Wrigley: Cat in the ‘Hood

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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.


36 Responses to “Wrigley: Cat in the ‘Hood”
  1. IVY says:

    I LOVED IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. Ava says:

    ‘Million-Dollar Words’ have finally found a relevant place. I know mama is proud. Bravo, bravo!! Great job Shilita!!

  3. KATHY NORMAN says:


  4. Te'nise Norman says:

    Absolutely Awesome!! I haven’t lived there in years, yet suddenly I remember when.

  5. Nilon Seals III says:

    I thought it was very imaginative and presented a nice flow. I was interested from the start to the finish.

  6. Kyla says:

    Wow! I was pleasantly surprised seeing Wrigley through the eyes of a personified feline. This article is a winner in my book!

  7. Sheila Seals says:

    Fabulous job!! A very captivating article that held my attention throughout!!!!

  8. Navella says:

    Your essay was a vivid reflection of many neighborhoods. Read like the start of a great book! =)

  9. Raven G says:

    I loved how the story makes you feel like your observing from the outside, but at the same time your on the inside because it is the cats hood. It created a vivd picture of everything that was going on. I thought it was a cool story that really showed real life, but through the cats eyes. : )

  10. Emily Mc Dole says:

    I thought that this short story was very interesting how when you read it you were looking at everything from the cats view and seeing and hearing from its level. I really enjoyed reading it and how it kept me interested from start to finish. : )

  11. juan5 says:

    i liked how this short story uses the cat as a symbol of how people view their neighborhoods and how the story kept me interested from the beginning to the end. I enjoyed reading a story with such big vocabulary that i was able to understand and enjoy. it appealed to me because i could relate to the neighborhood that was described.

  12. Dan Steinbacher says:

    This essay doesn’t mention Long Beach at all. I highly suspect that this is simply a short story submitted to a contest purely for the money because the setting (a cityscape) fits, but frankly, if this is really is about Long Beach, then you are selling the city very short. Good use of 12th grade vocab words, though!

  13. sinshione says:

    For Dan: ignorance killed the cat; curiosity got framed

    The story I wrote was based on an event that took place in a Wrigley neighborhood in September 2009. Further, as many of the above responses imply, these incident occur frequently and memorably in neighborhoods throughout Long Beach. A person with real love for a city will realize that there is more to life than kids playing in parks in Bixby Knolls, CSULB sorority girls, and “vocab” words. Some people in Long Beach live a different life. I attempted to capture the picture from their perspective. As a fellow artist, I would think you could appreciate that. Alas, perhaps it’s just been awhile since you visited South Wrigley. Well, this is an official invitation! And while you’re here, stop by and talk to Robert’s mother about being sold short. Peace, Shilita

  14. Johnson T. says:

    Awesome Job!!. very pinpoint on some of how LB neighborhoods really are. my neighborhood is similar to the one you described. I liked how you showed the view from the cat’s perspective (very creative) and brought a colorful,descriptive, picture to my mind. Not something you read everyday, very interesting!

  15. Bianca says:

    Ms. Montez

    I thought your short story was very unique in the way you used your grammer as well as the image of the cats point of view of whats going on around her/his neighborhood. Therefore, the way you expressed the neighborhood most people in long beach can relate.It mad me think and brouden my mind. I think that the message was delivered in a colorful light. I would read more work from this author.

  16. Helen Be says:

    I did not think the story was interesting because it is a common event that happens here in Long Beach; however, I did believe that the description was amazing. It was very descriptive and you can capture the images into your head… even though it’s from the perspective of a mere cat. Although the story was short, many things happened at once and it was also colorful at the same time.

  17. Karen says:

    I think the story is interesting because a cat is looking a neighborhood from that point of view. I loved the poetic tone. Mrs. Montez I liked your story! 😀

  18. nicoleC says:

    Ms. Montez,

    Even though this would not have been something I would have read on my own (based on the topic), I loved it! The detail was amazing, and kept me wrapt in the story. I loved how everything flowed, and the ending was brilliant. 5 stars for a job well done.

    your student,
    Nicole Cook

  19. Jocelyn Martinez says:

    I found the story very interesting. I loved the words and details used to describe what the cat was seeing. I felt as if i was there and seeing it with my own eyes. I would of liked if it gave more details on the incident of this boys death. It left me wondering a little.

