The Skin of a Cat
By Sam Corbin
It was the first day in April. It was brisk. It was a little overcast, but with the sun peeking out just enough to make its promise for the day: good times gonna come.
I didn’t echo the sun’s sentiment. I was feeling somewhat under that very weather…but somewhere in the distance rang out the Accio of academia, and it was as if by magic that I came to slip on my combat boots and greet Stanhope Street with the squint that can only come from the sudden experience of partial blindness.
Rows of bridges marked the trail between 286 and the M at Knickerbocker. Cars railed angrily overhead on those bridges. These are ours, their engines roared. Bushwick, I love you, but…
Anyway. Under the third bridge was where he appeared to me. A bum on his bum, bumming around in the crotch between the underpass’ scaffolding and the slanted gravel. Some unspoken force drew me magnetically towards this Homeless from my home. Accio – I almost jogged my way to him.
The wedge of brie that I had bought one day prior sat gathering rust among the tissues and the receipts in my cloth shoulder bag. I say so because I smelled it, its smooth, creamy aroma beckoning me back home for a second breakfast: marry me with jam, the cheese murmured…but spurred by this labelless figure under the third bridge, I pressed on.
As I neared him, I took in his ragged clothes and signature “hunch”. He does Homeless right, I thought, with a bitter self-reproach to follow for having had such a line in the stores of my brain. The brie was, at this point, unabashedly flirting with my olfactory sensibilities.
“Do you want some cheese?” I found myself spurting. “You look hungry.” This man looked up at me. His eyes were bulging and honey-mustard coloured. Taken aback by his condiment stare, I flinched. I produced the dairy from my purse and held it out at arm’s length, determined not to be deterred by the strangeness of a stranger.
“Actually, I’m cooking up something of my own.” He indicates with his left knee and I lean over to look behind him (in what I presume to be his ‘kitchen’) where a half-skinned cat is laid out rather neatly on a bread board. Nausea knocks; I swallow hard—tears and first breakfast retreat, shaking their fists.
At odds with the moral dilemma of being a dinner guest at a slaughterhouse, I am temporarily rooted to my place. “Want?” he utters, turning to complete the other half of his meal preparation.
Perhaps it is the smell of his unwashed clothes, or the feeling of the uneven gravel under my booted feet… but I am suddenly unstuck from my place. I begin to back away, but find a pause about a two metres from the home(less) ec. project.
I return to the scene, knock back some mental courage and raise my voice to speak.
“Can I have the fur?”
This stranger’s honey-mustard eyes turn to rest on me. He has a crazed look and is spattered with the feline’s blood, like a gastro-matador. When he sees that I am in earnest, his gaze softens.
I do not go to school that day.
Sam Corbin is a theatre-maker in her twenties living in Brooklyn like everybody else. But she is also a Canadian, and is therefore somehow better. You can follow her on twitter @ahoysamantha.
Sunday Read is a weekly literary feature curated and edited by Wesley Salazar. On a rolling basis we are accepting submissions of short stories, poetry, essays, script excerpts, comics, etc. (max: 1000 words). We are also looking for artists who would like to illustrate for Sunday Read. Please submit to wesleyATbushwickdaily.com.