I found a program that plays bird songs.
It is very relaxing. And it has a timer, so I can play it at night to lull me to sleep.
I could let it play all night long, but that would mean that the bird songs would play while I sleep.
And I’d dream about the birds.
Hundreds of birds.
Thousands of birds.
Millions of birds.
Birds all around me, singing.
Hungry for anything.
I run, but the birds are fast, and they attack me.
I wake up screaming, covered in bloody scratches.
Did I roll over the cat?
When Bruwyn disappeared, we went to all the local animal shelters to see if he’d been picked up.
But he hadn’t. He’d been run over and killed.
We didn’t know this, though. So every black cat we saw, I’d say “Bruwyn? Booboo?” to, and watch.
Even the ones who had been abandoned by their owners.
Some had green eyes. Bruwyn’s were yellow.
But still, I’d ask, hoping.
When we got the call from our neighbor, we knew he was gone.
I still look around the hedges and parking lots, though.
Not as much as before, but I still look.
Halloween is around the corner.
Trick or treaters.
I read in the paper that pet shelters won’t adopt out black cats during October because people do awful things to them.
One person wanted two cats for decorations for their party.
Decorations. For a party.
It’s so wrong.
Cats are not decorations. They have souls, like us.
And when they’re gone?
Halloween is around the corner.
I get out the plastic pumpkins. Then the witches. And the ghosts.
And a paper black cat, arched over three orange letters:
I put it away.
I miss him so much.
I have a kitten lying on my shoulder.
She is purring and happy, a tangle of fur and paws.
I can kiss her on the ears and nose.
She stretches and yawns, and then sprawls and rolls into a new position.
She’s asleep again, snug and safe against my shoulder.
I hope she does this every day, but one day she’s going to be a full-sized cat.
Will I want her on my shoulder then?
She wakes up and grooms.
Her tongue rasps against my arm hair.
Then, I sneeze.
The kitten is spooked, and she leaps away.
I own a lot of black shirts because I like black shirts, and I fool myself into thinking that I look good in black.
When we owned two black cats, I could pick them up and hug them without worrying if they would shed on me.
Now that we’ve got Tinny, she’ll shed a lot of white and gray hair on me when I try to hug her.
Then she’ll jump out of my arms to get away. And back to her Mommy’s lap.
I’m not jealous, mind you. Let her deal with the shedding.
I look good in black.
Myst and Bruwyn got along great.
They slept together.
They groomed each other.
They went outside and hunted together.
Now, it’s Tinny and Myst.
They don’t sleep together.
They don’t groom each other. Their ears are filthy.
And we only let Myst go outside to hunt.
She whines at the back door to be let out. So, we do.
Then she stares through the glass to be let in.
We open the door, but she runs off again.
She keeps doing this over and over.
It’s not right to wish that Bruwyn was alive, and not Myst.
But I do.
It’s funny how things change so quickly.
Long ago, Piper was my bedcat, although Edloe and Nardo had their turns on the bed.
When it was down to just Nardo, he was the respectful bedcat.
Then came Bruwyn the kitten. He attacked toes, tails.
Myst couldn’t decide what she wanted. Until Nardo was gone. And Bruwyn.
Tinny was a cuddly bedcat for a few weeks, but she’s gotten a bit cold. Now it’s Myst when she feels like it.
This story will publish in about two years. How will things be then?
I don’t know. I don’t want to know.
When Gina goes out of town, I babysit the cats.
Myst likes to go out to hunt and play every night, but I don’t like having to go out and look for a black cat in the dark.
If I don’t let her outside, she claws at the back window, shrieks, and whines.
It’s really annoying.
So, I let her out, and she plays for a few minutes.
And then comes back, whining to come in.
So, I open the door… and she runs off.
She does this repeatedly.
Until I grab her and keep her inside.
(She’s whining again.)
Every Christmas, Nardo would pick up his toys one by one, howling his hunter’s howl, and put them under the tree with the presents.
Without him to hunt them now, his toys sit unused at the foot of the bed, on top of the chest we keep there.
I pick up a stuffed toy robin, walk into the living room, and place it under the tree.
I look at the robin sitting there, just like years before.
I’d say “Good boy!” and pet him, and he’d go back for more.
But it’s not the same.
Because I forgot to howl.
Just beneath the surface of that purring little ball of fur in your lap is a wild and vicious beast.
It doesn’t take much to coax the predator out from its hiding place.
A late meal.
An unclean litterbox.
A stepped-on tail.
Their ears fold back, and their eyes go wide.
Do they puff up their fur?
Do they arch their back?
Hissing. Howling. The claws come out.
This is why my phone has an alarm for dinnertime.
And I always clean the litterbox every morning.
The purring little ball of fur in your lap keeps purring happily.