This was something I wrote last night while I was trying to write a piece of flash fiction up to 1000 words to be read out on the 5th for In the Red. It's a first draft and took about an hour to write.
I Saw a Cat
I saw a cat. It was black. It crawled across the garden like a thief. It looked at me and said nothing so I shooed it away saying 'Shoo,' a number of times and waving my hand, but the cat just sat down and looked at me as if it wanted to talk. My brother came outside. He said, 'What are you doing out here in the cold?'
I said, 'I was trying to get rid of that cat.'
'Is it ours?'
'No, I've never seen this cat before.'
'What's it doing here?'
'What do you mean, Walking?'
'It was just walking past.'
'Well it's not walking now.'
'It stopped when I told it to go.'
'Maybe it didn't understand you.'
'I told it to shoo.'
'You told it to Shoo?'
'Yes. Like this. Shoo, cat.' I waved my hand again. It wouldn't go away. It sat still in the dampness, garden ornament-still, now and again the wind would make its whiskers quiver. The silver coins in its eyes stared at me.
'What does it want?' my brother said.
'I don't know.'
My brother sat down on the step. He couldn't stand up for too long, his lungs were old and he began to smoke a cigarette and the shick sound of the lighter made the cat move. Only slightly. I then saw it lit up for a second in the short-lived blaze the lighter gave off. In it, the cat looked tired and confused. My brother made noises with his tongue at the cat as if it were a baby and the cat seemed to enjoy it because it seemed to relax and it stopped being so statue-like and licked its paw once and sat less rigidly.
'I think it likes me,' my brother said.
'How do you know.'
'I just know.'
'But how do you know? You can't just know.'
'It's looking at me, see? Might as well be smiling.'
'Cats don't smile.'
'This one does.'
It was getting dark. It began to rain. My brother stood up from the step and we bother stood inside the doorway. There was a crack on the doorstep which meant it creaked whenever you stepped on it. My brother's foot was on the step. I could hear it creak with his very slight movements. The sound was something like his bones dying up and creaking with age. My brother wasn't even old. He seemed to love the cat. He couldn't take his eyes off it. Then I noticed the cat couldn't take its eyes off my brother. The cat looked old. Its black fur now grey in the moonlight. The shadows gave him a kind of frown, a weird cat sadness pulled over his sagging whiskers.
'I think its dying,' my brother said.
'How can you tell?'
'I just know.'
'You can't just know,' I said.
'But I can,' he said. 'And I do. Look at it. Poor little thing. I bet it's too stupid to even know what comes next.'
'What comes next?' I said.
'I don't know,' he said.
The cat leant its head downwards and I heard the sound of my brother's emphysemic gasp. We were both fascinated, stood still, all stiff and disjointed as if we were prey about to be killed. The cat pulled something from beneath it. A dead bird. It hung upside-down in the cats mouth, the wings spread out like a blooming flower. The silver coins in the cat's eyes now look like cataracts. It came towards us and we edged back slightly. It dropped the bird at the doorstep and then stared at us with a look that said either I understand everything or I understand nothing.
The cat walked away. I saw it leap awkwardly onto a fence and sat there. It looked back at us and seemed very tired. It jumped down into another garden, into the night.
My brother said, 'Why did it leave that bird?'
'I don't know,' I said.
'Why don't you know?'
'I just don't know.'
'Was it a present?'
'I don't know. Maybe it just couldn't carry it any more.'
My brother stepped into the garden. The step creaked under him. He picked up the bird. He stared at it for a long time. I thought he was going to say something but he didn't. My brother was young like me, but in the moonlight he looked old. He didn't move. Then he looked at me, holding the bird.
© Michael Holloway
My tutor from when I did my Masters, Alicia Stubbersfield, launched her new book of poetry on Wednesday. It was in this small cafe called 81 Renshaw Street, which was also the address. I wondered if it had a bar there. My friend and I walked up but couldn't find it and we were getting closer to China Town and the buildings on Renshaw Street were getting older and older. A drunken man was thrown out of a (empty) restaurant and punched and lamp post and shouted 'Fuck off' as he passed us and I tried not to laugh because he was a big man.
We finally found 81 Renshaw Street. We walked in. We saw some people we knew from uni. They were serving tea and coffee and I didn't want anything. Then someone told us to go through to the back, that's where everyone is. There's free wine. My friend left the queue for tea and coffee and we went to the back. We got wine. Met our tutor and we sat at some empty chairs at the front. There were a few published authors at our table. My friend and I knew who they were and were kind of unimpressed. We laughed. He made me laugh. I got drunk of the wine quick. I said the guy playing the keyboard looked like Daniel Johnston, the musician. My friend asked me if he this many people (quite a lot) would come to my book launch. I said yes, a lot more. He said no one would come to my book launch except him, and even then he probably wouldn't come. I asked who'd go to his and he said no one except for Daniel Johnston. I laughed.
Alicia's reading was very good. Then there was a reading by poet Sam Willets. During the break we bought the book and tried to see if we could get some free wine. The bar tender said these were the last two cups of complementary wine. I took one and before I could take the other, one of the published authors took it. I bought a beer. My friend bought a beer. I shared the wine with my friend. We saw our other friend from our MA. We talked and laughed. We joked about the thank you page of the book and I asked my friend would he put thank you Michael in his book and he said no and we laughed. He mentioned Bukowski's first book said 'For No One' on the thank you page. I said I'd write For Michael in mine. My friend laughed. I'd write For Michael, thanks for writing this. We laughed.
My tutor signed the book for me. There was another reading. Afterwards, we went to the Pilgrim and my friend bought me a beer because I'd run out of money. We talked an laughed and then went home. I was thinking that I missed talking and drinking and laughing after class when it was the three of us. But one had moved to London. We laughed all the way down Bold Street. I wasn't hungover in work for once.
You can buy Alicia Stubbersfield's book here Pindrop Press