The feral cats are terrorizing my mother, but she thinks it's charming how they paw at her door for affection. I tell her they are not there for her Purina. They smell Mitzy and Lana and Snowflake who are constantly in heat and yowling in the night while my mother sleeps in her king-sized bed, foam earplugs stifling their longing. I tell her to at least to have her cats fixed. She says it seems cruel to take away their opportunity for motherhood. I tell her the cats are not thinking of the babies they will have, the soft heads that will curl against their bellies in nursing—they only know the physical desire, the need to fuck. She says please don't curse.
The cats have taken to waiting on the front porch for my mother to open the door, a row of mangy tabbies, the occasional outdoor Persian sitting patiently. It is as if they think she will select the best in show. But for weeks they wait like that and my mother snubs them all; side steps through the sleek black fur of her neighbor's Felix and the orange matted mane of one she calls Frank after her first husband. They grow impatient, and now when she walks to her car they pull her skirt hem in all directions, puncturing holes in the velvet with their teeth. I tell her to call animal control. I threaten to do it myself. I say it will be an anonymous tip; the cats will never know who turned them in. She talks of them as if they are the Mafia. They will know, they will know.
They grow impatient, and now when she walks to her car they pull her skirt hem in all directions, puncturing holes in the velvet with their teeth.
On her birthday I come over to make her dinner. As I move through her house setting the table, straightening up the shelves she has let settle with dust, I see cats staring in every window, scaling the screens as if ready to break in and take what is rightfully theirs. I wonder if my mother has ever known a man so desperate for her attention. She was young not that long ago, with skin taut and curls glistening. She wore white jeans in the summers and placed fourth in a pageant with more than twenty contestants. Supposedly my father was in the audience, cheering on his sister. He was a lawyer’s apprentice then. He was not remarkable-looking and so neither am I. Unlike Mitzy, Lana, or Snowflake, I have never had suitors, and I don’t expect that any man has heard my purring. It has always been too soft.
Over dinner I tell my mother the news I have been holding onto for weeks. She does not blink. I offer up that I was planning to use a donor, that I wanted a baby before thirty-eight. She reaches her boney hand across the table to take mine. Her smile is soft and distant, like that of a friend’s mother. Looking into her pale eyes I notice the downward turning creases, the bare eyelids. Old age has shown itself quickly. Mitzy climbs into her lap and Lana and Snowflake jump onto the table to clean my mother’s plate. She squeezes my hand. She’ll have a kitten for me soon. A few, if I want.