Scaggy the cat blends into the dark wood paneling of my grandparents’ living room. Scaggy the cat who’s older than I am and came from nowhere. Who I’m told to leave alone. She’s invisible except for a fat boil on her forehead that threatens to burst. That glowers at me from across the living room. That watches me grow up. Open presents on Christmas. Learn to read. Lie to my brothers. Get the chicken pox on Easter Sunday. Become bolder and more afraid all at once.
Never, ever am I brave enough to touch the leper cat.
Scaggy haunts me. Her tortoiseshell coat. Her face like a cut lemon. Her name like something you’d call your infected wound. Her boil radiating from her brain like a poisonous mushroom.
I see Scaggy again and again. We’re not in the living room with the Christmas tree laden with presents. We’re on opposite sides of my grandfather’s wild, postage stamp yard. This is where Scaggy sneaks up on me. I’m always young and she is unimaginably old. Her three yellow eyes stare. I look back at her in the overgrown grass. The two of us vulnerable, ugly little scabs who want to be loved in ways we can’t understand.
Charlotte Hammond is a writer living and working in New Jersey. Her work is forthcoming from The Scores and The Blue Hour and has also appeared in The Capra Review.