As a cat lover, he told me that he was most distressed to see the cat in such danger at the top of the stairs – a large ginger cat in a cage at the bottom of a trolley that a hobo had pushed to the top of the stairs at Central station – the large ginger cat strangely quiet, as if content, and unaware, as it seemed, of any danger.
The hobo, of course, didn’t look as if he was the kind of man you would expect to have such a cat and such a cage (one of those small plastic cages, as he said, that you take your cat to the vet in when it needs a few shots). The hobo was so roughly dressed, my friend said, that he looked as if he had just spent the night in the park next to the station, covered only by the oily and foul smelling rags he was wearing, and yet he had the cat in a cage in a metal shopping trolley and was looking, for all the world, as if he was intending to push the trolley down the stairs, all the way down the stairs to the station or to the tunnel that opens out onto the other side of the city. God knows what he was thinking of, what was going through his head.
The cat can’t have belonged to the hobo, he then told me. No hobo looking the way this one did would have a cat of this sort – a large, content and obviously well fed cat in the kind of small plastic cage that anyone else might take to the vet. The hobo must have stolen the cat, he said – either stolen the cat or a trolley which just happened to contain a cat. He himself should have stopped to check whether the cat belonged to the hobo; for god’s sake he should have stopped to ask what the hobo was intending to do with the cat in the trolley at the top of the stairs. But when you are in a hurry to get to work via the tunnel that takes you to the other side of the city without crossing several streets and waiting at lights, you often find yourself continuing to walk on at such times, all the time thinking you will turn back and ask the questions you know you should be asking, all the time thinking these thoughts as you continue to walk.