By Patrick Mapp


A thousand trees loomed over our neighborhood.  A wall of pine and spruce that stretched to the horizon.  Every day we walked the terminus of suburbia.  We watched as our shadows grew and warped into cartoon obscenities on the sidewalk, then got lost in the dusk and finally became swallowed in the night.  One night, as we reached the furthest point of my walk, the sky turned dark crimson.  Streaked with bad omens, the whole firmament looked like a claw, poised to strike.  The long walk home was unbearable for our silent apprehension.


The sky darkened even more and we quickened our pace.  The air was cool, but left a tangy, acid taste on our tongues.  Our steps brought us into the halo of a lone streetlight and we stopped and looked at each other.  My wife – so radiant in the sun – was a washed out photograph of a woman in the pale glow of artificial light.  She was a memory of a dream and she flickered with the rhythm of a halogen bulb.


“Defenestrate logjam,” she said.  Her voice broke the quiet of the night with the importance of a radio alert.  “Multiplex origami, tumescent quarterly with irregular Catholicism,” she continued.


I opened my mouth, but could not speak.  I coughed into my fist and felt the sting of tears at the corners of my eyes.  A confused look spread across her face, her brow furrowed in worry.


“Meow?” she asked and she put an ethereal hand on my arm. “Meow meow?”


From the top of the nearest tree a cat wailed.  The kind of hair-raising, heart-wrenching sound that only cats can make.  I searched for the source of the sound – tried to see the outline of a cat.  It was so high up and the sky and trees were so dark that I couldn’t see it.  It wailed again, that same lost, mournful sound.  My wife’s ghostly hands pulled at me, but I ignored her.  I stepped to the edge of the circle of light and strained to see.


I gasped and my view shifted.  I was on my back, on the sidewalk.  Above me, the specter of my beloved bobbed in slow motion.  Her hair waved and bounced as if she were under water.  The bright streetlight blazed like a tiny, cold sun, but I could almost see the trees and the sky.  I could hear her voice, lost somewhere in the static.  She was a foreigner on a distant radio.  Everything about her came in a garbled, poor translation.


Another cat wailed, from a different tree.  I coughed again and struggled to sit up.  Tears rolled down my cheeks.  The two cats formed a harmony of soul-churning loss and were joined by another.  My arm lost all its strength and I fell back to the cement again.  More cats joined in the chorus and the pitch began to rise.  Lost.  Abandoned.  Utterly alone.  A thousand cats, at the tops of a thousand trees, each one helpless and isolated.  A wall of misery that stretched to the edge of the world.


Through my sobs my wife became more clear.  Her frantic eyes sought mine and her phantom words became more urgent.  I needed to tell her.  About the cats, about the way their moans filled the heavens.  How they screamed their fears to the stars.  I caught my breath and fixed her in my sight.


“On… tenterhooks,” I said.  My words slurred.  “Anticipation.”


And then the streetlight went dark.  And the cats fell silent.



Patrick Mapp has created work in so many formats he has lost track. He plays word games and creates surrealist poetry at Thursday Night Coffee. He’s never suffered aphasia, thrombosis, or cerebrovascular distress, but he has done a lot of drugs. Not that you’d notice. Although he appreciates his independence and personal liberty, he still lives on the West Coast, with his wife and two fantastic children.

Published on June 29, 2008 at 9:57 pm  Leave a Comment  

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