“Them Three” by Colm Reynor

They stopped and listened. The sound came from up ahead where the road bent and the trees were dark and jagged against a pale and puffy sky. “Ye hear it?” Danny finished his smoke and flicked it away between thumb and forefinger and watched it land and fade.

“Yeah.”

“Yeah.”

“Sounds alive doesn it?”

“That’s defo an animal or sum’n.” Taller than the other two Morgan took the last drag from her smoke and threw it into the bushes that huddled along the roadside. Jay followed it with his eyes. “No smokes.” he muttered.

“Were you not behind the prefabs today?” Danny said. “Shuda scabbed one ye dope.”

“Was there bu’ Bates came around an’ stung everyone, I legged it though.”

“Master Bates.”

Jay chuckled. “Interferin wi’imself all day in his office.”

“Reckon it’s a cat,” Morgan said.

The day was darkening and smelled of the earlier rain, the damp earth. Their breaths misted before them and vanished again in the damp air. “Cumom.”  Danny walked ahead. The other two followed. They watched him look about as if trying to find the origin of a voice whose origin was in the dying light of the day itself, and they watched him abruptly become still and cock his head like a bird might. They came up beside him.  A cat lay there curled and wet and broken.

“Jaysus.”

“It’s in bits.”

“It’s dead.”

“Clearly not, ye def.” Morgan spoke through her fingers yet with a force that made the other two look at her.

“It’s dead.” Jay said again.

“Shudup.”

Jay tucked his thumbs behind the straps of his schoolbag. “Sorry bu’ the things been squashed by a car or sum’n. It’s dead.”

“It’s not squashed just…”

“That sound its makin…” Danny said.

“Yeah it’s comin ou’ its arse. Cumom.” Jay took a step back. He looked at Danny and he looked at Morgan but he didn’t look at the cat. Nobody moved. The cat’s ribs like bony fingers clenching and unclenching.

“Are yiz comin or wha?”

Danny turned to Morgan. Something in him that he didn’t know knowing something in her that she didn’t know. No words. So he said nothing. Just the keening of the cat, and the cat in cold relief against the cold concrete.

“We could bring it down the doctors.”

“You for real?”

“It jus’ broke its leg, a vet could fix it.”

“Jus’ broke its leg, its other legs, and its neck by the looks of it. It’s dead.”

“It’s not fuckin dead.” Morgan’s fingers clenched at her mouth and then moved around her neck to scratch at her shoulder, like an antic imitation of strangling herself.  Jay shook his head. Danny said, “How we gonna bring it down the doctors ye mad t’ing?” Jay laughed. Danny ignored him.

“I’ll carry it.”

“You’ll carry it all the way down the doctors?” Danny wasn’t looking at Morgan, he was looking out over the road and the fields and the grey line of the horizon. The grey smudge of the clouds.

“Gonna rain.”

“I’ll carry it.”

“Go for it.”

Jay threw up his hands and slapped his thighs. “Weirdos.”

Morgan bent and moved one hand around the head of the cat. So slow she moved as though she and the cat and the road and the world itself might collapse beneath her. The fur along the cat’s shoulder blade was peeled back slightly. There was blood there. She kept looking at it. Her other hand moved under the cats rear. Then she tried to lift it. The cat made a sudden motion with its mouth and snarled and Morgan screamed and fell back. Jay was laughing from somewhere behind her. She was angry. Angry at who, what? She looked at the cat. The image of Tracey McGrath crying when she found a johnny in her pencil case kept interrupting the image of the cat. Weak. I’m not a cat. She stood straight. The straps of her schoolbag had slipped from her shoulders. She shrugged and shifted them back into place.

Jay had stopped laughing. “Are yiz righ’ for fuck sake.” Danny didn’t answer. Morgan was scratching her shoulder again.

“Ye gonna stay with the cat,” Danny joked, “ring an ambulance?”

“Don’t wanna leave it here… dunno.”

“We could kill it.” Danny wasn’t sure he had spoken the words. The thought hadn’t formed fully in his mind, instead just an abstract curiosity, like someone else was in his head with him. Then he imagined putting his foot on the cat’s neck. Kingadacats. Morgan was looking at him. He scraped the ground with the sole of his shoe, half laughing, half waiting for someone else to say something.  Jay half laughed too. The situation confused him. Morgan and Danny and the cat confused him.

“Ye gonna kill a cat jus’ lyin there like that?” Morgan said.

“Dunno. Sure it’s fucked anyway.”

“It’s a she.”

“Whatever. Be doin it a favour.”

Morgan let the breath out of her lungs as though some hidden part of her had been suddenly punctured and then bent again to pick the cat up and stopped. A crow was there not two feet away. Not there and then there as though whispered into existence. They watched it. It watched them. Danny imagined himself windowed behind one of those black glass eyes: The world black and white and grainy like an old movie, like everything was scratched into being. All sound scratched too, and all movement jerking and stuttering. What does it see? Death. Same as me. He imagined his foot on the cat’s neck again. Not the same. Morgan stamped her foot and the crow flew off.  Jay walked up to Danny and punched him in the arm. “It’s gonna rain. I’m goin.” He walked off. Danny made to sneak up behind him and kick him when he heard a shriek. He turned. Morgan was holding the cat in her arms.

“No way.”

