an award-winning writer, musician and high school English teacher; his short stories have appeared in Slice Magazine, The Onion River Review, Hot Metal Bridge, The Drunken Odyssey, Storyacious, Clare Literary Journal, The Apple Valley Review, and Blinders Literary Journal among other literary magazines; as a journalist and beer critic, his writing has appeared in the Portland Press Herald, Maine Sunday Telegram, Activity Maine, and Maine Brew Guides among other publications
The snow doesn’t thaw until April. It’s been a hard winter. In the middle of the night, I awake to the sound of an ambulance – red lights flashing on my bedroom walls.
I walk out of my room holding a cat that’s been sleeping on my chest. All the lights are on in the house. In the living room my mother is laid out on a stretcher.
An oxygen mask obscures her face. My father stands over her while my brother is hunched on the couch behind them. Cats move over the mantel, the carpet, the couch. There are so many cats now we no longer name them. One jumps up on the stretcher and sits on my mother’s sternum.
A paramedic with a tight ponytail pulls the cat off my mother and drops it on the ground. Another one takes its place. The paramedic removes this one, as well.
She looks at my father and says, “Do you guys raise cats or something?”
My father has been crying. He looks up at her. “What cats?” he says.
Annoyed, she goes back to my mother. For a moment I see our life through her eyes. Every cat comes into view. The woman shares a look with the other paramedic, a young guy, maybe twenty, with big hands that work at securing my mother on the gurney. He looks up at me.
“That cat looks pregnant,” he says. I look down at the black cat in my hands and run my fingers along its belly. Tremors of life ripple just below the ribs.
I drop the cat on the carpet and start to cry. My mother looks at me through the medicated mist that surrounds her. She smiles and tries to speak, but she can’t talk through the oxygen mask.
The paramedics wheel her out into the spring night. There’s a hard smack as the front door closes. “Get dressed,” my father says, “We’re going to the hospital to be with your mother.”
None of us moves. The cats crawl all around us.
“Get dressed,” my father repeats. “We need to leave this house.”
from Soon the Light Will Be Perfect by Dave Patterson (Hanover Square Press)