Monday, October 10, 2016

Cat Food

All Mr. Liang could think about was how badly he needed to get home. 

As he slumped in his chair by the cash register, Mr. Liang counted and recounted the money he earned that day. $500 total. His wife would definitely have something to say about that. Mr. Liang locked the drawers of the antique shop, turned off the lights and finally, headed out for the night.

When he had moved to San Francisco with his wife ten years ago, it was a Wednesday night just like this. The first thing he’d noticed about his new neighborhood was how empty the streets were. Where were all the people? Where were the street carts that sold barbeque chicken and beef? This was definitely not like the city he grew up in. His next thought was whether or not his wife would be happy here. Ten years of marriage, yet they did not talk about these things.

As Mr. Liang walked, he zipped up his thick jacket and pulled his grey scarf a little tighter around his neck. Did it seem colder tonight than last? Mr. Liang could not remember the last time he had truly experienced the cold. The cold eats at you, chilling your bones from the inside out. This was nothing like the cold back home.

Just as he was about to round the corner, Mr. Liang noticed a stray grey cat scratching at the ground near a park bench. He stopped walking and watched the cat scratch at the wet dirt. As Mr. Liang observed the animal, he imagined his wife sitting in her usual spot at the dining room table, tapping her pen against wood as she waited in silence. For some reason he couldn’t bring himself to go home. Mr. Liang took a seat on the bench.

“You hungry?” He asked the cat. There were batches of knots in the cat’s grey fur.

“Meow,” the cat responded, licking its paws.

Intrigued by its response, Mr. Liang dug into his coat pocket and pulled out an unfinished sandwich. A piece of turkey fell on the ground near his feet.

“Oops.” Mr. Liang said, just as the cat moved closer and sniffed at the meat on the ground. He watched the cat lick the dirt-covered turkey off the ground, before swallowing it whole.

“Here, I have some more.” Mr. Liang ripped off a small piece and held it out. He continued to feed the cat, ripping off pieces of turkey and holding them out with his hand.

“You know,” Mr. Liang mused, “I should really get home to my wife.”

The cat didn’t respond, so Mr. Liang continued to talk. “I didn’t realize it before, but I think she is unhappy here.” He ripped off another piece of turkey.

“She wants to move away,” he told the cat.

“What do you think I should do?”

“I can’t lose her.”

Tired of waiting for the cat to acknowledge him, Mr. Liang sighed and threw the last piece of turkey onto the ground. He opened and closed his empty hands in front of the creature as if signaling defeat.

“Sorry little cat. I have to go now.” He got up from the bench, shook off the bread crumbs, and stuffed the empty sandwich bag back into his coat pocket. The cat circled the ground next to his feet, sniffing for leftovers. Mr. Liang bent down to pet it, but the cat quickly jumped out of his reach. It gazed at the man, before casually strolling off, as if it didn’t have a care in the world.

Mr. Liang adjusted the scarf around his neck. He sighed, then continued his walk back home, where divorce papers waited patiently on the dining room table.

© Erin Siu / Photo source