“Her claws are diggin inta me.”

Morgan could feel the cat breathe in her arms, and she could feel the deepening twilight and everything it held breathe with it. Danny thought she was smiling. They just stood there.

Then Morgan said, “It’s cold underneath. Is there blood on me?”

“Jaysus.”

Danny took off his schoolbag and laid it down backside up and said, “Pu’er on this we can carry it like a stretcher.” Morgan looked at Danny and then looked at the bag. She placed the cat down on the bag. Her hands were shaking. There was blood on them and blood on her coat sleeves. “Shite,” she muttered, “me ma’s gonna kill me.” Danny laughed. “Wha’ we like?” Morgan laughed too. The cat whined its banshee whine. They walked. Little steps. Danny ahead, Morgan behind. Jay was walking back toward them with his phone to his eye pretending to take pictures in exaggerated motions, like some boy lunatic newly released from his straight jacket and delighting in the freedom.

“Kodak moment or wha?”

“Take one photo an’ ill punch the head off ye.”

“Wha? Tallaght Echo job this.”

Danny laughed. “Tallaght nut job.”

“Seriously though,” Jay said, scratching his head, “Wha’ the fuck like?” His narrowed eyes directed the words toward Morgan. His narrowed eyes didn’t look at the cat. Morgan had no answer. Or she had no words to express it. She was aware of her anger. It clung to her like the cats claws had done. The cat just left like that on the side of the road. I’m not a cat. She wondered if the driver of the car had felt the impact. She wondered if the cat was better off never being born, if being born was a decision made, a decision made and then forgotten. The ghost of the cat’s claws still pricked the skin of her arms. She clung to her anger, not the anger to her. At the silence Jay shrugged and put up his hood and walked on ahead.

A hazy rain began to pimple the air. The road turned again and dipped and the fields fell away. Houses appeared. The street lights beginning to burn, small yellow halos in the haze. A car passed and the rain could be seen heavier in its headlights. Big drops began to fall. Jay stopped and stood in against the wall under the trees that overhung the road. He was looking out from under the trees and up into the rain when the other two stopped beside him. He watched them almost warily. They put the bag down. Jay put his palm out and let the rain fall on it. “Yiz gonna walk down with that? In this?”

Danny shrugged.  He too looked out from under the trees and up into the rain. He heard the rain on the leaves above, a soft patter, like quickening footsteps. He didn’t hear the cat. He turned to Morgan. She was scratching her shoulder. “She’s dead.”

Danny wondered when exactly it happened. A moment, alive and then dead. Something felt hollow, empty. The air around him. The cat. He expected more. He looked down at the hollow cat. He thought about how he had said he would kill it.

Morgan began to walk off. She turned. She didn’t look at the cat. “Cumom migh’ as well walk, it’s not gonna stop.” Danny gave her a funny look. “Me bag.” He pulled his bag from underneath the cat in a rough jerk and the cat flopped over, like it was grappling at some feigned remnant of its lost life.

“Ouch. Musta gotta good smack.”

This hidden side of the cat revealed its ribcage like small white teeth emerging from bloody gums. Bits of fur scraped away as though by a child with a blunt tool. Eyes vacant, seeing nothing yet in them could be seen a dull reflected image of the world.  Morgan put her hands and sleeves out into the rain to wash them.  For the first time Jay came within touching distance of the cat. He leaned in to get a better look. Dead. Easy to be dead. Easier than dying.

“Here, giz your bag.”

Jay didn’t answer.

“Giz your bag.”

“Wha?”

“Ye stupid. I’m not keepin this. I’ll put me books in your bag.”

“You can carry it.”

Danny took the bag and put his books in it. He threw his own bag up over the wall into the trees. A rivulet of rain had begun to flow past. Fallen leaves bunched against the wall. Wet and withered leaves of faded autumn shades that seemed somehow brighter than they should gathered there against the wall, gathered beyond the dead cat. The little river a little Acheron. No ferryman, just them three.

“Cumom will yiz.” Morgan said, rubbing her hands together in the rain.

Danny was already walking toward her. “Get ridda that coat. Cats blood on it an’ all.”

“It’ll wash off.”

“No it won’t ye mad t’ing.”

“I’ll wash it off.” Danny smiled and shook his head. “Hang on. What’s he at?”

Jay was using his foot to push the cat over the rivulet, close up against the wall. He picked up handfuls of fallen leaves letting them fall from his hands without real intent, only feeling, leaning a little as though listening, as though the cat or the leaves or the action itself would reveal to him some hidden part of himself, the world, his place in it. The cat now covered in a tumulus of leaves. He would always remember covering a dead cat with leaves, and always remember wanting to do it, and that would be enough.

He shrugged when he reached the other two and said, “It looked…” He trailed off confused. Morgan didn’t hear him. She was looking at her hands. “Be grand just to die in your sleep, wouldn’t it? Danny said. Nobody answered. They walked out into the wet, the rain the night crowding around them in speckled darkness. Not far down the road Danny began to laugh, and then Jay began to laugh, and then finally Morgan. Each unsure at what it was they were laughing at, and that made them laugh even harder. The sound ringing out into the night like a drunken choir, youthful and mysterious.

 

Biographical Note:

My name is Colm Reynor. I’m twenty five, from Tallaght, and work as an engineer. And I like to write.

 

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