Sestuna My dad was a dog-man, so although I have never owned a cat, I have passed time pleasantly in their good company, as on that night a week ago, the two of us sitting on the porch, our ears twitching and our heads slanted up as we watched the birds taunting us from their balconies high up in the winter-stripped branches of a Cleveland pear tree, all while sky grayed into evening. I had been a peasant, just taking out the trash before locking up for the evening when, shivering in the dry, brown-grass cold, I saw the old cat strolling, an eager hop in his step, out from beneath the low-hanging branches of the neighbor’s old pine, mewing and chatty for company, another animal sound joining in the ever-present jabber of the birds, who, for whatever reason, had made their home beside the porch. And the cat, as he always does, nearly tripped me as I walked back to the porch, rushing to stay just a step ahead, as if he had plans for us this evening. As the two of us passed the tree, one meowing to beat the band, the birds startled into a little wave that caught the attention of the cat and he watched the wave ebb back into the safe shore of the tree as the company collected itself, remembering nothing could harm them up on those brittle branches. He figure-eighted between my ankles, and I noticed that his tail branched off at the end in a broken bird-perch angle, then, pausing at the bottom of the porch, I noticed, too, as he lay on his back, paws batting, that it hadn’t been a tomcat’s company, but a queen’s (the proper title, I later learned) that I had been holding court with that evening. The fact shifted something in my mind, though it didn’t seem to matter to the cat, and seemed to be a detail of even less consequence to the birds. Just as I heard the conversation picking back up from the birds as a cold breeze passed through, bouncing them in their branches, I decided it was vital that I rush inside for a can of tuna for the cat, running to make it back before the queen could move on from my porch and take her need elsewhere, seek out some other serf’s company, who, like me, might be eager--even flattered--to have felt chosen this evening. She purred through a full mouth, and, wanting to give her some privacy, I sat evening up the tassels on my slippers, fidgeting while keeping an eye the birds for the both of us, though all had gone quiet, nature’s truce in its own company. While she ate, it grew dark enough that I lost sight of the nests in branches that cracked across the starry sky. Then, as if at some signal, I was alone on the porch, and I watched--the smell of tuna still in the air--as the dark enveloped the cat. Another night, looking for company, I’ll walk out again, hoping to recreate the moment when a cat had sauntered up like an old acquaintance in early evening, and I’ll wait there on the dark porch, a queen waving a broken tail, imagining my claws catching the birds nested in the dark branches.
Goddfrey Sue Hammit was born and raised in Utah, and lives in Utah still, in a small town outside of Salt Lake City. Hammit is the author of the novel Nimrod, UT.