They don’t look it, but
sharp in a tiny way they
feel like kitten claws.
If she seemed like a talkative cat, it would be easy to call her talkative and leave it at that. The offered hands are accepted, but they make no difference to her urgency. She is mostly black, has a wide nose, and is very handsome for a girl. When people aren’t around she does things that any other cat would do. She will drop and roll back and forth on her back a time or two in the driveway. At different times of the day, over the course of several days, or even weeks, she will sit like a sphinx and give her full attention to a blank space on a wall. She can often be seen stalking, with her ears back, from one side of the street to the other.
But when she gets around people, it seems that she has something urgent to tell. You will see the cat a block away, arresting a couple out walking with a baby in a stroller. As the cat meows at her, the old lady next door will smoke a cigarette, and protest. “I don’t know! I don’t know! I don’t know!” It is as if the lady is too polite to ignore the cat, but too overwhelmed to ask it any questions. Not that asking questions would be necessary to get this cat going.
She meows again and again. She will stop briefly if you pet her, but her manner will make it clear that she is only indulging you. There is something important you need to know. She meows and meows, as if insisting.
Could it be that, unaware of a leak that has filled his house with gas, Mr. Johnson has just sat down with the morning paper and is about to light his pipe? Could it be that Billy has been trapped by an avalanche and there is a large bear wandering nearby? Could it be that a flood has washed away part of Walker’s bridge and the family golden retriever, Nellie, is stranded on the other side with her puppies?
There is no telling.
A lost stuffed animal: The smaller of the two faces still flushed with tears, they are pressed and belted into their cramped seats on the airplane. Suddenly they sit still like does. The woman relates their predicament to the flight attendant, who has just arrived.
Eating honey: As it bends the light reflected off the surface underneath, a slick golden tentacle of new honey curls off the larger bulk that has wrapped itself around a spoon.
A lost sock: Like a hieroglyphic, a tiny child’s sock soaked with rain sits atop a gate post, which serves as an impromptu lost and found. It will be frozen tomorrow morning, and then later will thaw in the sun of the afternoon. Its sole is dotted with white rubber traction spots which, when the sock is worn, would grip the world like squid suction cups.
Altitude: Listen to the racket of a hundred birds, the countless shapes and layers of fallen leaves. A balletic cry in the wilderness. The sharp beaks, wings working to gain precious altitude.
Down from power lines a broad shadow tumbles to the ground. A thousand feathers rustle as the wings of the flock are tucked. On the sidewalk, in the green grass, a hundred spotted throats peck. In the rout moths flash the red undersides of their wings from inside ivory beaks. Curling worms and millipedes clutch the air, moist soil crumbing off their shiny segments. From their places the sudden flock, a wave breaking, swarms up like fallen leaves exploding back onto a tree.
The dog’s eyes are unfocused. Standing outside the cafe, she looks up hopefully each time the door opens. She is chocolate colored so I take to thinking of her as “Chocolate.” Her leash is tied to a cable that secures a newspaper box to a traffic sign post. Just out of her reach, a fire hydrant sits ignored. She paces back and forth a bit nervously, sitting once or twice for a moment but then standing back up and walking around. She walks and stands with her legs a little splayed out like a puppy, as if she is unsteady and has to work against tipping over by mistake.
Although she is scruffy the way older dogs get sometimes, she is still very beautiful. She has sad eyes. Chocolate is also so very obviously mellow that almost everyone who passes by stops to pet her. She accepts the petting with a minimum of interest and no wagging of any kind. She angles her head up under each petting hand to get a sniff in, impulsively. Chocolate is distracted. Around her neck is an old fragment of a knit scarf, tied in a knot. Probably it was knit by her owner. It is the kind of thing a cat would never put up with. The scarf is discolored with age and clumpy like a dreadlock and I wonder if it bothers her. No doubt she would enjoy a good scratching under it. A passing man with a toy-like pug runs into someone he knows and pauses right by the newspaper box for a conversation. As the people begin to chat, the pug and Chocolate greet each other nose to nose for some preliminary sniffing. She is still distracted and maybe not interested and begins smelling the man’s shoe instead. Meanwhile, the pug circles around back to sniff Chocolate’s other end. Then, completely unaware of their spontaneous coordination, the trio solemnly execute a slapstick gag. The man backs up, forcing Chocolate back, and as a result, the pug. They all move ponderously in reverse like linked train cars backing slowly around a curve. Once or twice the pug seems to get more of a snoutful than he wants. And then it is over. The man is still involved in his conversation. Chocolate is still distracted. The pug sniffs intently but eventually loses interest himself. A minute later, his conversation over, the man seems to notice Chocolate for the first time. He pets her goodbye and pulls the pug along after him. For Chocolate, the minutes continue to drag.