“Chance the Cat,” by David Means

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David Means reads.

Does it matter that a cat story resides solely in the body of a cat, remaining neutral as the creature moves through the landscape, operating on pure instinct, and, no matter what, embodying the projected will of the human? There is little else that the cat can do. All one can do is attempt to watch the animal as it performs its actions, with time suspended and meaningless. As it does, the painful history from the first to the last, the dirt back roads, the chains, and the rattle of iron, are voided in the cat—that dusty old symbol, the red open mouth at the end of a Poe story, a freakish shadow, razor teeth crying behind a wall.

What matters is that they were walking that day in opposite directions along the same path, with the neo-Gothic buildings of the university framing a sombre Chicago sky. There was William’s smile and then his voice as Kayla heard it for the first time. She was from a place called Sparks, not far from Reno, a neat little bungalow house on a street snaked with asphalt seam sealer. There was an exchange of words, an adjusting of bodies into casual positions and a forward movement, slightly dancelike, as they talked. It was his freckles, and the frankness of his eyes, and the commonality of the place where they met, too, the way their paths crossed into the initial physical contact—he was looking at his phone when he bumped into her, sent her staggering back—and the comic aspect of the way their bodies touched that afternoon.

What matters is that a few weeks later the two of them found him on the corner of Fifty-third and Woodlawn, a street cat with matted black fur and a smear of white cutting across his face at an odd angle that broke the symmetry of his features but made him oddly beautiful. His paws were bloodied and his eyes bloodshot and, when she went to him, he let himself be lifted into her arms and then he relaxed, sagging. It was a cool fall night. “I want to keep him,” she said, and he said, “Yeah, let’s keep him, yes,” and they took him to her apartment.

Does it matter that, later, when Kayla was finished with her graduate work and was drafting an essay that drew, loosely, on her relationship with William, she wrote: the cat was a bonding agent, a linguistic mode around an object, or an animal, or a work of art that allows for a bridge between profound differences in experience which appear on the lingual level in patterns of storytelling and in the tension which forms around a new type of structure?

What mattered was that after she’d edited that part of her essay, got rid of the lingo, it became obvious that having a cat had provided them with reasons and ways to talk to each other over the course of the fall, through the winter, and into the spring.

Does it matter that the cat was black with that white streak across his face, or that William was white with freckles and a small crescent scar above his eyebrow, from playing hockey, or that her skin was brown, or that he was studying Henry Louis Gates and writing a thesis on the theory of signification, turning his attention to how his type had taken to signifying, too, and that he tried this hypothesis out all the time and sounded like an idiot but that was also endearing somehow—at least those first few weeks—because he seemed aware of his own awareness in a funny way, dipping his head from side to side before laughing at himself? Or does it matter that she was doing her graduate work on Foucault, who famously had a cat?

What mattered was that after bumping into each other they walked to the café next to the bookstore and had their first conversation in human language while the cat was still on the street, one of hundreds on Chicago’s South Side that autumn who hunted small rodents and birds, and, on occasion, were fed by kindhearted professorial types who clucked and called and lured them with a saucer of milk.

Did it matter that as they sat having coffee that first day outside Seminary Co-op, William talked about A Tribe Called Quest and Q-Tip and Eric Dolphy and Cannonball Adderley, and then shifted to talk about growing up in a suburb north of Chicago, with a father who was a labor lawyer, and she noticed his ironic style in the way he adjusted his manner of speaking for her benefit? Or that she shrugged this off as something she’d heard a million times? Or that through the bushes, beyond the tables at the outdoor café, workers were repairing the university’s Frank Lloyd Wright house, pushing wheelbarrows of bricks, pounding with hammers? Or that the sky that fall afternoon wasn’t sombre at all but a pristine blue with puffy clouds—the blue and white of William’s eyes—and that, looking into his eyes as he spoke, she saw snow on the mountains near Reno in the winter?

Did it matter that William mentioned Frank Lloyd Wright and then listened as she explained how unimpressed she was with Fallingwater, how she felt that the structure clutching the rock with the meek waterfall passing beneath it somehow fit too neatly into nature and, for that reason, weirdly, pushed itself away from nature, and that really it was better to design things that stood in stark opposition to nature—she sipped her coffee and looked through the bushes—as a way of respecting the two things, somehow, and she let her thoughts trail off and he took over, trying to make a joke, saying, “I think we should dub him Frank Lloyd White because his designs didn’t fucking function, were wasteful, and weren’t built for comfort, which is what we really want, need,” and then he laughed and reached up to move the long, loose lock of hair that flopped down across his forehead, taking it in his fingers and tugging it to the side, a gesture she’d see again and again that fall?

