Fate

Late on a Monday night
and beneath a bed
(large enough to cause
the muscles in the back
of a middle-aged man
to become badly twisted
when he tries to lift it)
a stray cat hides in the exact
center as though the spot there
was measured by machinery
far more expensive than this ordinary
household will ever afford.

As a consequence
of the effort required
to remove this shabby animal
from the place it hoped
would afford a warm reprieve
from a Texan night in January
the bed frame is separated
from the little coasters its feet stand on
and many pillows
are scattered on the floor
as if crumpled clouds
unhooked from their regular sky.

Foolishly (and having consigned
the stray cat to the darkness)
a father with his back stiffening
mentions over a mother’s shoulder
to a ten year old boy
lying in another bed altogether
the details of his previous struggle
and thus does the boy
in a desperate effort to delay
a similar erasure of the light
beg for a moment
to see the wreckage for himself.

The mother suggests otherwise
but in doing so (suggesting,
rather than denying the request
with proper and sufficient authority)
she signals to the child
that his way up the stairs
to his parents’ bedroom
is in fact wide open
and within the single minute
it takes for the father to leave
and then come back again
the boy seizes his chance to run.

Later, not much later,
(but in a little while longer
than both parents’ naively anticipate)
the child hears the father’s footsteps finally
coming up the uncarpeted stairs
to find his son and this sound
causes the boy to suddenly appear
and in passing and casually
does he hold up his right hand
and mention he is cut
and indeed it appears most certainly
that blood is thereby leaking.

It transpires (beyond the wall
the father is listening through)
that the boy had become distracted
by a pair of scissors
and attempted
to cut open an item
encased in plastic packaging
and it was this unnecessary task
that led him to the little snip
(that consumer’s circumcision)
deeply and across his fingertip
that his mother pale and aflutter
now tries to staunch.

All the while and as the clock ticks
the boy explains the event
and commentates in great detail
as to the mother’s remedial actions.
He asks to lick the Neosporin
that is applied to the wound
and apologizes politely
when his request is angrily rejected.
All in all it is a good test
for his worried mother
who is completely torn between
his injury and evident procrastination.

In the dark of the garden
the stray cat observes the bathroom light
and the racoons that are gathering
and the possum that may have leprosy
according to an article in the local paper
the cat has certainly not read.
A train goes by its whistle blowing
while the temperature continues to fall
and Fate glides on thinking to itself alone
how people only consider its presence
in times of great or dreadful import
when in fact it is always and everywhere at work.

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