They Are a Cat
The Cat curled around the lamp post, the fur of their tail sweeping side to side against the metal, making it sing. The kinks of their tail made odd angles in the night as they circled around. They were black in the dark, but under the light they were brown – deep, pure brown. The light protected them from onlooking eyes with the sheer brightness of it, the surrounds nearly impossible to look at. Faded posters on brick fences, once blaring red and neon green, spoke only in black and grey as people walked by. Winds like hell, with heat that left all metal and stone warm to the touch hours after the sun had gone down. It could have been Autumn – the leaves were dried, brittle, cracked.
The Cat settled themselves there, in the warmth of the light and its pole, purring with the passing traffic. The Boys giggling at the third lamp along the road had crinkled their pants when they rolled them up to their knees, and their white buttoned shirts had stained when they had undone them, revealing their singlets. Their hands were meeting against the pole, fingers interlocking, only pulling away as they twirled around with scattered laughter, caught between words.
The Cat watched. They examined their paws, eyes half shut, with a self-satisfied contentedness. Their ears were piqued for the sound of approach, whiskers twitching as their nose did. The Boys smelled faintly of something The Cat didn’t know, past the smell of the heat and perspiration, and spoke softly and carefully as if someone was watching. Still, The Cat let themselves doze with the humans’ presence looming.
Their hands were catching electricity on the metal, stinging them. Still, they laughed, then chuckled, then murmured, then silence. “We were going to tell them,” said one. His voice had cracked on ‘tell’.
“But we danced instead,” said the other. He was shorter and whiter, and took the Sad Boy’s hand. Properly took it, not skittering touches over the pole. He pushed his fingers through the gaps of his. Their hands were glowing warm, sweaty, and the touch was skittish; uncertain.
“You said you wanted to dance.” He did not quite sound desperate.
“I said I wanted to tell them and dance.” There was no petulance in the words, more a prediction of betrayal, of hurt. The Cat opened their eyes to find the Sad Boy looking at them. They blinked slowly, and the Sad Boy had looked away, back to the other Boy and his shaking hands. Their hands were in no way the same, but they moved in unison to retract them from the pole. It was too hot for that, and certainly too hot for them to hold each other. The shorter one leaned up from the balls of his feet for his arms to settle around the other’s neck.
“When it’s not holidays?” Short Boy whispered, right up against his ear. “We’ll tell them after New Years.”
They were nodding into one another’s shoulders, both of their faces wet. Their singlets clung together with sweat, and still they sat there on the roadside, tugging their shirts off and winding their arms around each other.
“It’ll be better next year. We’re… we’re…” No-one heard what they were, and Short Boy may well not have finished the thought, as the fireworks began with a cacophony, like, thunder, a hammer, gunshots, a waterfall alike. The Cat jumped up and wailed, which, too, went unheard. The sky was too many colours, and it was too loud to speak, so The Boys stayed still, holding each other.
The Cat’s tail kinked and twisted around Short Boy’s forearm. They didn’t even protest when they were picked up and placed, balanced, between the Boys’ knees.