What mattered was the way she carried his lame joke into the future and, one day, a few years later, found herself standing at the window of her new office at the University of Nevada, Reno, looking at the mountains and wondering how she might incorporate it into her essay.

What mattered was that when she saw one of the workers, pushing a wheelbarrow loaded with bricks, she thought of her father in his hammock strung between two cottonwoods, one foot on the dusty ground, pushing, still dressed in his security-guard uniform, a white shirt and star-shaped badge, touching his mustache as he talked about the casino, a customer who misunderstood directions for how to get to Starbucks, came back around and berated him and then asked for directions again and went down the escalator only to return, minutes later, even redder in the face than before.

Did it matter that her father got quiet at that point and lifted his dangling leg into the hammock and lay with his arms behind his head and looked through the leaves at the sky and let it all just sink in while she gave him a push and watched him rock?

What mattered was that while they were sitting in the café having that first talk, the cat—which at that point was unnamed—was curled up in a patch of sun out on Promontory Point, along the shore of Lake Michigan, resting, licking his paws as he kept his attention on birds that were bustling in the dirt, and felt tension gathering as he stretched out and stayed low and began to stalk, being cat and existing as cat, moving slowly, keeping close to the ground.

What might matter is that the cat hunched alongside the waves crashing upon the rocky shore at the Point. The breeze carried the distinct aroma of fish, a scent he momentarily disregarded as his entire focus remained on that flock of birds, bathing in the dirt. Their wings emitted a soft whirring sound as they took flight, only to land once more. Consumed by cat sensations, he crept toward the birds, now and then pausing to crouch and remain motionless. A low growl escaped him as he patiently awaited the birds’ obliviousness, their return to the dust, where they fluttered, chirping and tweeting loudly, until a human passerby startled them, causing them to take flight and forget the cat completely. And so he would wait again, perfectly immobile, until they descended, inching closer, repeating the routine. Meanwhile, Kayla and William sat in the café, engaging in conversation for the very first time.

Did it matter that later in the fall they took a train together to Michigan City, Indiana, where they rented an apartment for the weekend? They hauled their books and laptops, eager to write side by side in a quiet place with a view of the lake. During the train ride, the conductor came calling for tickets. He reached across to take William’s ticket, leaning forward slightly, holding his ticket punch like a gun. Then, pointing it at Kayla, he said casually, “Having a nice day?” Her subsequent exchange with William didn’t seem to matter much at the time, but it did later, when she was trying to remember the dynamic, writing: Did you catch that shit? What shit? That shit from the conductor? I didn’t see anything. What shit?

What mattered was that at that moment, as they sat together on the train, the cat was back in the apartment on the South Side sitting on the couch, blinking his eyes—green flecked with brown, the color of pistachio ice cream—purring for no other reason than that a clean, hard slice of sunlight came through the window and struck his back and stayed there as he stretched his paws out, settling into the top edge of the couch, and he let his paws spread and dig as he settled, closing and opening his eyes, hearing cars pass by on the street and the sound of human voices and, from time to time, music rising and fading, into the resolute, complete self of cat while he also remained acutely on guard for any shift or change and, on hearing a bird outside, he twitched his ears to better catch what he sensed was sound that in no way meant anything beyond itself and then, closing his eyes again, he relaxed into sleep.

Did it matter that one Sunday she sat in Valois Restaurant on Fifty-third Street, observing the churchgoers in their elegant hats, while William tried to engage her in a conversation about something Obama-related—the fact that the President used to eat there—and his thesis, and the concept of signification as defined by Gates? As he spoke, her thoughts drifted to her father one afternoon just before she left for college. He was bent over the back-yard grill, surrounded by smoke, talking to her about how, during his time stationed at the casino, he would watch people gimping and limping and hobbling through the hotel lobby. “One out of ten of those folks has a foot or leg problem, you know what I’m sayin’,” he said, looking over at her while she gently swayed in the hammock. Then he laughed his big laugh filled with breath, throat, and smoke.

