Biker Bobby rides a loud motorcycle. It’s the kind of bike where the handlebars are up high above his head, arms stretched out to their full length. And when he starts the motor in front of Joe’s Addiction, he guns the engine again and again. It’s deafening roar can probably be heard blocks away, in the trailer park that is his home.
Bobby wears leathers all year round. In the winter he’s covered head to toe. When the temperature warms up, he dons a leather vest over his bare chest. His motorcycle is his identity. His nickname, Biker Bobby, distinguishes him from two other Bobbys in our Community.
The day was cold and rainy, a last blast of winter before spring finally won. Bobby rode up to the front door of Joe’s Addiction with a crate under his arm. He was steering his motorcycle with a pet carrier under his right arm! He rushed into Joe’s shouting, “Heat! Heat! I need heat!” I hurried over to find out what was going on. Peaking through a hole in the crate, I could see, crouched back in the corner, a trembling, gray cat. Bobby kept saying, “Heat, heat. Come on! I need heat!”
I led him over to the “fireplace.” I put it in quotes, because it really is an 1970’s electric heater that plugs into the wall. It has some fake logs and an orange glow, and it does blow warm air. We are grateful (and we think it’s kinda cool). We pulled an end table closer and set the carrier near the vent. Then I asked Bobby what in the world was happening.
Tears welled up in his tough-man eyes, and he said, “They beat my other cat to death. I couldn’t let this one die.”
“Who beat your cat?” I asked.
“Those motherfuckers. High on dope. They’re just crazy. I held him in my arms for three days. I didn’t have money to take him to the vet, and he wouldn’t die. It took him three days. I couldn’t bring myself to put him out of his misery. I just held him. He didn’t want to go.” He shook his head and wiped the tears from his eyes.
Best I could gather, through the tears and the strings of cussing anger and pain, some people had tortured his cats. The one in the crate had been shot with a pellet gun. After Bobby and the cat had calmed down some, I told him he could take his kitty out of the box and hold her if he wanted to. He said, “Really? You’d let me do that?” “Of course,” I said.
Bobby told me he had just come from the vet, where he had left another cat to receive surgery. “Something about her woman parts,” the vet had said. “Her woman parts are all swolled up, and they gotta take ‘em out.”
I asked him, “How many cats do you have, Bobby?”
“Ten,” he blurted, and I laughed. He said, “Yep. Now I’m that crazy, old guy with a house full of cats.” He told me, “I never liked cats. I never wanted any pets. They stink. They make messes. I always criticized people who had stinky homes because of their pets. But now that’s me.”
He went on to tell me how one day, he was walking home, and he saw a mama cat in labor. She had delivered a few kittens. They were so cute that he couldn’t help stopping to take a look. But then, “The mama started eating her kittens! She was EATING them!”
“I related to that,” he went on, ‘because my mama wanted to eat me too.” He looked at me with raised eyebrows that asked if I knew what he meant. “She really was gonna eat ‘em. I couldn’t let that happen. So I picked ‘em up, and I took ‘em home. I took care of ‘em, and they grew up, and then they had more kittens. What could I do? Now I have ten cats. Well, nine now.” He ducked his head.
I suddenly put together the timeline. It was the third of May. Bobby receives a disability check. He has a bullet in his head from a gun-cleaning accident many years ago. The money is deposited into his account on the third of each month. He had waited until his money came, and then he’d taken two mauled kitties to the vet. For the third cat, the money had come too late.
I mentioned that I know veterinarians are not cheap. My own son recently spent a small fortune helping his dear, feline friend. He said, “You’re tellin’ me! I paid $450 for the surgery and for takin’ the pellets out and the antibiotic I’m supposed to give her. I’m gonna be broke for the rest of the month. But what could I do? I had to take care of my cats.” Tears welled up in his eyes again.
I reminded him that he can always come to Joe’s for food. “We’ll make sure you eat, man. Of course, you had to take care of your cats.”
An hour or so later, after “Boogie” had rested and eaten some warmed up sausage from a breakfast sandwich, Bobby wrapped the crate in his leather jacket. He started his motorcycle—quietly. No revving, no gunning the throttle—and he rode off, carrying his companion through the cold, spring rain.
Bobby's name has been changed.