Mr. Everton’s Cat

February 2024

Ms. Junny’s cat didn’t always belong to her. The cat belonged to Mr. Everton first. He was the tenant across from Ms. Junny’s place who died suddenly a few years back. Some said it was a brain aneurysm and others said it was a stroke and some said there was no difference and others said they wouldn’t have different names if that was the case. All Ms. Junny knew was that someone needed to feed the cat, so she did. She didn’t think it was a regular cat, though. It never meowed or purred; it would just show up in front of the bowl at feeding time then disappear into the crevasses of the building. Snuggled in corners or creeping over stale carpet. Ms. Junny knew the cat’s favorite foods. She and Mr. Everton would catch up most days as he left out deboned chicken feet and red pea soup leftovers.

“The cat eat like you, Everton,” she would say.

“It true,” he’d reply.

They’d laugh and speak of home then. They were born in different parishes but not on opposing sides of the island. They’d hover in the hallway, relics of a place they missed—feeding the other’s memory of home. They acted as each other’s bridges to a life that seemed so far away but somehow still breathing within the walls of those apartments. Whether it was a whiff of pressed sugarcane juice or the fresh thyme from Mr. Garvey’s windowsill that they’d walk down to get together, there were remnants of home, but none were as potent as the first generations who had occupied the building. When Mr. Everton was gone, so was one of her last ties to the island, and Ms. Junny wasn’t sure which she mourned more.

One night, when Ms. Junny went out to leave the cat its supper, she was startled by its eyes. She spotted the cat down the hall where a light hadn’t been replaced, and somehow it was meeting her eyeline. Likely on a ledge or a windowsill Ms. Junny had forgotten about down the hall, its eyes were wide and glowing. They stared at each other before the cat lowered itself to the ground and crept toward the bowl that dinner would soon be poured in. Ms. Junny lowered herself to meet the cat’s eyeline then, still in awe of his magnificent height only moments before.

“Everton, dat you?” she asked the cat. “Duppy a come?”

The cat looked straight at Ms. Junny. It loosened its jaw, and Ms. Junny watched as its tongue lifted ever so slightly. The cat was going to meow, Ms. Junny thought, as the two continued to watch each other, she, still practically on her knees, next to the mouth agape cat. Before she knew it, the cat’s mouth was closed.

“You can tell me if it’s you . . . ,” she whispered.

But the cat didn’t respond. It just hovered there, quietly waiting for the woman on her knees to fill the bowl with remnants of home.

Morgan Christie’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in Callaloo, Room, Prairie Fire, Aethlon, the Hawai’i Review, Sports Literate, Prism International, and Obsidian, among other publications. Morgan is the recipient of the 2022 Arc Poetry Poem of the Year Prize; the 2023 Digging Chapbook Series Prize, for her collection “People Without Wings” (Digging Press, 2024); the 2023 Howling Bird Book Prize; and a Hurston/Wright Legacy Award in Fiction nomination.