Jen Michalski

They are all named cat, or variations thereof: ate, at, taco, but mostly cat. They lie, jigsaw pieces, on the floors of Alex's studio. They preen on the fire escape, loop in the alley under her window, calling up like little suitors. She places saucers in corners, and their bodies crowd her ankles like socks. If she could hold them four at a time, crush them into her chest, she would, feed the empty chirp between her lungs, the wet click at the back of her throat.

Caroline always comes late. Alex pretends to sleep while she throws off her clothes. Caroline always jokes that her things come with her in a suitcase and leave out the window. Alex feels Caroline's breath in her ear, the scent of vodka and Certs, as her fingers fondle her, fuck her. Outside the cats cry, soft crackle records and scratch needles. If Alex opens her mouth, she will say things, things she does not want Caroline to take and discard with leftovers and trash, where they will glisten and bleed like ketchup on burger wrappers.

In the morning Alex will be gone. She already is disappearing so quickly, under Caroline, inside her body, inside the space between sounds, the after-ness of breaths.

When the blinds cut the light into fingers across the sheet, when the cats open their marbles and stretch their pelts, when Alex reaches for Caroline, she will be gone, back to her husband, children. A scene of carnage has been folded under sheets, fluffed into pillows, cloaked in perfume, and the only thing left, Alex's bones, white tombs stripped of meat, skin, is the collateral of someone's need.

Jen Michalski is the author of Close Encounters, a collection of stories. Her second collection is forthcoming from Dzanc, and she also has a novella, May-September, coming out from Press 53 next year.

To link to this story directly: http://wigleaf.com/201012wildlife.htm

Detail of photo on main page courtesy of Neil Krug.

w i g · l e a F               12-26-10                                [home]