feral, 2a: not domesticated or cultivated
He chose our house to die at, a dubious honour. I’d seen him once, months before--
a black & white cat limping across the street to disappear.
“District health officials said in a news release
that feral cats born in the wild shouldn’t be treated
like domestic animals and that no attempt should be made
to capture or feed them.” ~AJC, 21 Dec. 2016
But how can I not? when he curls up next to my concrete stoop, a fragile comma of decay. I offer wet food, cautious, on a paper plate. Rheumy golden eyes watch. He moves forward but at such cost—the front leg is broken, misshapen, it has been like that for months.
I make calls, animal control refuses to come—he is famous for eluding everyone. What is the worth of one maimed cat, once beautiful?
Starvation wins. I shove food in my cat carrier, watch from the porch, push in his backside, wincing. On the way, he makes no sound.
The shelter people are kind. I offer to pay—perhaps the leg can be amputated?--
but they say they have funds. We all know the deal here.
synonyms: wild, savage, unbroken.
Yet he came to my house. Hoboes once left signs—food, shelter, welcome here.
In the end, the death of one broken/unbroken cat changes nothing. TSA will pat me down every time, spaghetti will continue to be served on Mondays. I will clean up my own cat’s vomit on random days.
But those slitted golden eyes—defiant, fierce—for that one moment, we both understood what a good death is.
My Eldest Daughter and I Visit the Korean Veterans’ Memorial and the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial, Washington DC
Stainless steel pale grey men in the equally grey light, drizzle, their raincoats shimmer as they move out towards something I cannot name. They are stepping forward, away from the wall down the mall, down the incline, where my fingers trace incised letters:
HILLARD EVANS WILLIAMS
The wall website provides the facts:
PSGT - E7 - Army - Regular
Length of service 20 years
His tour began on Apr 10, 1967
Casualty was on Nov 28, 1967
In QUANG TIN, SOUTH VIETNAM
HOSTILE, GROUND CASUALTY
Body was recovered
Panel 31E - Line 2
That is the Army. Everything can be reduced to facts, words, numbers. I was 8, then. He was 42. I am older than the sum of both of us now.
I can almost hear their voices. The red rose someone has thrown at the feet of the point man. Perhaps he didn’t come back. My father did come back. Different. At night he would scream the Chinese are coming! Get down, goddammit! He was silent in the daytime.
It all comes back, memory returning like morning glory seeds nicked open to speed germination. What comes up is often a surprise. My father’s best friend. My father telling me of loading him on the chopper. His pretty German wife taking a knife to the funeral home, unscrewing the casket lid because she refused to believe he was gone. A mortar to the chest leaves a mess not even an embalmer can hide.
Tears and snot gush out of me. My daughter does not understand though she is kind. My father said the medics were kind. No one survives without a heart.
Then. Now. Time folds in on itself like the wings of the wall. They’re just stone, after all. Letters on marble, gleaming figures marching through the mist towards something I cannot name.
Monique Kluczykowski is a first-generation immigrant who was born and raised in Germany. She has lived in Texas, Kentucky, and California, has worked as a band roadie, waitress, warehouse picker, and taught English for many years at Gainesville College in Georgia. She now makes her home in Iowa City. Her work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and her most recent poems appear in Belletrist, Sierra Nevada Review, StepAway Magazine, and RabbleLit. Her most recent creative nonfiction is forthcoming in Blue Earth Review (2018 Flash CNF contest winner) and has been published in The Examined Life Journal.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.