Sunday morning I was walking back from the grocery store, carrying three bags of stuff to eat for the week. I saw that Old Barfy was sitting outside in front of Peggy’s apartment, next door to mine. He shouted out, “How’s ol’ Brian doin’ today?”

I nodded a hello and kept my head down as though deep in thought.

Suddenly Peggy burst out of her apartment, the screen door banging against its stop. She was wearing a faded bathrobe and was adjusting her glasses as if she’d just put them on. “Brian? Where’s your cat?” she shouted significantly.

Peggy’s normally nice to me, but because I was still in anti-social mood I wasn’t reading her correctly. Was she mad at me? Did Smacky do something bad? Or was she worried? I stopped on the sidewalk, weighted down by the bags I carried, facing her. “I think he’s in the house,” and I moved my right arm slightly towards my front door. “Why?”

She paused a minute. “Do you go up to the store?”

I was still not getting her. I gave her the confused look.

“Foster’s Market, she’s talking about,” Old Barfy offerred from his seat.

“There’s a sign up there,” she said, “about somebody pouring… something on the cats in the neighborhood.”

“It… burns ’em, or somethin’,” O.B. said.

“Like… acid?” I asked.

O.B. nodded, and Peggy continued, “Anyway, I just wanted you to know, and to keep an eye on your cat.”

“Thanks,” I said. “I’m pretty sure he was in my apartment when I left. I hadn’t noticed anything on him…” my voice trailed off.

“OK, I just wanted you to know. There’s some real weirdos out there.”

I nodded again, and then finished walking up to my front door. As I put the bags on the ground to dig out my key, Smacky came bursting out of the bushes and made a black furry streak for the front step. “Shit! There you are! I thought you were inside.”

Smacky just flopped over on his side, meowing at me, and rubbing his head on my shoe. He didn’t have anything on him that I could see.

I kept him inside the rest of the day, in spite of the weather, until he scratched me a couple of times. That’s when I threw him out briefly while I watched a movie.