By Brenton Booth.
This week just felt like last week, or was it the week before, he couldn’t remember, didn’t know. All he knew was that things weren’t good, that was what he knew for sure. He knew it with studious accuracy. It’s all the same for him now, everything is all the same. It is like an invisible sadistic giant has its thumb pressed hard against his skull, paralysing all attempted movements. He works on the waterfront at Woolloomooloo. He is security on the gate at the naval base. His job is quite simple. He authorises everybody entering or exiting the site, and does hourly foot patrols of the perimeter. He mostly works inside a box that is around the size of a toilet cubicle. It has a large window looking at the entry gate, also a closed circuit television monitoring eight different areas of the base, and a control that he is occasionally required to use, to open a boom gate for vehicles to enter the site. He always works the midnight shift, five in the afternoon until five in the morning. He rotates with another guard, Dave. Dave does the day shift. It is the sort of job that could drive a person insane, from solitude alone.
Harry’s Café De Wheels, a popular eatery for tourists and late night partygoers, is down the road. It is just a caravan, really. There are pictures hanging of celebrities eating one of their famous hot dogs or pies. Friday and Saturday nights are good. There are always lots of people around until the early hours of the morning, which is a bit better than the usual desolate Woolloomooloo streets, and eerie late night echoes of the Sydney Harbour. He has been working at the naval base for nearly two years now. It doesn’t pay so well, but that doesn’t matter too much to him, he has never really cared for money. He would spend what he made each week and that was how he liked it.
He lives alone in a sparsely furnished ninth floor art deco apartment on Victoria Street, close to his work. He has lived alone for a while now, but has been married once. It lasted nearly six years. One day his wife didn’t come home. He received the separation papers in the mail shortly after. He doesn’t look so good at the moment, looks completely worn out. His skin is pale and he’s really jumpy. Whenever an unexpected sound is made, his whole body tenses and goes into a momentary panic. Things really aren’t going so great for him.
The past few weeks when he has been walking home from work, he’s noticed a cat resting in some bushes next to the large sandstone stairway that leads up to his street. It was always alone. It seemed as if it was waiting for him there every morning. He wondered what it was doing, why it was living by those old dirty convict built stairs. There was two bowls in the small space where it laid, one with milk, the cat food. Around its neck was a relatively new looking bright red collar and it appeared healthy and well groomed.
One morning he noticed the cat was a girl, as she attempted to climb a tree. She was something quite remarkable, he thought. He decided to give her a name, Ludmilla, like the beautiful woman from the Gorky novel. That was the prettiest name he could think of, and Ludmilla was pretty. She was beautiful. He looked forward to seeing her after work. He no longer just admired her, he now sat with her. She would curl up on his knee and he stroked her. He felt good.
Three weeks later, Ludmilla no longer had a collar. She didn’t have any food or milk either. He would take her home with him. He picked her up and carried her to his apartment, when there he gave her milk. He turned on the television and sat watching the morning news, Ludmilla laid on his right leg. He felt good. He had Ludmilla, beautiful Ludmilla. Things were going well.
The days passed, turned into months, eventually seasons. One day her fur didn’t look quite as shiny. Not only her coat, but her movements as well, they had become lethargic and uninspired. He couldn’t understand it, he took her to a vet. “How long have you had Ludmilla?” “Just over a year.” “This cat is no kitten, its just ageing.” “Isn’t there something else wrong with her? How could she be changing so much? She looks like she is dying.” “That’s because she is. She’s getting older. She still has a few more years to go though.”
He started to feel bad around her. What is the use of having her around at all? I just give, all I do is give, she can’t even give me herself anymore. Only a reminder of what she once was, he just couldn’t take this betrayal. Her dependence on him had become so appalling that some days he would purposely not feed her. Her eyes were greyer than ever, her coat dull, bones protruded harshly against the fur. She was terrified all the time, had become a nervous wreck.
He took her back to where he found her, dropped her, then walked on to work. He noticed that she was following him. He just ignored her. Pathetic thing, he thought. It continued over the next few weeks, she’d be waiting for him, and would follow him to work. She’d then wait for him across the road from the naval base, and follow him home.
One afternoon, she wasn’t waiting outside his building. This was good, finally free of that cat, he thought. He took a few steps and noticed her sleeping by mailboxes. She didn’t smell so good. He stood looking at that withered dead body a moment. Probably for the best, she had nothing more to offer, he thought. He lifted her and there were thousands of insects attached to the other side of her body, eating away at her, he tried to shake them off. He carried her back inside his building, dumped her in the garbage bin, then continued on his way.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Brenton Booth is a 33 year old writer of poetry and prose. He resides in Sydney, Australia. He has work in Underground Voices, Gutter Eloquence, Camel Saloon, Mad Swirl, and Shot Glass Poetry Journal. He is currently working on a novel, Deep Down with the Beasts, Birds, & Nocturnal Crawlers.
First published in 3:AM Magazine: Friday, February 22nd, 2013.