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Image by Akin
Everyone back then had dogs, parakeets, and those dime store turtles
whose painted shells get slimy right before they die. I had all of the above.
Nobody had cats. Except Chrissie. She was the first person I knew who had a cat
and her cat, Henry, was so big and so black and shiny that we knew
he was actually a panther. How he got from his original home in the jungle
on a far continent to Chrissie’s house on Crooked Trail Road was a mystery, but
he had managed it. He was so large he took up the entire window seat
in the den, a sunny spot he favored. Lying there, he would sometimes extend his claws
in and out of their little sheathes, but I never knew him to scratch anyone.
He stared at us, or out the window, with huge green eyes that glowed in the dark.
Henry liked being stroked and purred like an Evinrude. I remember him stretching
languidly before leaping down from the window seat’s red cushion,
his powerful body making a loud clunk on the wide pine boards when he landed.
He was a nocturnal beast, disappearing into the trees in darkness,
stretching out on a limb, muscles tensed, lying in wait to leap
on an unsuspecting rabbit or a fawn. We would sit by the window,
lights out in the room, straining to see him hunt,
straining to listen for the terrifying sound of his roar.
Susan Wolbarst is a reporter for the weekly Independent Coast Observer in rural Gualala, California. Her work has been published in pioneertownlit.com, The Ledge Poetry and Fiction Magazine, Naugatuck River Review, Poetry Now, Yolo Crow, Valley Voices, Eat This Poem Anthology, and others. She self-published one cookbook. When she’s not writing, Susan enjoys hiking, kayaking and cooking the world’s offerings in her three cast iron pans.