A year with a cat
A gift from the river, a piecemeal present.
He was an old, battered tomcat, come staggering to their door wet and pitiful. Delivered to them on the dying breath of the first true-dark storm of the season. The clouds were still plums and bruises in the sky, the sun obscured by their dark shapes, when the drifter floated past. A small furry brown bundle on a brown piece of flotsam, just another piece of the great river that curled slowly past their door.
'The wind delivers blessings.'
Mother had muttered the words since forever and a day, and when the cat had yowled, a forlorn squeak, and raised its sopping head it had been summarily bundled up and set before the smokey driftwood fire.
'The waters will provide.'
It was a tough, lean cat, even filled full of fish and fowl, and it stalked the house like a prince or a great dragon. Silvery grey eyes glared from nooks and crannies as dark paws shot out to catch at feet and hands. The mice that rustled in the beds and the rats in the cellar had vanished in a scrabble of claws, paws, teeth and bright pink tongue.
When summer came and the vines that tangled and tripped around our ramshackle house's spindly stilts burst into flower, a dark shadow haunted their depths. Yowls and caterwauls filled days and nights, dancing on the wind and winding between feet and flowers. He had only half an ear and was missing part of his nose, but to make up for his poor hearing his songs were doubly loud and raucous.
Patchwork Tom for his bald patches.
Deaf Tom for the missing ear.
Crooked Cat came from his tail, twisted askew and stiff like a broken flagpole.
Winter storms lashed our house, shrieking wind and pounding rain. Thick black clouds hid the sun and obscured the moon, and the cat curled up between us. Hot like a tiny fire, and soft, he kept us reminded of spring and summer to come.
And one day, when the sky was all bruises and plums, he left us. I like to think he went somewhere warm and dry, better than the piece of flotsam he arrived on, better than our rickety stilt-house, trembling over the cold deep waters below.
'The river keeps its blessings moving.'