Cat Lady (Story by R.C. Peris)

They come to me. They keep coming to me. Fat ones, skinny ones, mangy ones, silky ones. They curl on my bed and follow me to the store. The neighbors whisper when they see me. Cat lady. I didn’t choose to be who I am. People chose my life for me.

It started early. The bullying. I was rounded and chubby at six. Slight stutter. Glasses with thick lenses. When I was a teenager I got acne. Kids sniff out difference. Prey on it. School was painful and home was not a refuge. My brother teased me and sometimes smacked me. My mom constantly yelled. She’d call me fat and then serve me a pile of mac n’ cheese.

I was a walking wound. As the bullying and abuse got worse the wound developed a scab and the scab became a scar. I dropped out of high school. It was the best way to avoid the bullies. I got a job at McDonald’s. Mom developed lung cancer and when I wasn’t stuffing greasy fries into paper sacks I cared for her. I was an inept nurse. She died a week before Christmas. My brother didn’t show up for the funeral. I was relieved. I was even more relieved when they threw soil on her coffin.

Mom left me the house. My brother banged on the door in January and demanded money. I didn’t open the door but I yelled real loud. Mom had no money. I waited an hour to open the door. A calico cat was curled on the welcome mat. It looked skinny and weak. I picked it up and dumped some tuna on a paper plate. The next day another cat showed up. That one was a lovely Siamese. I took it in. A new cat showed up every day.

The cats loved me. They didn’t bully. No yelling. Only contented meowing. I didn’t seek out the cats. I didn’t seek out abuse. It all just plopped right in front of me. My life was chosen for me by others – by mean humans and lovely cats. All I do is keep living. Some neighbor kids throw rocks at my house. Call me Cat Lady. The cats are unconcerned. They swish their tails as the rocks rain on my house.

Funny thing. The scar I thought I had, the scar that made me think I was tough enough to deal with all manner of abuse, wasn’t a scar at all. One of the cats died and I cried for two days.

I will always be a walking wound.

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