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My neighborhood has been overrun with stray cats. There is Ballsy, the dangly-balled black male who flops on top of my cinder block walls with his privates hanging halfway down to the hedge. He drags his junk through the gravel in my yard at night; I wake up to see “BALLSY WAS HERE” spelled out wherever Ballsy was.
There’s Orangey, the orange tabby cat who was either abandoned by a poor but friendly family, borne of friendly felines, or both. Orangey is so friendly, she doesn’t know what to do with herself, so she waits for me in the morning and comes flying out of nowhere when I bend over to get my newspaper. Sometimes I pet Orangey because I feel bad for her; sometimes I just tell her she’s a good girl, and I go in. This morning I scratched Orangey’s back and tummy when she dashed over to head-butt my legs, and she love-bit my wrist.
Orangey gets excited and forgets she has teeth. I know how that goes, on a few levels.
Nodding my head in acceptance of my own flaws and understanding of hers, I went in and dumped hydrogen peroxide on my new bloody scratches.
Emerging from the bathroom with light gauze on my wound, hoping that no one at work or in the world at large would think that I had tried to commit suicide, I glanced out the back window. There sat Patty—short for Cleopatra—the brown and black long-haired vixen whose tail is so big, eyes so wide, she looks likes she’s about to do a pole dance at any second. She looks like she’s about ready to eat you alive.
I don’t like Patty.
Patty patrols my yard like it belongs to her. I can’t be out there all the time hosing her down to chase her away; she gets a leg up on me once in awhile. Like yesterday: I was grading at the kitchen table and heard what I thought was a baby crying. Either that or a dog’s mournful howl. I couldn’t be sure: I don’t have dogs or babies. I have cats.
After running thoughts through my mind for awhile—I love this essay, what a good student, I’m so glad I teach, why is that baby crying, I don’t know of any babies around here, all the houses are abandoned, I bet that’s a dog left outside by its owners, I hate it when people do that, how cruel. I wouldn’t leave my cats outside. Hold on, sometimes animals can sound like people. I should check—I got up, looked out the patio doors, and saw Patty. She was meow-screaming at Ballsy…who was hiding behind my potted plants.
So much for male dominance.
But that was yesterday and today was today, me dripping blood once again. I stood at the back window with white gauze wrapped lightly around my new wounds, looking at Patty all wild and bushy, beautiful but unappreciated, once again agitating my own cats: one hiding under the bed, one obviously wanting to mate with Patty but not knowing why or how.
I was tired of people not doing their jobs, not having jobs, everyone and everything that’s been left behind…not only in my neighborhood but in my state and others.
I made a fist and banged on the inside wall of my home, shouting, “Get the fuck out of here!” to Patty.
This distant rumbling only made Patty run around the corner. It scared my own cats more. It actually scared me.
From personal experience, I know that when anger builds, everyone suffers. Situations get even more complicated when it’s hard to determine who’s to blame.
Ashamed of myself for losing my temper—with new pain in my hand—I returned to the day’s tasks as if nothing had happened.
I didn’t know what else to do.