What truly mattered was that her father’s laugh, resting in the solitude of that long-ago afternoon, embraced by the gentle desert light and the sounds of a late-summer evening, brought a smile to her face as she sat at the table with William that morning. “What are you smiling about, Kayla?” “Nothing,” she said.

Did it matter that there were a few perfect days that would remain in her memory, days when they listened to music and shared ideas, days when they sat with the cat and William danced around the apartment, imitating his father’s flat, secure, calm legal voice; days when the clear fall air came across the quad as they walked, as he told her about fishing trips to northern Wisconsin, clipping his voice in a way she liked; or how she reached down and pulled the threads from a hole in his jeans, spreading her fingers over his bony white kneecap?

What mattered was that when she went back over things—afterward, in Reno—and tried to recall a particular perfect day, late in the fall, all she could remember was the way his tight, Midwestern voice had slipped into lecture mode as he talked about his research—theorizing about the so-called “signifying monkey.” And the way he listened to her, not saying a word, just nodding his head, as she spoke about Foucault’s theory of the panopticon and then waited for him to respond, watching as he gently forced the cat off his lap, stood, and began talking about how her work might—“yeah, man,” he said—just might inform his own, so that he could take the idea of the panopticon and apply it to his theories about the jazz musicians sampled by Tribe who had, in their time, played music toward one another, as if in cells facing the center of the prison.

What mattered was the way William noticed a swampy smell that seeped up through the concrete on South Harper as they took a shortcut to campus one warm day, and the way he ordered her to stop, to hold still, saying “Stop, stand still,” and insisted that she listen to the faint yet distinct hum of the nearby train tracks, to the way they emitted an electric zing sound between passing trains. When she confessed that she couldn’t hear anything, he simply smiled at her and shrugged.

Does it matter that stories demand that one character take over another somehow, so that the burden falls unevenly? Right after Kayla left William, she thought about his inability to see her clearly, to reflect back the parts of herself that her mother, dying in a hospital bed when she was six, had given to her, smiling as she ran her fingers over Kayla’s cheeks, a certain resolute tension in her mother’s mouth, until tears slid down her cheeks. In the early days of the relationship, she’d told William about this, saying, “the tears my mother passed to me,” and watched his pale, wintry blue eyes for his response.

What matters is that human stories demand nuances of gesture, the touch of lips to lips, the way skin feels and the struggle to avoid cliché, until finally he’s trying to describe how he sees the color of her skin, saying it’s cocoa brown or burnished something—hickory or mahogany—and she tells him to shut up, lifting her voice, tightening the words, and then, as if to betray her own thought, kisses him and says it’s O.K., she forgives him for his foolishness.

Did it matter that with snow falling on the streets and an unsettling silence covering the neighborhood, William lay in bed conjuring up a backstory for the cat, drawing inspiration from a song by Chance the Rapper that he loved, imagining the cat living the good life at Sixty-fifth and Ingleside? In his story, the cat ventured outside one afternoon to assert his territory, to hunt his turf, and, hearing that phrase, Kayla gently pressed her fingers against his lips, urging him to stop, and her fingers remained there as he continued to talk, and she felt the soft, moist air of his breath and then, as he continued talking, she got up from the bed and crossed the room to gaze out the window and beheld the creamy smoothness of the snowy street, flakes swirling under the street light and, on the corner, a Secret Service agent, stationed to protect President Obama’s house on the opposite side, bracing against the wind, his shoulders epaulets of white.

Cartoon by Sarah Kempa

What mattered was that the cat slept peacefully at the end of the bed, undisturbed by the shifting sheets and the restless movement of human feet as they moaned and kicked that night. The cat fell into a chasm of sleep.

What mattered was the inherent need all cats have to sleep, to curl up in a chosen spot and surrender themselves to deep slumber, although it could be inferred that most maintain a certain level of awareness, a tension—whiskers twitching, even during their restful states—opening their eyes to survey the scene before descending back into sleep. But there are moments—she wrote in her essay—when fatigue overwhelms, leaving them drained, battered, and vulnerable as they plunge into a profound abyss of sleep that potentially exposes them to danger.

What truly mattered was that whenever she imagined Chance’s previous life she pictured him out on Promontory Point on a stormy day fending for himself in his own way—his fur bristling in the wind as he skillfully hunted along the breakwater for fish and birds—before, she imagined, venturing down the path and darting across Lake Shore Drive to enter their lives, diligently searching for them. That was the story she told when they attempted to piece together the fragments of the cat’s life before they found him.

