Catscratch

A love story.

Catscratch

 

 

By

Ché Marshall

 

 

The fast black Cadillac begins rolling back, out of the drive, iridescent waves of heat rolling off of the fresh paint and smearing the little ranch house into refractive oblivion. This Fast Black Cadillac was not one of those old boats, but the slick new product of modern engineering that seems to say, “Brand new man, same gold ring.” Same sheen, new blue jeans, and the same dwindling sense of libidinal self.

Mr. Moccasins, who did not where shoes, and who belonged to Janie from across the street, lay complacently nearby, cradled where the earth was cool in the roots of an old tree.

He still wore the intrepid hauteur of a kitten, and he didn’t much mind that Big Black Cadillac. That black thing was like a kindred spirit to him, the ego incarnate of the little cat.

Mr. Moccasins himself was black from tip to top, like he’d been dipped in it, and he wore the stuff with style; he soaked up every drop of the yellow sun with it, and it warmed his white bones. Mr. Moccasins did not wear shoes, and Mr. Moccasins did not give a damn about that big car rolling out on the crystal pavement into the Arizona red and dust. Besides, that thing’s teeth didn’t bite. Not like that dog down the street. Big Brown Mother, with an ugly temper, and teeth that did bite, had bitten. He didn’t like dogs, but they didn’t scare him either, because he was untouchable, and being untouchable had led him to the inevitable conclusion that the world around him was his, and that was how he treated it.

He rose out of the grass and stretched, yawning pink and brown, dry mouth and wet eyes following the little flutter just by. The tiny white butterfly was little more than a wayward flower petal with wind attached, alighting on the bushy heads of the flowers that poked out of the lawn here and there.

Standing still, he rolled his fur; starting at his ears and moving along his body to the base of his tail, letting the dry Arizona air touch the tender flesh beneath, just a bit, just enough to set the nerves to firing. And that little white butterfly rose and dropped and rose and dropped and flitted away endlessly.

He looked over his shoulder, not worried that the butterfly might escape, and examined the liquid blue panes of screen doors and windows across the wide black tarmac, white curtains tinged with old nicotine standing motionless sentry behind them.

On the periphery, turning back to the butterfly, he wondered where Janie was. Probably looking for him right now, behind the austere folds of the curtains, a bonnet dangling lazily from one chubby little fist, bound up tightly in her anxious fingers. Mr. Moccasins didn’t mind the games, but when she grew tired, Janie changed into something far more dangerous than a little girl. She became a piece of heavy equipment quickly losing power, growing clumsy, rocking with each step and yawning like a siren that her naptime, full system failure, was close at hand.

Once he had made the mistake of letting her fall asleep with him still in her arms, and then she had begun to turn over. He had felt the fat forearm under his throat, and her lifeless body rolling, rolling, pressing slowly against him, splaying his ribs and crushing his larynx, weighing down his hindquarters, crippling, one at a time, every tool he had to defend himself with. At last he managed to get his paws against her and, desperately, put all twenty claws into the tender pale flesh of her little tummy. She released him with a throttling squall, but not before she’d taken a bit of the kitten out of him.

He had learned, though, and from then on, as soon as she began to yawn he would slink away into the hallway. With God’s love, Gran-mama wouldn’t be in the bathroom, and he’d slip out through the variegated glass window over the toilet, into the carpark and…

Freedom.

The Fast Black Cadillac rolls on back, crushing the infinitesimal particles of stone and that all pervading Arizona desert dust with a soft hush beneath the malleable rubber treads.

Mr. Moccasins begins to stalk over the crisp green lawn, through the shadow of the tree, surrounded by the white buds of flowers, all turning their spectral heads to watch him as he passes.

He freezes, his tail down, then leaps with all the agility of the jungle cat.

Oh, he’s got the blood. He’s got the primal sanguinaire coursing through his veins, and he’s got that hot yellow sun, incandescent on his back, and those flowers at his feet, and he is the wind, and he is the dust.

The grass gives way to hot pavement, the desiccated remains of a few unlucky elapids marking where nature ends and the reign of man begins. And in an instant he’s on the butterfly with both forepaws, holding it to the pavement. It’s too delicate to struggle, and he presses his teeth into the ugly sections of insect, flicking his tongue against the flittering white wings, the soft dander sticking in his dry mouth.

The wind picks up a little at his back, warm, and firm, brushing over the grass, and brushing over his fur, and on the wind he hears the Big Brown Mother barking three refrains: Ahruh-ruh-ruh!

He throws up his haunches, forgetting his meal, and looks back along the trellis of bone-white sidewalks framing the long green row of lawns.

He never sees the shadow of that Fast Black Cadillac rolling in his direction. He’s frozen in a world of motion, white wings clamped between his jaws, and the car just keeps on rolling, more inevitable than fate, with all the gravity of destiny itself as written down in the good book Eternity. He tries to scutter out, but it’s too late, and he drags his claws along the concrete, unwinding a final long coil of scream before even that is taken away from him.

And the Fast Black Cadillac just keeps on a-rolling, right on into oblivion.

Somewhere out in the caldera the wind keeps blowing over the vast dry ground, kicking up devils and licking at the salt flats, the voices of the spirits calling out over that limitless horizon.

 

The pink fist unfurls itself from under the chubby flesh of the girl’s chin, sticky with the happy drool of untroubled sleep, and stretches itself out across the mat, searching for that old familiar friend. For a moment Janie’s half-waking is frightened, and her lip quivers on the verge of tears. Then she realizes she fallen asleep, and disappointment replaces fear. She sits up and with flushed cheeks she surveys the room. He’s not there, but she knows that he is not far, and, rubbing the sleep out of her eyes, she stands on awkward heels and begins searching the room. Her hair clings to her hot face in long brown clumps, and she pushes it away with clumsy palms. She stretches, yawns, then bends down to picked up the little white bonnet with the lace brim, pink flowers dangling from the ends of the ties, then sets of for the hallway calling his name.

Mr. Moccasins is not in the room, and he’s not in the hall, he did not wear shoes, and he never saw that Fast Black Cadillac. His voice has joined the chorus of spirits, out in the caldera, kicking up devils and licking at the salt flats. Out, into that limitless horizon.

The End

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