get-your-hands-dirtyA Hand for the Needy

By Amber Newberry

Gerald stood on the porch waiting for that mangy old cat to come wandering up. On any other day, he would have a tin can of tuna and a bowl of milk waiting, but not today. Today the money ran out. Today he got his eviction notice. Today Gerald was officially broke. He hadn’t the money to feed himself, let alone the scrawny white cat. That was why his wife was gone.

He took his usual seat in an old, painted-blue rocking chair. There was a hole in the caning so that when he sat down he sank into the chair, and he knew that when he got up the little slices of paint that were slowly falling away from the chair would be attached to his overalls. He didn’t care.

Gerald removed a tired old cap from his silver hair and placed it on his knee as he stared at the gate waiting for his guest. The porch ceiling was caving in, and looking up, Gerald thought about how long it had taken for the house to wither after he had lost his job. “Losing his memory and his damned mind,” they’d said. Gerald had known it was only a matter of time before his Alzheimer’s became apparent to his boss at the lumber yard.

Now that he’d lost it all, it seemed a waste to do anything about the slumping ceilings and rotting bas boards if there was no one to nag about it. How long had she been gone? Was it days or weeks? Gerald couldn’t recall.

Finally, a small, white face peered into the yard from the rusty chain-link fence. The skinny cat wriggled its way under the door and made her way across the yard and up the stairs, where she took a seat several feet away from Gerald. She surveyed him expectantly with her one eye. It wasn’t the only thing she was missing. The empty space where her left eye used to be was evened out by a long gone right ear, and to complete her pitiful look, her tail was jagged, having been broken in several places.

Gerald wasn’t sure why he took it upon himself to feed the creature; he’d never even had a pet in all his sixty-two years. He didn’t even much like animals, let alone people. He only married his wife because she was the only one who could put up with him. Gerald sure wasn’t the handsome type. Maybe that’s why he bonded with the dismal feline. He saw a bit of himself in that tattered animal.

“I got nothin’ for ya,” he said, leaning forward in his chair. The cat tilted its head at the acknowledgement.

“I got nothin’ for me, either.” The cat walked up to him and rubbed her boney ribs against his ankle, making a tired old sound that was meant for a purr.

“That won’t do ya any good. I got nothin’ to give ya. It’s just a matter of time before we starve, and it’s just as well. There ain’t room in this world for the likes of our ugly mugs.” There was more to his ugliness than he’d care to admit to the cat… or anyone else.    –PREVIEW END

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