Cat and Mouse

Some stories sit in the corner, watching. They’re told in hushed voices—if they ever reach the tips of tongues at all. They’re not like the others; they have no point. They ruminate in their own existence.

 

Eh, I was about 8 when we got the cat. I remember holding it for the first time, nestled into my arms, and I put it back down. My mother said that if it came back the next day, I could keep it—and the next day, there she was again. So, that’s how I got the cat.

That thing loved me. She’d fall asleep watching me. She’d drool on me. I had to carry her everywhere. Then she started bringing me mice.

The first time, I didn’t know what to do. I was just a kid—and I guess a little weird. So I put the dead mouse in a Rubbermaid bin under my bed and went to school the next day thinking about it the whole time.

When I got home from school, both of my parents were still working. So I grabbed the mouse from the bin, took a knife from the kitchen, and headed into the bathroom.

Mouse skin comes off pretty easily. The ripping sound it made, fibers from muscles, made me sick. And I was surprised by how much blood a little thing like that could hold up in itself. I still remember the cat watching me, perched on the toilet, its’ tail going crazy.

I’d never cooked before. After school I’d have a fruit roll up or something to hold me over until dinner. It took a minute to work the burner, I knew where the pans were, and I set it all up with the dead mouse. The cat followed me from toilet to countertop. It smelled terrible.

When it was all said and done, I sat down with the cat and ate the mouse. She took the bits I gave to her and eagerly swallowed them. After, I’d wash the dishes, spray deodorizer, and toss whatever remained in a dumpster behind our apartment building.

There were more mice.

I’d place each in the Rubbermaid bin and wait until those moments after school before my parents came home. While “cleaning” one—that’s how I referred to skinning them in my head—I got a good amount of blood on my hands. Without thinking, I reached for the cat’s head and gave her a pet. Blood matted and spiked her hair up. She didn’t seem to mind. We sat down, ate, and I threw out the scraps.

I used some de-lice shampoo my parents bought after we brought her inside, to wash off the blood after dinner.

More mice.

Rubbermaid bin. Clean ’em. When the blood poured, the cat pawed at its’ head. So I’d give her a rub and get back to work. Eat. Throw out. Wash. Repeat.

I took my lunch money and bought the same brand of de-lice shampoo so as not to raise suspicion. It became too much to handle; this second shift I’d picked up. It’s all I thought about. All I dreamt about. The bin started to smell no matter what I sprayed, and the taste of mouse was growing stale. So it was too for the cat, I found.

One night, it dropped the bloody corpse of a thing at the foot of my bed. A good portion had been ripped from its belly, leaving a crimson colored hole, matted mouse fur and bones. It wasn’t worth cooking, and I didn’t want to anymore, anyway. The cat looked at me for a second, sat near the front door, pawed and meowed. I opened, and it ran outside—into the night—and I never saw it again.

I was sad for a bit, and my parents tried to tell me it would come back. I knew it wouldn’t. The cat didn’t know how to survive before me—I think I taught it how to.

My parents never found out about our little ritual, but they often wondered how the de-lice shampoo was always full.

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Kiddo

For just a second, a strong gust pushes me off balance. I slip, my foot careens over the cliff’s edge. A warm tingle overtakes my senses. Far off, another me lays at the bottom of the cliff—a watch his matted hair stretch along jagged rock, seep into the sea. I’m not sure which “me” I’d prefer to be; I never bothered learning too much about myself.

When they sleep, sometimes I sneak outside and wander around in the darkness. Warm tingles.

During the day, I sleep—mostly. Sometimes I watch waves tumble over rocks from my bedroom window. Everything’s always moving.

Wanna know a secret? If I had a super power—I’d freeze the whole world. The waves, the wind, everybody and me.

I know how to smile…but I wouldn’t want to be frozen like that. They say your face’ll get stuck that way. I wouldn’t want to be angry, either. I just want to look like me, I guess. I don’t have to be making a face, do I?

The other kids don’t come around. But I don’t really like them, either. For fun, I like to play a game where I used my super power on them.

Hah! They’ll never leave their houses again unless I say so! Have fun watching waves from your windows!

I spread my arms and balance along the cliff’s edge, daring another gust to push me into the other me. It doesn’t, or my super power won’t let it. The wind dies down almost completely—what if I really do have super powers?

I’m bored.

In an instant, I’m back inside and staring at the waves from my window. The wind picks up again.

Maybe everything freezes when I go outside, and starts again when I come back inside. Maybe it’s me.

Next to my bedroom window, I watch everything move along as it should. The other me comes loose from the rock and slips softly into the sea.

andante con moto

Mine meet the painting man’s eyes, “you read too much.” He says. He used to be a jazz musician. I crook a smile, embellish a nod, and refill my right ear with Mendelssohn. He stares agape for a moment–saturnine eyes droop, catch themselves, then fix upright again. He takes a thin brush from robin’s egg-colored water and continues his piece.

Violins drift in quiescence, flute-float and reach a surfeit of colorful bassoons and trumpets before they tumble back to simple notes. The blue-haired girl behind the jazz player has buttons in the back of her shirt. She reads andante con moto and flicks her wrist as she goes. She turns a page and the jazz player looks askance, first at her, then me, then back to his work.

I want to feel something, but the words of this story are so far flat. From the window, a boy wanders in circles as he takes pulls from a cigarette, and I let go a sigh. I shouldn’t be reading this much.

I should be writing.

I should be writing.
I should be writing.

A strong wind knocks the smoking boy and his smoke-line off-balance, the first of the season. The Mendelssohn piece ends. I should read to something else; something lighter. I should write. I watch the jazz player use a toothpick to dot black on his canvas. The blue-haired girl’s wrist twirls and dances to the words of her paperback. I pack my bag and leave.