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Alley Cat: A Short Story By Yanik Davison, BA ‘21
BA alumnus Yanik Davison wrote this short story for the Western Classics IV class in his senior year, in which the he shifts into and out of “the omniscient narrator" seamlessly. We hope you enjoy it as much as we do!
A pair of headlights pierced through the morning brisk. A warm light of golden hue, indicating to a certain degree the model’s age. As the flood of light neared closer, the heavy stench of dust and dirt choked the air, powerful enough to subdue the diesel fuel but not conceal it entirely. The smells coalesced, forming a certain incense of the street. Branded on the face of the mechanical beast, the word ISUZU. “Tink! Tink!” Someone came home drunk last night, forgetting to heed the signs of warning. “NO PARKING. Friday 4 A.M. to 6 A.M. Street Sweeping.” As the machine rumbled on and the dust settled once again, the cobalt sky grew ever more pink, and clouds appeared with the fading of stars. A keen ear could observe the happenings of a healthy economy. Screen doors slamming shut, work boots scraping on the sidewalk, engines turning over to engage, the occasional cough like a popping gun, clearing the throat after a morning cigarette.
I could hear all the noise, but it was rather easy for me to ignore. Like the guy who lives next to Lindbergh Field, I hear the planes flying overhead, but they cause me no disturbance. My ears flicker to a different sound. The faint rustling of weeds growing in that abandoned lot, the chirping of sparrows unsuspecting of my innate desire to kill. I have adapted to living in the city, and I consider myself something of a veteran. While others smell the scent of burning rubber from the car attempting to avoid that foolish possum, I smell the offal, high in vitamins and minerals. My heart beats fast, even when I sleep. That is how I have survived here for so long.
Lately I have been spending my days beneath the chassis of an old Volkswagen Beetle parked in the alley between 31st and Broadway. The cobwebs connect the tires to the wheel well, so I guess you could say I’m pretty safe. Anyways, if one day I come back from the hunt to an empty parking space, well, the world is my oyster. Right now the weather is just perfect. It's been rather hot these past few days, but at this time in the morning, I really enjoy a good nap. Last night I went behind Luigi’s and found a can of anchovies under the dumpster. Saw this youngster getting a little too close for comfort, so I gave him the look, and he got the picture. The dumpster behind Luigi’s has been my territory for years now. I mean I piss everywhere around that joint, so there isn’t any reason he should even be coming to check this place… Lucky I didn’t rush him, little punk. I probably should not have eaten the whole tin though, that stuff was way too salty, and I think I may have disrupted my drinking schedule. Nevertheless you can’t let these young cats walk all over you, or else next thing you know, you’ll be begging some human for food and shelter.
The day grew hotter and the air more dry, as not a cloud could be witnessed. Children don’t play in fire hydrants these days, but that’s not because the Earth has gotten cooler, just a little more strict. Some people try to beat the heat, and some just embrace it. Across the street a group of teenagers are missing a day of class in an air-conditioned room to play basketball in the sweltering heat. The blacktop produces a strange haze much like the visible heat which rises from a charcoal grill. As the cat gazes from afar, the players appear to be running up and down the court without shoes or feet. Cars cross back and forth, pushing their sound into the alley as they pass by. Some engines are loud, while others are softer. Occasionally the sound that dominates is a quick word or two from a rap song. A homeless man sits in the shade of a palm tree, prodding at the open wound on his leg with dirty fingers. An ambulance passes by quickly with sirens wailing, going to god knows where. A shopping cart filled with junk is being pushed by an old lady, jangling each time a crack in the sidewalk is rolled over. She is white, but her skin is the color of a football. Each time a passerby crosses the entrance of the alleyway, the cat adjusts his ears, yet his eyes remain mostly closed, and his breathing is long and steady. Slowly his eyes open, and he lets out a big stretch, shakes his head and smacks his mouth.
Yep. Those anchovies really messed up my schedule. Almost feels like a hairball, but I haven’t cleaned myself in a couple days, so that can’t be it. I know all the places where there’s water around here, and even if I didn’t, my nose is pretty good. Old granny Sardinia usually puts out a dish of water on days like this, but that's quite a walk. Plus, one time, she put this goo on the back of my neck that smelled disgusting. No, we don’t want that... I could always go over to the junkyard and take some water from the bowl of that filthy mutt. Poor old guy is pretty much blind now; there’s no way he’d notice me... Still a little far though. (*Sniff* *Sniff* *Sniff*) Ahhh! Daniel’s Donuts must be having that sewer leak again, and that means I get three puddles all to myself, if you don’t count the yellowjackets. Well, let’s make this quick then.
He extended his arms out three or four steps, stretching his hind legs as he moved out from under the rusty car. With an arrogant poise, he turned around and began to strut through the alley like a king strolling through his estate. Keeping to the sides of the buildings as to walk in the shade, he halted before an old wooden fence. With a single shake of his tail, he leapt up onto the fence in a graceful bound. The smell of sweet dough permeated the air as he twitched his nose, still concentrating on the exact location of his little water hole within the urban jungle. As he neared closer to the donut shop, he could hear the clamouring of pots and pans inside, instinctively telling him to approach with ever more caution. Leaping from the fence, he landed on a gravel road which ran behind the shop, thereby noticing the patch of lush greenery which surrounded the freshwater puddles. Like a lion stalking his prey through the high grass of the savannah, he crept slowly to the edge of the water, causing the bees and butterflies to make way for his eminence. There in the midst of a polluted city, he had arrived at the garden paradise that was the sewage leak behind Daniel’s Donuts.
When standing tall and looking down, it was but a few murky puddles surrounded by weeds and reeking of sulfur, but when immersed in it, from the perspective of a humble alley cat, it was quite a charming oasis indeed. A few murky puddles became three distinct ponds, teeming with life. Bees gathered around the edges, drinking their fill. Dragonflies skipped upon the water and chased each other from one blade of grass to the next. Tadpoles darted along the bottoms of the pools, kicking up clouds of silt. What may look like mere weeds were three distinct plants. Dandelions, whose delicate yellow flowers had just begun to blossom. Peppermint, whose fragrance wafted through the air and tinged the water with a unique and subtle flavor. St. Augustine grass, whose tangled foliage provided shelter to innumerous little insects. All of this beauty was there for only the discerning to see, and of course, to taste.
I filled my belly until I could barely move. No way I’m going back to the alley in this state. Let’s just rest here for a spell. I believe the shade of this weeping willow will make for a great spot to take a nap. Besides, it's kind of noisy over there. Why listen to the cars drive by all day when I can lie under this willow tree to be serenaded by my lunch. In the meantime I can finally get around to cleaning myself, but first, I’ll catch some sleep.