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.
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