Have you ever tried to listen to the footsteps of a cat walking through snow?  He takes gentle steps, as usual, but the top layer of snow – like the crust of crème brulee – betrays him.  I watched the cat walk across the yard this morning, after five inches fell last night.  The yard is a wide expanse, barren of anything but grass during the other months.  This morning, it was a canvas of snow, and I watched the cat from down the street walk slowly across my yard.  In another universe, one where you stayed, you hate it, sad to see the pristine snow get ruined by small footprints.

You, with your morning coffee steaming your glasses, call me over to the window and ask if I think we should chase him off the yard.  I say, “No,” and put my hand on your shoulder.  I stand here in this universe, without you, and I let him walk undisturbed across the Siberian landscape standing in for a standard suburban yard.

The cat makes slow and steady progress across the yard lifting one foot gently and then patting it down until he takes another step.  I try to figure out the pattern of how his legs move but just watching him transfixes me, hypnotizes me. By now, you are outside with a broom yelling some kind of profanity and I am inside crying at your cruelty.  But, without you, the cat is safe to cross the unknown spanse of winter desert, gingerly and silently stepping, feeling his way across what is at once familiar and completely new.

by Tim Fredrick

My writing has been published in Circa, TC Record, Changing English, and R&W Quarterly. I’m also the editor of Newtown Literary, a semi-annual journal dedicated to publishing and supporting writers living in Queens, NY.

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