Cats and Fish
He stood on the sidewalk pulling small, white cats out of his mouth, each one twisting in his hands like a scorpion caught by the tail. Most of them wandered off, one almost got hit by a car. Another curled up and went to sleep in a flowerpot. He pulled out five cats and then he leaned over and spat onto the pavement.
"Hey," I said, though I was sure he wouldn't respond. I said hey to anything — buses, children with ice cream cones, blind people. No one ever said hey back. The man shook his hand like he didn't want anything, didn't have the time.
"Why you doing that?" I asked.
"Pulling cats out of your mouth."
"Why, are you allergic?"
"Are they bothering you?"
"Want to see something?"
Before I could answer, he began tweezing something out from between his front teeth.
"I think this is yours," he said and held up a tiny goldfish. My fish had died about a week ago but I had left it in the bowl, just in case it wasn't really dead.
"That's not mine," I said.
"Sure it is."
"No, mine was black."
The man looked at the fish and frowned.
"Are you going to do the cat thing again?" I asked.
"Will you come and do it tomorrow?"
"Don't think so."
I watched as he crumpled the fish into his fist like a piece of paper. I had a feeling that if I had said it was mine, everything would have been different.
Because We Are Precious And Brave
Jobin was leaning against the wall, a bloodied handkerchief against his left eye. He did not seem despondent or in pain — in fact, he looked like he was waiting for the bus. I thought we should probably go to a doctor but Jobin said there was no point, since they had taken his eye with them.
I wondered what they would do with Jobin's eye — someone had said they were artists so there was really no telling what they would do. They would probably wear it in a buttonhole like a chrysanthemum. If they had been animal rights activists they might have given it back.
"D'you know what my grandmother used to say?" said Jobin. "She would say sit in the sun, Jobin. Keep your back straight, think of God and your ancestors blessing you with thick black hair and good eyesight. Everything will be alright."
I pictured Jobin as a small boy, hair neatly plastered to his head, his large, liquid eyes almost too big for his face.
"That's nice," I said.
"Not really. I kept getting sunstroke."
"We could ask for it back you know," I said. "I could take them a cake or a kitten or something. Maybe they've kept it on ice and we can get a doctor to sew it back in. Or maybe it’s still in there! Do you think maybe —"
Jobin shook his head and adjusted the handkerchief over his eye. I leaned against the wall and wondered what would be harder — getting his eye back or finding a place to sit in the sun.
Kuzhali Manickavel lives in a small temple town on the coast of South India. Her work can be found at Subtropics, Per Contra, Salt Flats Annual, Quick Fiction, and Caketrain.
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stories copyright by author 2008 all rights reserved