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December 2009, vol 5 no 4

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Adelaide B. Shaw


Mary's Cats

Cats. Five cats. Five cats too many. Mary’s cats. Wanting out or in, under foot, taking over Ruth’s bed and her favorite chair, demanding to be fed.

sparrow on a limb
the waiting cat
cleans her face

Ruth’s life completely unsettled now. A senior home for her sister-in-law and a shelter for the cats. That’s the only solution. Ruth lives an unfettered life with responsibility only to herself. A planned life, a serene, peaceful life. Alone, but not lonely … at least, not often. Not in the early years.

curled for sleep
the cat’s purr vibrates
through her hand

Unmarried, a spinster by choice, Ruth lives with her flowers, her books and her music. The company of roses, Dickens and Mozart fill her senses, but not the void she has come to find difficult to ignore.

summer grasses
waving in the breeze
a cat’s tail

“Don’t worry,” Ruth says to Mary. “I’m taking care of the cats.”

They are Mary’s company since she became widowed five years earlier. They become the children she never had. First one, then another. Soon, five dependants, five responsibilities now passed on to Ruth. Six counting the chief responsibility of caring for Mary.

“They make me smile,” Mary had said. “They make me laugh.”

swaying shadows
the young cat swats the wall
and cries

“The rehab center,” the doctor says. “Six to eight weeks, then home care. She’ll recover from the stroke with probably only partial paralysis, but she can’t live alone anymore.”

Home care. Whose home? Ruth’s home? Ruth’s carefully arranged home. The antiques, the porcelain, the crystal.

cats chasing cats
on the polished floor
the rugs askew

Ruth sits in her garden, rocking and knitting. Knit one, purl two. Breath in, breath out. She imagines the ocean. The sprinkler clicks a rhythm along with the waves, the rhythm of the rocker, her knitting, her breathing.

purple tinted sky
a tangle of cats and yarn
rolling into dusk

Laughter cascades from Ruth’s mouth. “You are funny,” she says. “And, you are company.” More laughter bubbles up from deep in her abdomen. “You win,” she says, untangling the cats and the yarn. “Your mistress will be back. She’ll come home soon … home to all of us.”

caught in the yawn
of a sleepy cat

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