Forgetting the Cat
I forget about the two short vertical welts just above my bellybutton until I take a shower, where they smart as soon as the water hits them. The cat has been climbing me again.
At any opportunity he crawls onto my lap and launches himself at my shoulder, back claws digging into my gut unless I support his feet while he makes his ascent. He works his back legs, shifting his weight ever higher until his head is level with mine, paws draped over my shoulder. When I pry him off he promptly tries again.
He is dying, albeit slowly. Chronic kidney disease and other complications are claiming him. His spine is a bony ridge and his fur has been thinning for months. On our bed at night he stakes a claim as close to our heads as we’ll let him. I don’t know if he’s anxious or just cold.
For some time after my brother-in-law died in a car accident close to three decades ago, whenever the plaintive first notes of the song Eric Clapton wrote to lament the death of his young son came on the radio my eyes would well up, my chest constricting on itself. I felt a secret pride at this reaction, as if my ability to continue conjuring strong emotion validated my humanity.
That was two cats and my mother ago.
After the second cat died it was soon hard to remember what it had felt like when he was alive and curled up next to me on the couch. And I stopped tearing up at “Tears in Heaven” a long time ago. Even my mother, seven years gone, is fading.
Every three days my husband gathers the cat in his arms and brings him into the bathroom where I am waiting. The cat gives one piteous yowl before I lift the fur between his shoulder blades and gently insert a needle under the skin for a drip of saline solution. Every morning and evening I brace him between my knees and reach down to squeeze his mouth open before pilling him with multiple medications. Several times a day I coax him with expensive prescription food.
I am prolonging the inevitable, but I do not want to be reminded how I will forget.
Louise Julig is a writer from Encinitas, California whose creative work has appeared in Crack the Spine, neutrons/protons, and A Year In Ink. She has also performed at the VAMP showcase of So Say We All, where she told stories about staring at people with food in their teeth, an epiphany at a camp dance when she was fourteen, and her first field trip to an adult store. Connect with her online at @LouiseJulig.
The afternoon of cap guns brought about
the rocking chair, my first taste
of moody contemplation.
Wounded, I proudly gazed
at the jejune bedlam.
I took a sip of my cup
and strove to accept comfort.
But the puffs and gunshots called,
the wild exertion chastised.
Wasting away an epoch—for time
imposed itself that way—was too much.
I rose and limped to the playground,
not a little boastful of my bandage.
I found a crack in the stout oak’s trunk.
It wandered from the highest branch
down to the lowest root.
An inchoate hint of weakness
tolerated by a matriarch
that stood impassively day in and day out
while I wept for big and small matters.
It was as if there were nothing left to lean on—
an invitation to stand on my own frail legs.
Israel A. Bonilla lives in Guadalajara, Jalisco. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Able Muse, BULL, Hawk & Whippoorwill, Expanded Field, Ágora, and Letralia.
THE HEIGHT OF HER POWERS
Mom, yeah, remember her? Less and less, I know. I ever tell you, years back, two weeks before she offed herself—or, excuse me, “before her untimely passing”—I asked what she thought her best self was, you know, at the height of her powers. She looked up from her crossword, as if the answer was flashing in front of her eyes, and said, “I was twenty-seven.” I don’t remember much more, except that it was the one and only honest conversation we ever had. I bet she said twenty-seven because of that hunky roofer, the guy on Dad’s softball team. You were two, a saggy diaper always crying to be picked up, but I was getting old enough to notice things. I remember sitting on the porch steps one summer evening, eyes moving between my Superman comic and this unbuttoned Adonis who yapped Yankees and Sox with Dad. A cocktail—something blue—rested on Mom’s knee, and her bare foot kept slow pitching out toward the guy again and again, only to fall back lonely through the air. All that distance, that air. Can’t wrap my brain around it. Does no good to hate her for it. I guess.
Michael Cocchiarale is the author of the novel None of the Above (Unsolicited, 2019) and two short story collections—Here Is Ware (Fomite, 2018) and Still Time (Fomite, 2012). His creative work appears online as well, in journals such as Fictive Dream, Pithead Chapel, Atticus Review, and Ovunque Siamo.
Feels Like Rain
Air pressing on skin, skin pressing on
skin, pressing on earth, rising up, subsiding
if only I could say what I feel, find a way
to say it so perfectly it would have to become
what I am feeling, and you would feel it too,
or slip, slam into the contentment of feeling
without needing to share no words
out of the blue, and it feels like rain, smells like it too
asks us to do something we are being trained not to,
gives me something I can do to stave off death,
or try to, pressing back
sliding, mud feels so good
betweenmytoes, betweenyourtoes too
do you know what I feel—what I mean?
Susan Hughes is the Canadian author of many children’s books. She is also a freelance editor and a story coach. Her poems have appeared in Hart House Review (winter, 2015) and Write (spring, 2016). She lives in Toronto with her family in a house with a red door. Her website is www.susanhughes.ca. You can find her on Twitter at @childbkauthor and Instagram at @susanhughes2518.