Cat in the House

My friend had a deer living in his left shoulder and butterflies between his shoulder blades. He lived in the bush, in a place called “the middle of nowhere”. Toronto is my home. I guess that’s why a cat moved into my throat.

While counting change at Courage My Love in the market, Stuart yelled – like I wasn’t in front of his face – “anybody want a kitten that’s been begging at the back door?” I asked what it looked like. Long ago, I was adopted by a tribe of spotted animals, but the promiscuous Skipper took off on the heels of my former lover. It’s a known fact that when relationships sour, cats appear. So when I got the spotted kitten home I left the porch door open for one month. I presumed he would leave and I wanted him to get on with it.

After fifteen years of me, Snitty is old and spoiled but his looks haven’t changed much. He’s scrawny, with a skulking lope and green gaze of street superiority and suspiciousness. He gives affection with his head and teeth, sharp little love bites. He demands service by snaking underfoot, obstructing and near-toppling people. My friend hated that dangerous habit; he hooked Snitty’s stomach with his boot and sent him flying out the back door. Snit gave a low-headed stare from where he landed. It was the look of the spotted feral cat-packs of Managua that do not live with humans, but track and cross the heat-bleached streets like water bouncing off a hot iron.

My friend said, cats speak more languages than you or I will ever know. They understand every word we say. When someone badmouths you or casts a hex, cats will hear about it. For a month or so, I’ve had a problem with my throat that no doctor can explain. It’s like a lump in the little hollow where my neck meets my collar bone. And Snitty’s barfing has escalated. Morning and night, I step on damp gray furball sausages in slime spiked green with bits of tropical plant he eats to make himself vomit. Once I caught him, shoulders sunken, heaving. I picked him up and raced to the back door while he puked in my arms like a fountain.

Is he sick? Is it psychosomatic? A control thing? After my daughter was born, Snit took to the basement and sulked in a laundry basket for weeks, shedding fur all over my clothes. I hope we can work it out, because lately I’ve had another idea. Maybe we are living in each other’s throats. I guess we’ve been living this way for a long time, but Snitty is getting old and so big, we could be outgrowing each other. As my friend said, some cats live in the house. Others move right into your body. (For R.G.)

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