Things were rough, but he grew to enjoy this existence. He was, after all, like any other cat – aloof and independent.

It was toward evening when change put that odd kink back in his tail. The keeper, shook his head at him, as he did the others, sorrowfully saying that it had to be this way. None of his other cell-mates ever came back.

The chance for another life came when that closed door, suddenly, became open. He darted through to the front of the shelter, bounding out the open window and into the sunlight of tomorrows.

He frisked his way scatter-shot across the busy street, then proceeded to the park he knew so well. Small rodents underfoot, and birds everywhere.

Before he arrived, he was tempted to chancing another bowl of warm milk, or even perhaps some cheese. This boy, who called to him was unlike most of the others, soothed him. Stroking under the chin. Behind the ear. Fingered reassurance.

The boy took him to one of those tall buildings filled with people, noise, rats and roaches. The stairs were more to his liking; but, he had been in an elevator before, never for quite so long.

The boy took him down the hall to his home. There was yelling behind the door. He smelled other cats. His mouth watered.

“Hi Mom, Dad.” Friendly, unlike the other voices. The big one raised his louder. “Not another cat!” “But Dad!?”

“I said NO!” He was scruffed by those unforgiving hands. “This will teach you!” With that, he was thrown out the window. He tried to catch himself, but he just flailed, his claws finding no purchase.

He fell.

He fell.

Then, he relaxed. Cats were always good at relaxing, even at the worst of times.

Body limp, he landed on the sidewalk. Thump!

He was fine, he felt. Mostly so. He pulled himself together. A bruised thigh. A chipped tooth. His breath, ragged from the forced exhale. His half-tail, twitching from adrenaline.

“Wow,” he heard. “Where’d you come from little fella?” The man was ragged, smelling of the street, looking as rough as . “That was quite some fall!”

“Here, let me help you. Easy, now.” He was slowly picked up, pet tentatively. “You seem to be in pretty good shape, considering. You can stay with me for a while, if you want.”

He was carried down the street, enjoying the calming voice and his hand of attention. “I think I’ll call you Thomas. Thomas O’Malley. Like in the movie, Aristocats. Yeah, Thomas O’Malley, Malley is my name too!”

Now living his next life, he was unused to this homeless kindness. The man seemed helpful enough. He’d stay with him for a while, then take his leave. Cats just aren’t pack animals like those other animals. Besides, this man smelled of tuna and provolone cheese.

Note: No cats were injured by the writing of this story. That being said, cats often do survive falls from great heights. Look it up, or perhaps read here.