Selected by S.T. Brant
A cat has appeared on my patio and is staring me down as I approach the privacy hedges.
[incidentally, I wonder if any animal could actually take residence on my patio once my sister sends her furniture over. My current patio is a concrete slab unearthed from an ancient ruin that only houses orange, dried leaves and pollen pocked hand-me-down furniture left behind by a former roommate.]
It’s eyes somehow glisten amongst its black fur as it curls into a bomb shape, ready to deploy at command.
[my brother and his wife have two cats. They are as gray as the photos I see of Fat Man and Little Boy, although both are skinny, and neither are boys. Phillys has a shrapnel scar over her eye that makes her easy to see through the morning fog of Hiroshima, while Ruby prefers to remain airborne on her daddy’s shoulder rather than plummet to Nagasaki.]
My lumbering gait has turned into ballerina steps as I walk each Billie Jean tile that makes my walkway.
[what do cats eat? How do you make a vet appointment? Is this cat wearing a collar? I can’t see in this lighting. Do I need to get my eyes checked? Mom says I should. I know poor eyesight runs in our family, especially matrilineally, maybe this is the time. This cat may become mine, and he/she may need me to be in good health if he/she’s to live a long life with me.]
It bolts into the hedges after the ripple of one step.
[the bomb has detonated at Ground Zero. The patio returns to being a slab of a ruin. My eyes can’t make out the cat’s form even with my new iPhone’s flashlight. He/she is a shadow on a wall.]
With a resignation in the autumn air, I go inside.
[“if it stayed, I would have been like ‘IT CHOSE ME!’” I text my sister when I’m inside.]
Was my home always this spacious?
[better keep the blinds open in case it comes back.]
After Rachael Crosbie/tommy blake
Alex Carrigan (he/him; @carriganak) is a Pushcart-nominated editor, poet, and critic from Virginia. His debut poetry chapbook, May All Our Pain Be Champagne: A Collection of Real Housewives Twitter Poetry (Alien Buddha Press, 2022), was longlisted for Perennial Press' 2022 Chapbook Awards. He has had fiction, poetry, and literary reviews published in Quail Bell Magazine, Lambda Literary Review, Barrelhouse, Sage Cigarettes (Best of the Net Nominee, 2023), 'Stories About Penises (Guts Publishing, 2019), and more. For more, visit carriganak.wordpress.com.