...The cat's sudden appearance under the breezeway startled me, jarring my windup into an awkward stumble over a divot in the sod.
I'd been throwing the tennis ball into the brick fascia for the bulk of the afternoon, negotiating a positive outlook over playing for Walnut Creek next summer. The attempt was pointless.
With every pitch my anger intensified. It stewed in my chest like boiling water. I imagined billowing steam being absorbed into the muscles of my throwing arm. Could almost taste the vapor seeping from every available pore. Pop, bounce, breath.
Berlin was my home. My friends were here. My team. My school. And yet, with the ease of flipping a light switch, my parents were about to take it away, changing the very landscape they themselves provided for me only a few years earlier. And all for another attempt at making things right. Even if it felt so very wrong.
None of us had seen the cat since returning from Washington. We'd thought perhaps he'd moved on in our absence. Yet there he was, poised on weary haunches, considering my emotional state with calm reserve. I hadn't noticed him sitting there until that moment, never sensed his presence nearby.
Feeling the muscles in my arm growing stiff, I turned my back to the tabby and threw another pitch. Then another. Pop, bounce, breath.
Now I did feel the cat's gaze. Ageless golden gems piercing holes into my back. I offered him a glance, then threw. Pop, bounce, breath.
I'd always thought cats tended to follow movement. An insatiable desire to stalk anything considered a possible threat, or their next meal. But with every pitch, the tabby never once took interest in the ball's trajectory, choosing to focus its attention on me instead.
Unnerved, I finally turned and answered his stare with one of my own. A boy and a cat, caught up in a moment of solace. His face revealed no purpose driving its behavior. With the exception of an occasional twitch from a partially mangled ear, his expression was vacant.
My breathing slowed. My anger grew tolerant. The question left my mouth with little thought in advance. "Well, what am I supposed to do?"
Unblinking, he tilted his head as if to say, "Come on kid, be reasonable. I'm a cat."
When at last he sauntered off, I half expected him to do so on two legs, hunched over an ancient cane crafted from a downed hickory...
...the results of some late night doodling while sweating through revisions and re-writes. A ten year old boy with a problem, and an ageless tom with an apparent answer...but so far he's not talking.
Thanks for reading:)