Did it matter that the Secret Service agent stationed on the corner on that snowy night was Black? His job involved stopping anyone who came into the neighborhood, to check them off a list, to keep his zone secure.

What mattered was that the agent, Dwight Howard, who was assigned to stop and check anyone who entered the zone of the Obama house, would stand on the corner across from 1118 E. Hyde Park Boulevard, touching his earpiece, deliberately taking his time whenever he stopped Kayla, William, or both of them together. In his mind, thoughts swirled about putting people through it, a phrase commonly used in routine training.

What mattered was that he recounted his regular encounters with the couple (Kayla and William) in great detail to his wife, Dara, observing her closely, searching for signs of judgment on her face as he talked about putting the kid through it, explaining that putting the kid through it meant taking extra care to stay alert, to avoid getting lazy, the way folks who operate trains in Japan are required to speak things out loud, even when they’re alone in the train cab, verbalizing signals to avoid being careless, even when it seems redundant, and sticking to the book no matter what, even if you make a positive I.D. ahead of time, same thing the T.S.A. folks do when pulling randoms aside and frisking them, going through old ladies, little kids, the enfeebled, not for the sake of display but because it keeps you inside the reality of routine. (“You’re just pulling power on folks and you know it and the agency knows it and the T.S.A. knows it, too, and the folks who are pulled aside know it the most,” she told him.) And he’d tell her again how boring and dull things could get and how you had to do whatever you fucking had to do to keep it real. “You know me,” he said. “You know me the same way the kid said I knew him.”

Without a word he looked down at the kid, who said again, “You know me,” and he thought: I do know you but I’m going to pretend not to know you because that’s my job right now, son, and my job is not to see you as if I’ve seen you before, walking with your girlfriend to her apartment, but to see you afresh, as if for the first time, one stranger to the next, just as you over the years—fuck it, the centuries—have not seen me and never once pretended to even try to see me, as you stopped and put me through it, put all of us through it, and what I’m hoping you’re feeling right now is the danger of being suspect by virtue of the fact that you happen to be coming down this street right now into federal space, son, looking the way you look with high-top sneakers and loping gait and your eyes startled with your sense of dignity.

What mattered was Simmons, his friend from their academy days, sharing a tale about his father, who claimed to have once worked security for James Brown, Simmons recounting how his father would stand with his back to the show, arms crossed and eyes forward, while James took off his fucking cape or fell into the arms of his handlers. Simmons talked about how his father was afraid to turn around because James would fire his ass, or fine him the way he fined his band members when they flubbed a note. There was another guy at the academy who claimed his father worked a Fenway Park gig, watching the crowd while the game played out behind him, standing with his arms folded, scanning for problems from one season to the next, never daring to turn around, to divert his attention, because “you turn and glance at the play and an asshole’s gonna punch some other asshole is how it worked,” that father used to say, and it was a phrase that Dwight would repeat again and again for the rest of his life, telling the story, just as he’d tell about the time the President, a year after Dwight finally got rotated to D.C., walked him through a bookstore and talked to him casually.

Is it possible to describe the looks that Kayla gave this agent during those routine stops, watching his gaze shift between William and her? The subtle yet noticeable intensity in her eyes, a mix of curiosity and anticipation, as she observed the agent closely? She watched him fixate on William before flickering to her and returning just as quickly to William as he asked him for his I.D.

What truly mattered was the moment when Kayla finally talked back to the agent, who had stopped them countless times over the months they had been living together, and said, “You should know us by now, with how often you stop us,” and watched as he looked her over and assessed her Western way of speaking and then, as it seemed he had done so many times before, turned his attention to William, scanning him from his feet up to his head, taking in his tall and lanky frame before stating, “Just doing my job, Ma’am,” twisting into that last word with his eyes hidden behind his sunglasses in a gesture that somehow made her sure that he had Googled William’s name, researched his home in Wilmette—as she had—scrutinized the wide streets and the trees arching over the road, casting deep shadows over the pristine pavement, and the blue oval pools in the back yards, and maybe even knew that an owner of the Chicago Cubs lived down William’s street, which was something that William mentioned whenever he spoke about home, so that it seemed to her in retrospect that this tidbit of information had permeated the air of the South Side, bouncing around, slipping into the small earpiece that the agent wore that afternoon and touched one last time, as if pushing a finger into her chest.

