by Lee Hulme
In a town.
In an alley.
In the darkness beyond the streetlights.
One by one cats slink from the shadows.
Each one brings with them an item of food, which they place in the centre.
Quietly, they form a circle and wait.
At some invisible signal, they each bow down on their front legs.
A thin miaow escapes each mouth as they curl their legs beneath them, sinking low on the ground.
There is a moment off silence before one cat sits upright.
The attention of the others fixates immediately on that one.
Let us pretend, for a moment, that these cats speak our language.
Or that we speak theirs.
Or that there is but one common language which we all speak.
The cat introduces itself as “Fuzzles, formerly Red Wing.”
It speaks of a small human and a tall human.
The tall human found it scavenging in the bin for food.
The tall human took it inside and gave it food.
There was warmth, and more food.
There were strokes and cuddles from both humans.
The small human began to speak to it, and it recognised a new name.
It was Red Wing no more.
It was street cat no more.
It was hungry and fighting for scraps no more.
There were two other cats in the house.
They were wary at first, but have accepted the newcomer.
It now has a home.
It is treated well.
The collar and the name are part of the bargain struck.
Fuzzles thinks the bargain is a good one.
It thanks the tall crazy cat lady and the small crazy cat lady.
Fuzzles, story done, curls its feet back underneath and returns to the ground.
The next cat sits up. This is Yowl. One ear is nothing more than a stump. It’s tail is crooked and stubby, scars tear through the tortoiseshell fur and the white ruff, unbroken by any collar. This one speaks gruffly, without pause, expecting attention to be paid. And it is.
This one has a number of Friendlies, all of whom had tried to adopt it at some point, and failed.
One of this one’s Friendlies had recently stopped putting out food at night, the porch light off where it was usually on.
This one had sat outside and yowled until somebody paid attention. A non-friendly first tried to kick it. Then when this one dodged and began pawing at the door, the non-friendly seemed to understand.
The noiselights came, and they took the Friendly away, Yowl finished.
There is a moment of silence for the dead Friendly, then another cat rises, Lucifer, a soft grey streaked with black.
This one is glad to share.
This one has been taken in by what the 5 other cats in the house call a Mumbler.
This Friendly feeds them on rich cream and gourmet food.
The other cats are fat and lazy and don’t care.
This one cares.
The Mumbler seems to speak of terrible things this one can hardly hear, and barely understand.
This one asks if the things the Mumbler speaks of are true.
The other cats nod their affirmative.
This one asks if anything can be done.
The other cats shake their negative.
This one nods.
This one will simply care for the Mumbler as well as it can.
This one curls back to the ground.
When no other cat rises, they all rise. Those without homes, without bowls of food awaiting them, divide the food between themselves.
One by one the cats slink back into the shadows and away.
This meeting of the Crazy Cat Lady Appreciation Society is adjourned.