Jess

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I opened the cat box door and she flowed out like tar.

Head down, huge round eyes sweeping left and right,

Left and right, invisible searchlights looking for a place to hide,

Frightened by every alien sight and sound around her.

 

And then she hid.

 

We first found her folded up behind the freezer.

Crumpled.

Contorted.

The dusty power cord a noose looped around her neck.

Flushed out from there she fled behind a chest of drawers,

Flattened onto the floor, so small,

Cowering in a gap no wider than a paperback.

Looking down I saw terrified beady eyes staring back at me,

Dry with fear, pleading “Leave me alone! Leave me alone!

LEAVE ME ALONE!”

 

The windowsill was her next sanctuary.

At least we could see all of her now –

A quivering black and white thing,

Pressed so hard against the glass I feared it would crack

And she would fall through to land

On the yard’s hard stones far below.

But she barely moved at all – a skinny statue

Hidden behind a protective wall

Of ornaments and vases, refusing to come down,

Refusing even to make a sound –

 

Until she saw me.

 

Then, a teeth-bared DON’T COME NEAR ME! hiss

That rose to a demonic screech.

Eyes on fire, claw raised ready to strike, ready to slash my eyes

To ribbons if they came within her reach,

She looked at me with such fear and hate

Painted on her haunted, gaunt face I had to look away,

The pain was just too much.

But…

“I’m not giving up on you, you little witch…” I told her

As she hissed and flashed her claws like Wolverine

Every time I glanced in her direction.

 

Time passed…

 

Then she was in The Cage.

Not as a prison; not as punishment,

Just a way of “getting her used to you”.

More room; access to water, and food;

Even a toy or two to play with.

A heaven for any cat, surely?

But she just lay there brooding beneath her blanket,

Angry and alone in her own private Alcatraz,

Eyes glaring at us through the fabric’s folds.

Less terrified now but not trusting, still scared,

And always daring me to come just a little closer

So she could score her claws across my face…

 

Fast forward to today.

 

She’s curled up on my lap now, a tiny thing,

Deep in sleep. The TV’s on without the sound

So I can hear her breathe, more important to me

That anything anyone could say on that huge flat screen.

She’s facing me, head resting on the pillow of her paws,

Snoring softly, whiskers and nose twitching,

Eyelids fluttering, not a care in the world.

She’s been on here for hours and will remain for hours more

As if glued in place; if she moves it will only be

To stretch out to her full draught excluder length,

Roll gracefully onto her back and fill the gap

Between my cramped legs like treacle poured from a tin;

Chin in the air, paws pointing everywhere,

A black and white rag doll with a lolling head,

Dreaming on her favourite bed.

 

Before this nap we played.

She has a pet shop’s worth of toys

Now – of course, it’s The Law – but no fluffy ball

Or catnip-soaked, feathery fish can compete

With The Stick, with its old bootlace wrapped

Around its end, tied to a tattered toilet roll,

That she chases for hours, chirruping with delight

As she fights it. It’s The Best Game Ever –

Until the laser pointer appears

Then she flattens herself against the floor

Like a Labrador preparing to chase a ball

And waits…and waits… eyes flashing

With the thrill of the hunt to come –

 

And then she’s off! Paws patting and slapping furiously

At the red spot as it dances around her.

She pursues the pesky scarlet dot everywhere.

Floor! Chair! Floor! Chair! A bouncing, tumbling,

Fumbling lunatic, streaking across the floor in hot pursuit –

 

And then she just… stops.

Playtime’s over. Tired now.

Sinking her claws into my knee like ten tiny ice axes

She drags herself up onto my lap

And, after turning around ten times, deflates,

Pouring over my legs again, a black and white stain

That will take hours to remove.

And that’s it. The day is now officially on pause

Until her paws move again.

 

Play, sleep, eat, repeat. Play, sleep, eat.

A perfect life. And now she slyly

Opens up one jade green eye

And looks at me. No hissing now; no flashing claws;

Just quiet adoration before falling asleep again.

Safe.

Loved.

Home.

 

© Stuart Atkinson 2019

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