All original work © 2009 - 2017 Alexey Provolotsky

5 May 2011

Old cats and bad weather

The screams were coming from the kitchen, but the cat couldn’t care less. Cat’s lazy, drowsy concern: it half-opened its eyes, half-raised its ear, and dropped back to sleep. Gently squeezed between the softness of the pillow and the back of the armchair – there was nothing else to do. The cat had long familiarized itself with that kitchen screaming – so there really was no need for concern. No tingling of the whiskers, no fluttering of the paws. 

The screams kept coming, though. If you stepped into the kitchen, you could see the old man sitting dreamily at the table. You would think the man was badly animated. His restless gaze was fixed upon the black window that at 10 in the evening reflected what was inside the kitchen rather than what was outside. So that when the old man turned his head away to take a distracted look at the backyard, he still had to look at the old woman. He still had to look at his wife, fiercely, ruggedly pacing the small room, and screaming at the top of her lungs. 

The latest row was about their son’s homecoming – maybe in a week, maybe in two weeks. Maybe for a night, maybe for two nights. Maybe alone, maybe – but no, hopefully not. But of course it was all about their son – it was always about him. Their son moved out four months ago, leaving his cat behind as well as an empty room they dared not enter. Taking with him the quietness of his family home – uncovering this strange frustration and despair that had never really been there. Every day they kept arguing about his last phone call, about his upcoming birthday, about the book he had left on the sitting-room table… Their son left with his thin, pale, taciturn thing who never really washed her hair or took off her shoes when inside. What was more, he kept calling her his fiancée. 

But he left the cat behind. That was odd, because he loved that old cat so much. Was it because of that wretched office girl? ‘Would you mind?’ he asked. ‘No, darling, of course not’. In fact, over the course of the next two weeks they came to realise they were both extremely happy about the arrangement. They suddenly understood how wonderful that cat was, how lively, how adorable. And there always was this understated uneasiness before watching evening news: on whose lap will it sit? And at night: on whose side will it sleep? And in the morning: who will be first to feed it?.. In fact, it was becoming more and more clear that the present screaming bout had grown out of fear that their son might want to take his cat with him. 

But the cat was sleeping. The cat had no idea the screaming had to do with him. He didn’t know – he was trying to place the grey, ghastly weather inside his head, so that it would bring even more comfort and warmth. Outside it was cold – though what exactly was cold, wind or rain, was hard to say. But the cat couldn’t care less. Deep in the armchair, safe behind the pillow, he was sleeping and dreaming of people drenched to the bone, caught in a severe storm, somewhere on the outskirts of an unknown town, somewhere far away from home.

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