Friday, November 8, 2013

Dear Zoe

Dear Zoe,

I saw a man eat a cat today. I had just moved in to my new place. It is over by the Cougar’s stadium. Remember when we would go to one of their games every fall? Those were good times. I have the top floor of one of the brownstones that were converted to apartments back in the ‘90s.

I did not hear the man at first. He kicked an empty glass bottle in the alley, I think it was one of mine from the day before. I heard it slide across the pavement. It made a loud noise when it stopped against the trash bin. I rolled over and looked down into the alley to see who was out there. I had not seen any of the old gang in some time and hoped maybe Alex or Lissa had come calling. I had never seen this man before. He was having trouble walking, stumbling about like he was a drunk or something. I wanted to tell him, “Buddy, that’s my schtick.”

As he stumbled through the alley, his head bobbed, as if loose on his neck. He stumbled through the alley for at least ten minutes, before jerking to a sudden stop. He began craning his neck sideways, as if listening for something. I heard it too. It was one of Old Lady’s cats. She must have left her apartment window open, again. She lives on the floor below me. I usually know when she has left the window open, as the smell of her crazy cat lady apartment wafts upwards. The cat was eating garbage from the deli. Sinkowitz’s new guy does not do a good job of getting the trash into the bin. He is usually too busy looking at his so-called smart phone or lighting a cigarette, to care about trash.

The man moved towards the cat and it hissed at him. He stopped, stared at it for a moment with his head hung sideways, and then continued stumbling towards the cat. The cat hissed, again, twice. The man did not seem to care. I saw the cat tense, ready to fight or flee. The man stopped and stared at the cat some more. The cat stared right back at him. Before I knew what had happened, the man was on his knees with the cat grasped in both hands. The cat screamed at him, writhing in his grasp to break free.

The man did not care about the cat’s commotion. The cat let out another wretchedly painful scream as the man gripped it harder. He suddenly brought the cat up to his face and clamped onto it with his mouth. When he wrenched back his mouth, fur and blood sprayed across the trash bin. He spit the fur out of his mouth and took another bite from Old Lady’s cat. The cat had gone limp, no longer squirming or mewing or living. This next bite he chewed. Chewed with a vigor I have not seen since Dim managed to get a seat at the hot dog eating contest. You would have liked Dim. He was a very large man and quick to laugh. That man could cook, too. I even liked his re-heated spaghetti with western sauce. He refused to give out the recipe for the sauce.

Now, I’m no stranger to hunger. There is at least one meal a week I go without. There is nothing I can do about it – you play the hand life deals you. Yet, this man ate with such vigor, as to suggest he had not eaten in a month. I am not usually one to share my food, but if he had told me he was hungry enough to eat Old Lady’s cat, I surely would have given him a morsel or two. This man ate every last bit of meat on that old cat’s bones. The sound of his spitting out fur was constant for the first hour. After that, he was much quieter. I could hear the occasional bone crunch, but that was it.

When he was done, he looked around as if to say, “What, no dessert?” He slowly climbed to his feet, hands stuck out, as if to catch any food falling from the sky. I figured he had had his meal and did not need any of my left-overs. Not that I would have shared them with anyone, outside of you. I like my bacon ‘n beans too much to share with complete strangers. He began his stumbled-walk further in to the alley.

He came to a complete stop at a cross-alley. No swaying, no head bobbing, just a stone, cold statue. Slowly, he craned his head around, and shot me with those beady eyes of his. He saw me and as if to acknowledge my luck of being up here away from him, he smiled a cat blood covered smile, before licking his face to savor the blood. Then, he slowly turned away from me and my room with a view of the stadium, before stumbling down the cross-alley.

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