Wrigley: Cat in the ‘Hood
2009-10-09 · By Editor
By Shilita Montez
The hot cat wails in the morning sun. She lays low to the ground, her legs gone beneath her, her static-charged pelt splayed out about her. She rolls her eyes at the mayhem in the sky above where police copters fly low through thick gray smog. Gregarious trucks high up on their tires grumble over her, and cars with muscle and swagger dropped low, sending dense waves of engine-heat radiating through her fur. A motorcycle man and his indigo-blue-haired-woman swerve to avoid her. The cat watches with narrowed eyes the prismatic mixture of children playing in the street, a whirling dervish of color and language, dancing like their lives depend on it, scattering in waves to cement shores whenever cars pass down the busy street. But the cat never moves. She knows her ‘hood.
The cat blinks.
She has listened and watched as the neighborhood changed slowly, resolutely, from monochromatic deep sepia to a mosaic of light and hue, like an old photo left fading in the sun. The voices are different too. The cat has listened and watched. Empiricism her Rosetta stone. The change rings through the Cedar-lined streets and the cat catches it in the satellite of her ears. Ta ma les! Ta ma lees! Ta ma leees! The vendor’s hardy voice, a clean splicing of Spanish and English tongue, resonates true in the cat’s ears. Her American-bred tongue waters at the thought of Ta ma leees in the morning, for the foreign flavors of cornmeal and egg she’s grown to love. When the cat hears the vendor, a rib-stickin’ meal isn’t far away. The tip of her very pink tongue flicks away at some nostalgic morsel.
The night before, a boy was shot sitting on his front porch. The boy’s name was Robert. The cat knows because she watches and listens—and she’s learned to read. When people make the same sound to other people over and over again, that sound is their name. The cat has heard the boy’s mother make the Robert sound many times. Robert, she calls when the sun settles and the people fill the neighborhood with titillating aromas and cacophonies that drive the cat close to mad. Robert, she says to the boy when she bares her teeth and suckles him. Yes, the boy’s name was Robert; the cat is sure of it.
The cat heard the flat, dull pop, pop, pop. Unlike the sound of fire crackers that send her scurrying for cover, the gunshots barely turned her head. The mother’s screams, though, were piercing. The cat sat under a yellow street light restively batting at flies while the mother keened. The sound, like a kitten’s nails on a slippery slope, rooted in the soft, pink flesh of the cat’s inner ear; nothing silenced it. Soon, the cat sat still and watched with pinpoint pupils as the boy took his last breath.
Today, a new boy sits on his porch. Children play in the street. The vendor hawks. The cat watches.