The home-made flyers have gone up overnight, dozens of them, taped to what seems to be every power pole and most shop windows in the neighbourhood. Have you seen SIMBA? they read. $100 REWARD. There’s a black-and-white photo of a cranky-faced cat. It looks an ordinary moggie to me – certainly not the type to warrant a hundred-dollar reward. I push open the door of the coffee shop and ease into a seat at my regular table against the wall.
‘G’day, Darren.’ A double-shot espresso appears in front of me. ‘How’s it goin’?’
‘Yeah, not bad, Eileen. Thanks.’
I reach over to pull the local paper off the rack but something else catches my attention. It’s another of those lost-cat flyers, this one front and centre on the café’s community notice board. Last seen 10/05/2023. 48 Mayfield Street. The flyer is obscuring the date of the next Senior’s Dance Party and I know it’s covering the ad for Mandy’s Babysitting Service. I stare at the feline in the picture. It gives me a side-eye in return.
I flick open the paper and shift in my chair to face away from the wall. Just as I lift the coffee cup to my mouth, Eileen slides a plate of smashed avo toast onto the table.
‘What’s with the …’ I jerk my head towards the noticeboard.
‘Oh, that’s the Fergusons’ cat.’
‘You know … that nice family with the three little girls …’ Eileen tries again. ‘They often come in on a weekend. For breakfast,’ she adds hopefully.
I’m still none the wiser.
‘Anyway, it’s their cat. The father came in yesterday afternoon. Asked if he could put up a notice.’ Eileen swipes a cloth over a pile of crumbs on the other side of the table. ‘Poor little things – they’re devastated at losing their pet, apparently.’
‘Hmm.’ I cut into the chunky toast. ‘This avo’s good today.’
Eileen pauses mid-swipe. She’s frowning at me. A moment later a noisy group bustles into the café and Eileen hurries away.
I finish my breakfast, down the last of the coffee and stand up. The cat is still sneering at me. When I snatch the flyer from the board, Eileen looks up from behind the cash register.
‘I’ll just take this,’ I say, waving the flyer in one hand and my credit card in the other. ‘In case I come across a stray cat. I’ll need it for reference.’
The machine beeps. Eileen waits a beat, then smiles. ‘Yeah. Good on ya, Darren.’
‘See you tomorrow, then,’ but Eileen has already moved on. She’s loading cups and teapots onto a tray.
I step onto the footpath and peer at the flyer again. It may not be the best photo, but the similarities between this moggie and my own new cat are unmistakable. I crush the paper into a tight ball and lob it into the bin outside the kebab shop. Simba. Not a name I’d have chosen, but at least now I know what to call him.