  20. 200040089 says:

    I really enjoyed reading this. I was at first confused, but then as i kept reading it, it all came together. I thought the boy dying happened really fast, and would have liked to learn more about him as well as the cat.

  21. Christopher Castro says:

    Ms. Montez
    I think you might have been talking about the neighborhood i live in so i really like how i could relate. I was a little confused at the beginning of the story but as it progressed the plot started making more sense. I had to read the ending two times to understand what happen. Overall a good story. A well deserved 4 Stars.

  22. jaen.o says:

    I thought you described everything very vividly and you informed the reader with many details helping picture the cats view and surroundings as if he or she was their, i liked that very well. i also liked how you made the reader understand how the cat felt trough all of the story especially your choice of words to do so. over all i loved the story it kept me interested at all times.

  23. Reginald Vincent says:

    The essay is very interesting actually, I think of good writers as natural artist. The essay also gives me a sense of history and the cat like figures in Egypt often called the sphinx (which were built from great knowledge). As is the cat present in all type of neighborhoods, its always conning and the wisest in its genre

  24. supstaceyo says:

    mrs montez.
    I must admit i was rather confused in the beginning but it slowly start developing into a very discriptive and intresiting prespective. You use so many details that you almost feel like your right there laying next to the cat thinking and watching everything around you. I own a cat and i always woundered how a cat takes everything in when she is sourounded by so much, i loved this story it made me think of my own pet, Four starts 🙂

  25. regina says:

    Usage of vocabulary was excellent! The scenery, sounds, and smells put you right there in the neighborhood. Is there going to be more?

  26. lekeyth7 says:

    I thought that the essay was well written. The choice of words that you used to describe and express things were really effective. I liked the language that was used. I thought that it keep me into the essay. There was never a, “When is this essay done?” I was intrigued by this piece of work. The essay can connect with a lot of readers that have, or still experience neighborhoods like explained in the essay. Also, the characters were interesting and appealing. Especially, the vendor in particular. I was able to image the vendor yelling tamales. Overall, I would read other work by this author.

    -Bramlett, D.

  27. Tcordova says:

    Ms. Montez
    I really enjoyed reading the story mainly because it was coming from a very different perspective. The fact that i was able to visualize everything so clearly due to the vocabulary made the story more enjoyable and realistic.
    i would give it 4 stars

  28. biggwes07 says:

    Ms. Montez
    First I want to say that I would give this story a 4 star. The essay is very good I like how you use a lot of metophores, and how you can connect the story with real life situations. I see what you mean when you have a literary license. I believe that there was more than enough description it really laid out what was going on from start to finish. I think that the language used in this short story was used very well in different ways.

  29. babygirl09 says:

    This story is very interesting and I enjoyed reading it. There is a lot of imagery which made me feel like I was the cat and seeing through her eyes. The diction is great and I liked how the author uses similes. The cat is a very interesting character and she is very appealing. The language used was very appropriate and I would definately read other work by this author. I rate this a 5. *****

  30. amanda.d says:

    I enjoyed reading your story. I got your message in the story and it is sad that this had happened. The cat is an interesting character beacuse he knows his neighborhood so well and has a lot of senses. I love the language that you used and I am looking forward to read more of your stories.

    5 Stars

  31. federico fuentes says:

    A great short story that I found to be very ineresting and poetic. I like how the setting was well described in the essay.

  32. Cecilia Mercado says:

    Instruction paper said we had until Monday Oct. 19th to do this assignment, but yet it says voting is over not allowing me to do the assignment.

  33. Cecilia Mercado says:

    Ok, looks like I am still able to comment-yeah!
    I like the story. It’s sad but also very interesting because of how detailistic it is. There are alot of descriptive words I like because it helps me to develop a picture in my head. However, some of the descriptive words I’ve never heard of and don’t know what they mean. I liked that the main focus stayed on just a couple of characters. Sometimes in other stories there are too many characters that it is difficult to keep up with who everyone is. I would definitely read other stories by this author.

  34. Gary Davenport says:

    Story is very interesting. I like how elaborate the story is despite it being about a simple day in the life of a cat.

  35. JuanC says:

    The story reminds me of where i used to live, so i find this very interesting because I can relate to it. I like the cat being the main character because it shows that not only people have a tough time in the hood, but animals do as well.

  36. JuanC says:

    4 stars