What truly mattered was the agent’s commitment to his duties and his catlike cool and calm and resolved stillness, which came from training and seemed natural to Kayla, because it was the same coolness that she vividly recalled seeing in her father one afternoon after school, when she paid him a surprise visit at the casino. Before he noticed her, she watched him standing alone in the hotel lobby, holding himself in the same exact manner as the agent on the sidewalk now, his legs spread, his impeccably polished shoes planted firmly on the maroon carpeting that stank of smoke, scanning the room for action with the same stoic strength and readiness to face whatever lay ahead.

What truly mattered was that she could easily imagine—and did so later—the agent stationed inside the Obamas’ house, in the quiet and solitude behind its tall fence. She imagined him moving silently from room to room, brushing his hand lightly over certain objects, photos in frames, hairbrushes on dresser tops, beds with spreads tight and smooth. She imagined him navigating the rooms with grace, his movements reverent and respectful.

What matters is the daunting challenge of describing the intricate dynamic that unfolded between Kayla and the agent during those recurring stops, beginning in the fall and continuing through the winter and into the spring, and the way the essence of the stops was conveyed through glances and small gestures. Dwight pausing to take off his sunglasses, exposing his gaze, waiting with measured deliberation before reaching out to take her license between his long, lean fingers, as if it were something of both insignificance and immense value, holding it like a piece of trash, or a delicate square of lace, before handing it slowly back to her and watching as she, with just as much deliberation, returned it to her wallet, snapped her wallet shut, and then placed the wallet in her purse, snapping that shut in turn and putting the strap back over her shoulder before looking at him again, and giving him one of her fake smiles.

Did it matter that one afternoon, William, alone and exasperated, said to the agent, “Come on, man, for fuck’s sake, you know me, man,” and that the agent shook his head and whispered “Just doing my job,” before he asked for William’s backpack and took his time rummaging through it, removing a pack of chewing gum and a laptop before tapping his earpiece and calling for a double check on one William Wilson, waiting for a confirmation on the name while they both stood and gazed at the house, the imposing iron fence, and the lush, deep-green lawn? In that moment, the agent and William shared a glance as a plane ascended from Midway Airport, the sound fading away with the passing of a booming car beat. It was a fleeting moment of unity, a brief interlude within their shared solitude.

Did it matter that on that day, before he was stopped, William had instinctively adjusted his backpack strap over one shoulder and retrieved his wallet from his pocket, getting his license ready before the agent stopped him? Or that Dwight had been thinking back to the way his father liked to work underneath his car in the driveway on Sunday afternoons, his long legs sticking out, the clink of wrenches hitting the blacktop, and the way his father cleaned his nails with toothpicks over the kitchen sink when he came home from the shop on weekdays, and as he was having these thoughts he turned and scanned and saw the kid down the street approaching with his license out and ready?

What mattered was that as he put the kid through it he felt the terror of something inside his loss and against his will, against his sense of himself as a trained professional, he felt a connection between that moment and the accident that had taken his father, as if the kid in front of him had kicked the concrete block out from behind the tire that afternoon so that the car slid down the ramp and crushed his father’s body. He snatched the kid’s license. When the kid said, “Come on, sir, I mean Jesus, you know who I am. Do we have to go through this every single time I go home?,” he told him to shut up and held his license up as if he’d never seen it before and took his sweet fucking time while, overhead, a jet coming in to land at Midway roared, and when the kid—his eyes fearful and red splotches forming on his cheeks—spoke again, saying, “I know you’re just doing your job but, man, sir, you know this is ridiculous,” he raised his head and told him again to shut up and took his backpack and went through it a second time, removing his laptop, another pack of gum, his phone, and when the clearance of the name came back from HQ he tapped his earpiece, pretended not to hear, and held him as long as he could.

What mattered was the shaky way William crossed the street after being released—his shoulders slouched under the burden of his backpack straps, his legs shuddering slightly, his hands quivering as he tried to get the key into the door and then held it open, pausing to look back at the agent, who was still watching him, staring his way while the cat slipped around his legs and darted, unseen, into the bushes and then, with sweeping bounds, passed through a gap in the fence, stopping for a moment to take in the world, before strutting along the sidewalk in the direction of the lake.

