Three Cats

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Three cats live alone on a terrace.

They’re the same age, from the same litter. Their mother was white, with black spots here and there, but they are yellow(ish) with streaks of black across their backs. They’re more like their father, who has that Spanish, very exotic look and big-city swagger that seems a bit pretentious because he’s from a small neighborhood on the very edge of town. In fact, his house and backyard overlook a big field of corn, very sad in late autumn when there’s nothing left to harvest. His favorite time of year, by the way, because he hunts mice in the field and drags them kicking and screaming back to his house, where his associates (some would call them owners) yell at him for bringing them meat they don’t like to eat. He doesn’t get it, it’s perfectly good meat, still fresh (alive, actually) when he catches it. It’s better than the frozen shit they eat.

The tree cats on the terrace don’t remember their Spanish-looking father. If they ventured beyond the terrace, they’d probably run into him in the street.

Their mother is dead. She died days after they were born. Run over by a speeding car (is there another kind?).

But they don’t remember her either, so it doesn’t really matter.

The tree cats don’t really belong to anyone. They live on the terrace because it’s dry and safe. Safer than being on the street, where the speeding cars (is there another kind?) regularly run over their neighbors.

The terrace is an extension of an unoccupied apartment that was occupied just months ago. The three cats used to sit on the terrace and gaze into the apartment through the smudged glass, hoping the people inside would let them in.

They never did. They were busy watching TV and clicking on the computer. Sometimes, the three cats saw them playing with a small device, much like the TV, but small enough to fit into the palm of a human’s hand.

The people never looked out of the window, or went outside, so they had no idea they had three cats living on the terrace.

The tree cats sit on the terrace, gazing into the empty apartment, hoping the people will come back and let them in. It’s hopeless, and utterly stupid, but nobody said the three cats were smart.

The tree cats eat what they can find in and around the garbage dumpster across the street from their building. Sometimes they find bits of meat, leftovers of human meals. Most of the time, though, they lick the insides of plastic containers that once held weird human food only humans find palatable. To the three cats, necessity makes everything palatable, because, as we all know, beggars can’t be choosers.

Once or twice a week, the woman living at the corner apartment gives them a little milk. Milk is delicious, all three agree on that–it’s probably the only thing they agree on. Milk is sweet and very refreshing. It makes their whiskers sticky, though, and they have to spend hours cleaning their faces–their own, and each others. Humans don’t lick each others faces, usually, all three have noticed. Humans are stupid, but nobody said humans had to be smart.

Winter is coming, and the three cats on the terrace will have to find another shelter. The terrace is exposed to wind and rain. When the humans lived in the apartment, they often threw out cardboard boxes, which the three cats used as their temporary shelter. The apartment is empty now, and the cardboard boxes the cats sometimes find by the dumpster are usually soaked and smelly. Not good for winter shelter.

The three cats can’t agree on their future course of action. They know they have to go. The question is where and when, not if.

One wants to go to the milk lady’s apartment. He thinks she would let them in if they sat in front of her door long enough. If they make some noise and maybe scratch at the door, that could speed up her decision.

Another thinks they should make a trek across town, to another neighborhood they’ve heard about from some strays that went through their street a few months ago. But she’s not sure how to get there, so she can’t insist on this choice. She mentions it once in a while, hoping her brothers will be brave enough to lead the trek–she’s really more of a follower, and she’s aware of it.

The third cat has no definite opinion. He’s scared of staying on the terrace during the winter because he doesn’t like the cold and dreams of a warm place next to a blazing fireplace. But he’s also scared of leaving–something he shares with the humans, even though he doesn’t know it.

The three cats living on the terrace gaze into the empty apartment, hoping someone will soon show up and open the door. Or, at least, toss out another cardboard box.

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