Marna and The Cat

By Susan McLaughlin

Marna heard the porch swing squeak yet again. She was prepared this time, Grabbing the squirt bottle of water, she flew out the door and around the corner squeezing the trigger.

“Scat, you damn cat!”

“Hold on, missy,” the old man chuckled. “I may be a little old and a little confused, but I am definitely not on fire! Me and and this old cat were just getting acquainted. Sorry to upset you.”

Startled, Marna stared at the old man sitting on her porch swing using the tips of his worn oxfords to push himself back and forth. The raggedy cat with his worn-out fur was sitting in his lap giving her his cold yellow-eyed stare.

The amused look in the old man’s eyes calmed Marna down. The man’s faded flannel shirt neatly tucked into thin-kneed jeans and his wispy hair just a bit too long over his collar was a picture of old Yankee thrift. In sharp contrast to her manicured, accessorized image of successful suburban plenty, he looked out of place.

“What are you doing here? Are you lost?” her concern supplanting her irritation at the cat.

“ No,no.. I am visiting my great niece and wanted some fresh air. They’re having a birthday party for my great great-nephew. He just turned one. It was nice of them to pick me up and bring me to the party, but there’s about 30 people and 10 of them are crying. Guess babies aren’t so fond of clowns. So I thought a walk might be called for. When I saw your swing and this old cat sitting here in the sun, I just forgot myself and came up for a sit. I had my own cat and swing not too long ago. I loved to sit with the sun on my face and my cat purring in my lap just taking it all in. Can you hear his little engine going?”

“That sorry, old cat? I have shooed him away over and over. He doesn’t get the message so now I have ammunition,” she said pointing to the water bottle. “ He gets fur all over the cushion.”

The old man, brushing fur off the cushion, replied, “Come sit for a minute and enjoy the sun. The weather will be changing soon. Won’t be many more days like this? Just look at that blue sky. Reminds me of my wife’s eyes. She’s gone now, but this sky reminds me of her.”

She hid her annoyance about not being able to get on to with her day and sat beside the old man. The cat eyed her with suspicion but soon settled into the warmth and gentle swaying. It had been awhile since she sat on her own porch swing. When she bought the swing, she thought she would sit and read in the evenings after work, but somehow she never found the time.

They swung in silence. She heard the purring like white noise. Soothing. Marna began to pet the cat between his ears. Actually quite soft. The cat gently lifted his head against Marna’s hand and then slowly moved into her lap purring even louder.

“I guess we all need a little attention and affection from time to time. Which reminds me… I better get back before my niece calls the state troopers to find her doty old uncle. And don’t worry I can find my way back,” he said with a half smile. He waved as he neared the bend in the road and walked out of sight.

Marna sat awhile longer with Buster in her lap as she watched the sun dip below the horizon.

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