|Red dot marks the spot|
I stepped into the slightly cooler shade of the loading dock. The first thing I saw was the beer car. The second thing I saw was an enormous heap of discarded household goods-- furniture, clothing, books, toys, kitchen items, appliances, even a half-finished knitting project-- which sprawled the length of the space, and, picking its way over the pile, a tiny, skinny, dirty kitten.
I squatted, held out my hand, and the kitten ran over, meowing. It became apparent he was starving, desperate for something to eat. I tried to give him some water but he didn't want it. He wanted food. The runners in the group began to trickle in, and I hovered around the kitten. Someone put a couple of Cheetos on the ground and the kitten tried to eat them, which was one of the saddest things I'd ever seen. He kept moving around, circling the confines of the loading dock. Socializing time was coming to an end, and people were getting ready to head out for the next part of the run. I crouched next to the kitten and thought about leaving him behind and I had to choke back tears. I couldn't leave him there. I just couldn't. My heart was breaking thinking about it. I couldn't do it. I would never forgive myself if I left without the kitten.
Forget about the two cats I had at home already. Forget about how I swore I would never get a third cat while they were around because I didn't want to ruin their kitty friendship. Forget about how I was leaving in four days for a nine-day vacation. Forget all of that. I was going to continue a family tradition of saving animals in distress: my brother plucked an abandoned puppy from a parking lot in downtown Cleveland; my mom saved two kittens from neglect and death at the hands of an uncaring, asshole family. I could save a starving kitten from a brief, miserable life of hunger and suffering.
I told the beer car driver I needed to be taken back to my car at the host's house. I told the Engineer I really needed his help. I picked up the kitten, who felt like he weighed almost nothing, held him in my lap until we got back to my car, and then transferred him to the Engineer while I called my vet back home. (One of the perks of being a long-time client of a small-town vet practice is you get to disturb the on-call vet while he's at a graduation party and have him meet you at the clinic for an emergency evaluation.)
As I was talking to my vet the kitten was busy making himself comfortable on the Engineer's lap. I could hear him purring even over my car's engine and the air conditioner. By the time I pulled away from the curb to start the hour-long drive to Chelsea, he had already fallen asleep. I said, "Oh, little kitten, you have no idea how much your life is about to change."
A few minutes later: "His name will be Melvin, because I found him in Melvindale."
Thus came Melvin into my life and heart.