When I was young and drunk in a row boat I heard a cat fight its drowning inside a sack. Using the boats oar, I scooped the sack and its howling out from the lake and onto the boat, snipped the wire that held closed the mouth of the sack and got scratched and bit in a furious fur’d blur as that cat pin-balled about that slim wooden boat, peeling noise like a baby on fire.
This row boat was not big, this cat mitten sized, slunk itself furtherest from me, anchored its nails, bucket eyed, bewildered, back from the dead and ready to fight. Rowing is hard; rowing drunk does not make rowing easier. Two blistering hands later, I tied up the boat, fetched a bucket and blanket and captured that cat, screeching scratching and wailing into the house, upended the bucket and stepped aside but not far enough.
That cat, catapulted out of that bucket, tore a strip off my forearm, skidded over the lino floor and squirrelled itself behind the buzzing fridge that leaked.
I have the scar since; see it every day all day. The skin torn away that day grew back a different colour, a pale ribbon tattooed on me for all to see, that day to this. I ought have paid it attention instead I ignored it, paid it no mind, I ought have meditated on it often, instead I looked and never saw there was a message for me there in that albino strip of skin.
Scraps of meat and milk I put on a plate where the fridge met the floor and took myself to the kitchen sink to weep from the skin puckering tight pain of washing with detol my forearm, a tattered ribbon eeking blood I sucked my teeth and having placed chilly scissors at the weeping base where the flapping skin met my arm, I, on the count of three both looked away and clicked closed that scissors calling out for Patti Smith to set me free.
Smelling like a chemist I slunk my self under a blanket on a couch, away from daylight and aimed toward sleep, successfully.
When I woke in twilight, all beer thumping, dull oxen and groans the food by the fridge had shrunk some, milk too.
There it is I had a fridge with one egg and many beers in it that leaked and had now a cat in the underneath of it.
Days of beer, insect bites and sunsets that took too long. Weeks by the lake fluttered one inside another.
Evenings I’d lay by that grumbling fridge and meow to the cat or tsk tsk call or plain talk to it
“You’re missing a big sunset under there. ” “Anyone you want me to call”?
“Anyone might be worried about you “? Or I’d hum.
After dark I might dance but would soon stop myself thinking my moves on the dance floor scared humans what might they do to a Lazarus cat?
I romanced that cat, showed her both my hands, till she believed I hid no sack, till she allowed herself less fear of me, tolerated a touch, then stroke and first and finally an embrace.
She knew someone had tried to murder her but came to know it wasn’t me and I had nothing to do with it. Once she believed that was so she flowed behind me and about my feet’s, pebbles in a stream.
When I left that house I had a cat. She’d let no one else touch her and preferred to live outdoors in a box with cushions and paper and toy bear. She was combative with people and animals and never grew more height or weight than a florists hands. No surprise she’d no affection for water of any sort.
And so she lived until she ate poison and died slow and ghastly.
I wasn’t there; her body got folded among the house’s weekly rubbish and left at the curb on bin day.
From row boat to garbage was two years, not more.
I called the cat Moses, as you would.
She, Moses never was not fearful, expectant of the sack to rendition her, hoover her into darkness, unseen but likely known hands moisturised with treachery, pretending caress, to trick her, encircle her, blind her eyes then eject her with that smokers butt gutter flick, rocket her screeching into the black and wet cold that seeps through a sack’s harsh fabric and on into her convulsing ears, past her battling eyes lids and on into her thrashing heart to sink her tic by tock.
Sitting on the lip of a bed smoking a cigarette, not having thought of Moses four times in decades I remember her.
The bedroom window was open three fingers wide and I blew the smoke out that gap and into the noon bright day. The day was noon, inside, not.
My left eye was swollen shut and black and red and would soon enough be purple. Lips, both my top and bottom lip were slashed and open and stung from the witch hazel I had dressed them with.
I was washed and dressed and had packed a small bag and left it, for a rapid exit, by the door before stepping back into the bedroom expecting a conversation, an apology, a comfort, a sorry and got none of that, what I got was her asleep. Cursing and muttering minutes before in the shower I was prepared for a show down and expected a scene and got instead her titanic sunk in sleep and her most, believe me in this one thing, impossible to improve on, pointed at the ceiling taut, cream new baked, would you look at what I got, breasts, her head slung back, her arms this way, her legs another.