What mattered in the end was that Kayla found a way to get the cat to fit into her essay, with his white paws and his off-kilter smear of white across one eye and his pink mouth. And, fuck it, the way the song by Chance the Rapper, “65th & Ingleside,” hit you and made you want to create something not so much because it was a great song but because of the repetition of that address, that specific locale, although you’d later find out that Chance the Rapper was considered uncool, unhip at that time, and you’d feel the cat had a way of drawing the light out of everything because he was so far from human, beyond the target of creation, and you had to keep working to twist the story back to Kayla and William but found yourself slinking, lurking, trailing them as they searched block by block, even stopping to ask the agent if he’d seen the cat, noting the slight smile he gave, lifting just one corner of his mouth, before he said, “No, no cat like that as far as I can remember,” and turned and walked away, and then a storm came through later that afternoon, driving the lake into a fury while they searched at the Point, calling his name. They put up signs around the campus, walking through the quad. They placed a saucer of milk, a little blue bowl, outside the sliding door, waiting and watching it day after day.

In the end, what mattered was that when they lost the cat the spark was gone, the electricity of those first few months of the relationship. At the heart of the breakup, buried deep and unspoken, was the untold truth—William’s failure to tell her about the encounter with the agent and the overwhelming feeling he had at the apartment door that day, his hand trembling with the key, holding the door open too long, giving Chance a chance to slip away. Later, when she was teaching in Reno, standing in her office looking out at the campus, with mostly new buildings—and catching glints of sunlight in the snow on the mountains—she’d ponder the way everything had fallen apart after Chance disappeared, leaving them alone without a bonding agent.

In the end, what mattered was the story they created together, imagining the cat wandering to the south until, one day, he was at a house that you saw from the train, gazing into the back yards and the streets, mostly empty, on hot summer afternoons, noting the windows that were covered with bars and the ones that were boarded, and the way the streets seemed to stretch in the shimmering heat—a few trees still thriving, casting deep shadows of cool—and, in particular, a specific house with a tidy yard, a fence, a neat house with a clothesline and laundry hanging and an older woman leaning over a basket, stopping to look up.

In the end, follow the cat to that very house and observe as the lady becomes aware of his presence in her back yard—yet another stray. Watch as she goes inside briefly, only to reëmerge with a saucer in hand—a delicate blue with a slender band of white—and places it gently on the ground. Watch as the cat, with his wonderful twists of tongue, laps the milk into his mouth and then sits and raises a paw to meticulously groom himself. Listen to the woman as she makes a soft clicking sound, beckoning the cat closer, engaging in a casual conversation about what a beautiful day it is, a lovely singsong of isolation as the cat twirls around her legs and eventually pauses, raising his head to meet her eyes with his vibrant green eyes, while his purring is loud enough to hear over the distant thrum of the expressway beyond the railroad tracks.

Watch as she takes the cat inside and searches through the cupboards, her hands shifting through cans until she finds a tin of sardines—left over from the days when her husband was still alive, before he was killed in the driveway, crushed when a block of concrete came loose and the car rolled down the ramp. Watch and understand that the story ends in the safety of a house, inside a certain silence that you yearned for as you listened to Kayla and William’s arguments about their research, about their lives, as they attempted to build something meaningful around the cat’s absence.

Watch while Kayla wrestles with the impulse to blame William for letting the cat escape, while he, in turn, goes to great lengths to avoid any mention of the agent or the encounter that afternoon. He never shares the details with her, so his inner life disappears from view, preventing you from entering his mind. Maybe you don’t want to because his mind is shamefully close to your own, yet when you do try to catch his thoughts, all you find are muddled emotions rooted in fear and a lingering sense of shame about being targeted by the agent—an idea he swiftly pushes aside, replacing it with the notion that the agent was simply doing his job.

In the end what matters is the way the house and the saucer of milk and the old lady were something they had made up together, one last story to talk about, a story to make it easier to let go by pretending that Chance was alive and happy, tucked into a safe place forever.

In the end, the cat carries their story away, embodying it with nimble paws and a heightened awareness of everyday movements. It is something that only the cat can carry, the burden, enigma, and even terror of love that Kayla experienced the afternoon she parted ways with William, seeing the buds on the trees shaking in the breeze from Lake Michigan, and, as she walked back to her apartment, an absurd, lingering pile of late-spring snow slowly melting, pocked and honeycombed into strange structures, hazed with dirt, in a parking lot in South Side Chicago. ♦

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