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Manhattan

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Mixed media
30" x 40"

Serge Lecomte

OUTDOOR CAT

Cal Setar

“His name was Tiger.


“El Tigre, The Keeper of the Neighborhood.


“It’s funny. I didn’t actually meet him until we’d already been on the block for a couple of years, you know, this big-bellied guy sauntering up to me some sunny day.  Me on the stoop trying to suck in every last ray, all the light I’d missed over the last few months locked away for the winter.  Him, dusty and bent and all goopy around the eyes.


“I knew his name, seen his face—but he’d never approached me before.


“He lived with the family across the street.  Or at least that’s what we said, what we told ourselves when we saw him slinking by in the colder weeks, the hottest months, picking his way past potholes and paper cups smooshed down to nothing by an endless stream of cars passing down the block.  And even if he did, even if they did let him in every few days, every week or so, kept a supply of dry food out and available, maybe even a bowl of fresh water—well, water at the very least—it surely wasn’t a good life, wasn’t a happy existence, whatever that means.


“Kids everywhere.  Stuff too.  In the house and out, so far as we could tell. All over the block.


“Yelling and cursing and parking half on the curb like the entire damn neighborhood belonged to them.  She’s a nurse, I think, or at least that’s what I guessed since I’d seen her come and go in scrubs a handful of times.  He, well—I’m realizing I have no idea.  He’s there a lot.  Seems to spend time with the kids, which is probably good.  Seems to always be the one driving the beat-up SUV that winds up parked on our sidewalk, leaking oil and whatever else, leaving that huge and ugly and permanent stain on the concrete right over there.


“The damn kids though.  Running up and down the block, always riding bikes.  It’s not that they’re bad or even out to cause problems—they’re just always there.  Like the stuff and the car and Tiger too.


“Well.  He was, at least.


“We actually found him—Pen and I—we found him.  Tiger, I mean.  The other week.  He was in the middle of the street, all crumpled up like one of those cups—and now this.  Jesus.  Pen took him to the shelter, of course.  It was the least we could do. But it was too late, nothing that could be—Eileen.


“I’m sorry—Eileen.  That was her name.  Kinda just blinked into my mind.  The woman.  The one you asked about.  The older one.  Grandma or nana or whatever, basically just a thinner, smaller version of the nurse.  I’d met her once too, a long time ago, maybe when we’d first moved in, maybe a month or year later.  You know, when things are supposed to be calm, maybe just calmer or at least more settled, though of course they never really are, right?


“She offered her name, asked if we’d seen Tiger recently.  We introduced ourselves, said we were new on the block, said no, sorry, we hadn’t, but that we’d keep an eye out.  Penny, my wife, works with animals, after all.  She’d keep an eye out. Here at home, but at the shelter too.  But we were pleased to meet her—Eileen that is—and happy to be in the neighborhood and would absolutely let her know.  We never did, of course, but, really, how could we have?  You could just tell.  Right away.  They were one of those families.  One of those families you all visit a lot.


“I had to stop myself from laughing, I remember.


“Why?  Because of—because of her eye.  It was—I don’t know.  It didn’t work.  One of her eyes—one of Eileen’s eyes.  It was foggy or glassy or it just didn’t work.  And her name was Eileen and she asked if we’d seen Tiger and then Pen said the thing about keeping an eye out and—listen. I’m sorry. I think I’m just a little rattled. First Tiger, now this—what’s next, the whole damn block burns down? The city?”

“That’s no problem, sir. If you have any more informati—.”

“Say, what’d you say the little girl’s name was again?  No, no—on second thought, maybe don’t tell me. I think I already know which one you mean anyway.”

Cal Setar is a writer living in Philadelphia.  Previously, his work has appeared in The Woven Tale Press, Solstice Literary Magazine, Levee Mag, and Blue Mountain Review.

Serge Lecomte was born in Belgium.  He emigrated to Brooklyn in 1960.  After graduating high school, he became a medic in the Air Force.  He earned a PhD from Vanderbilt University in Russian Literature, worked as a Green Beret language instructor, and received a BA in Spanish Literature from the University of Alaska, where he taught from 1978–1997.  He built houses, worked as a pipefitter, orderly, landscaper, driller, and bartender.  He is also a published poet, novelist, playwright, and artist.