She had the ability to swoop from Batman on a roof top tip toe alert scanning the alleys for trouble, to Jacques Cousteau twenty feet deep in blue calm water barely moving, making that noise, that hum of breaths in a mask steady and low, in and out. I stood and looked at her serene in sleep and the actions and dialogue I had thought of in the shower fled, so it was I went and got one of her stashed cigarettes and sat myself back down on the bed, creeped open the window three fingers deep and boldly lit up, in the house, in the bedroom, this was an act of war and she asleep to miss it. We had given up cigarettes together but I knew she kept a pack and it was one of hers I was smoking for the first time in two years and some months.
It is delicate to smoke with a lip split in the shape of a tiny vagina, which is what my lips looked like in the bathrooms mirror leaking blood not pleasure. It stung but I smoked that complete cigarette gazing at all the long blond length of her asleep amongst the, because I am worth it, linen and white cotton sheets and the fat pillows she liked to frame herself in. She was, is, something to see, all six feet of her, and as they say in country and in western, built to last, everything in its proper place then tweaked and amplified just short of Jessica Rabbit but with a brain that could explain the double slit experiment but not load a washing machine.
Shorty as a name, I first heard on the television show The Wire, then in a rap song then somewhere else and somehow this six foot woman of grumbling chaos got called Shorty and the name stuck.
She, Shorty, had woken me with murmurings and kisses and had kissed and murmured her way over onto me and settled herself and the bits of me she wanted she put where they were needed.
I let her, who wouldn’t.
She liked to cover my eyes with a scarf or those things from aeroplanes or a magazine if that’s what was handy. She said it was to heighten my pleasure but I suspect it was so she could make a cinema of me and that was okay she was already my multiplex.
Soon enough I could tell from her breathing and the fisted hush in her movements that she was picking up speed for the last furlongs and I realized I was way down the field with fences yet to jump and much ground to cover so I concentrated and focused and brought the whip down on my thoughts and tried to catch her up for I knew from experience when she was done she was done and would plop free of me like a plump slug from a leaf, so I picked up the pace and came round the last bend and could see her up ahead and was galloping toward her when I pulled up short with shock.
There in the dark of my blindfold was Susan glistening and glinting sweat and pleasure on her knees, lightly bound with silk ribbon, her laughing red lip slicked mouth curled round the gag in her mouth groaning for wanted abuses. I got such a surprise I said her name aloud, not loud but enough.
Two years and some weeks before I had gifted this sleeping woman a gold ring woven with promises and hopes and she had worn it from that day on with pride and betimes waved it like it were the flag of a country and we two the sole resident or a chain or a key to a castle keep or, the most welcome cool drink on the hottest of days. She wore that ring and that ring had for her the privileges and authority and power of a license, she wore it except in sleep, afraid an edge in the night might scratch her face.
Under my blindfold I felt the whole of her seize and tense and what I could not see but could picture later, all too well, was. Before a thought had typed its way across her head she made a fist of her, I love to bake, knead the bread, strong left hand and brought it, before I had even the idea to protect or hide myself, three sharp punishing times, down on my face, decorating me a black, soon to purple eye and lips zippered spliced open by the sharp point on the heart of that ring.
Shorty slept and I watched her and finished that cigarette and was going to flick it, like a hooligan out the window but saw there on the small, bedside table between her watch and ear rings and bangles she had pulled off the ring and I picked it up and looked closely at the smears of my blood and the small flakes of my skin stuck to it and without thinking about it, I popped it into my mouth and sucked it clean and then put it back on the little table and ground my cigarette butt out, right there.
There it was, in total, my bold rebellion, my justice, my day in the Hague.
I used believe in tenses, past, present, future now not, now I see them as not more than strips of coloured dough children play with. Squished together it is not possible to separate them. What was one colour becomes two, becomes four, becomes a multi interchange of veins, spaghetti worms of colours, intertwined as any ivy.
The white skin of my forearm the cat marked me with, did not in time, remember her to me. It was just my arm with white razor strips in it. I had not had a thought of that cat in decades, then I did and understood she’d not died at all.