Cats by Shoshana Edwards

“They really don’t like you,” said Sue Lynn.

“Nope. I could bathe myself with catnip soap, put tuna-flavored body lotion on the dry parts, and they’d still run as soon as I let them go.” 

I gave a final, tentative pat to the wriggling kitten and let it jump to the ground. It immediately streaked under the couch on the far side of the room.

“And yet you fill your house with cats.”

“Yep. Feeding time is always interesting. I get the food ready, put it down, he walks in, and they are twining around his legs like he was a walking T-bone. I think they would starve themselves if it was just me.”

We sat back, watching the cats eat. The kitten I had been holding came out of hiding long enough to eat her fill, then looked at me and shot back under the couch. The older cats perched on the tree, or curled up next to Sue Lynn, while some stretched out on the wide window ledge to catch the midday sun. Despite all my attempts to attract them, including offering tasty treats, they studiously ignored me.

“What about dogs?” asked Sue Lynn.

“Big ones love me. Little ones might as well be cats.”

“So why do you keep getting them? The cats I mean.”

“Maybe I keep hoping they’ll forgive me.”

Sue Lynn stared. 

“Forgive you? What on earth for?”

I sat for a while, staring out the window, remembering a cold, spring day, long ago.

I was 13, maybe 14. It was a short while before you and I met. Everyone was gone for the day: my family, my aunt and uncle next door, even the neighbors across the street. I was outside, sitting on the breezeway, when a kitten came crawling up the walk. It was horribly sick, pus coming from its eyes, emaciated. I tried to get it to drink some water, but it couldn’t even do that. It could barely squeak. I didn’t know what to do, so I went into the upper basement and got Dad’s 22 rifle, the one we hunted pheasant with. And I shot the kitten. I thought it would just die, and I now know it did. But I forgot what happens; I forgot all the chickens I had killed for dinner. You take their heads off, and they run around, flapping their wings until they fall down. That kitten just kept jumping, and I just kept shooting it. I emptied all six bullets into it until it stopped jumping. I was screaming the whole time, and then I cleaned up the brass, and buried it with the kitten. I cried while I covered it, begging it to forgive me. And I still see that kitten, jumping and jumping.

“And you want them to forgive you?” asked Sue Lynn.

I stared out the window some more, and then turned to face her.

“No. Now that I’ve told someone, I think I want to forgive myself. And I can’t. And they know it.”

Copyright 2023 Shoshana Edwards