Fifteen cats there were, fifteen in all, over the leap-long years.
Fifteen cats, each twined around her legs, one by one as she grew from a soft breasted girl into the bosom of a full-grown woman, as her hair went from long-thick chestnut to winter-black and one day, streaked with grey.
The fifteen all loved her, in their own way.
So what’s with sixteen?
Weren’t fifteen enough; plump ones, skinny ones, alley cats and posh cats; long-furred and short, ragged-eared and tattooed?
What’s with sixteen, and why does he look at her so, out of the corner of his amber-gold eye, as if she might do something unexpected that he wouldn’t want to miss, as if she might have a bit of sweet magic about her tired old bones yet?
What is it about this one that makes her blood want to sing, her bones want to dance the sly old dance of long ago? What is it that makes her skin glow ruddy, her hair shine the shine of a hundred strokes with a bristle-brush, reaching long past her behind once again, like in those early years, trailing down in anticipation of a playful swat from velvet paw?
What is it about sixteen, his rowl jagged, his cowl ragged, his haunches still strong yet hanging just a little bit low?
She sighs, she sits as the hearth burns low
and he climbs onto her lap, tentative, slow
turns around three times, for three’s the charm
and he sits. Rumbles deep
chin on paws, just a twitch
on the soot-smudged tip
of his dear, merry tail, just a twitch
as her hand runs down his knobby old spine
to its very merry end, runs home.
June 23, 2009