Her perfect ears

Her perfect ears

A Story by Silvanus Silvertung

Musings on my cat


I stand at the window, looking out into the misty day, cat moving her head against my hands, itching the unitchable need to be touched with the attention and care owed everyone. She purrs low and soft in her contentment, moving her head to get first this angle and then the other. She has preferences, this one, but all such attention is love, and she moves merely to maximize the enjoyment of its expression.

Caressing a cat’s ears is different now. I’ve skinned two bobcats and the ears are the same. Life and death have made apprentices of my fingers, and now, standing by the window caressing my cat’s perfect little ears I remember in a body way, mind drifting over the grey pasture, the knowing of unzipping those ears from the skull that keeps them. It is as if at any moment my fingers expect to slip under skin.

Yesterday I stopped for a furry shape on the road - wondering what could possibly be the size of a possum but the color of a coyote - to find a housecat dead. I cradled her in my arms, feeling fur as soft as any bobcat, body stiff, and ears I pet softly as I do all the dead’s ears, offering love in attention that I do not know if a dead body can understand.

I have often wondered what I would do if I picked up a dog or cat. I believe that the best way to honor an animal’s death is to use its body to the best of our capacity. I enjoy the softness of bobcat and coyote, and my skin knows the same softness rises from domestication. I’ve seen how my own cats accept my work, unworried by bloody hands, and begging for bits of extra meat or guts. I know the simple acceptance of an animal to the uses their bodies are put to after they are done with them.

So many of my world views stand similarly askance. I’ve heard madness defined as assigning one rule to all things, ignoring the ambiguities of a lived life, and I do not know then, if I, or my culture, is the more crazed. Wisdom, lies in noticing and knowing when is and is not the moment to uphold our ideals. Knowing when and where is too far.

The other night I came to my partner’s parents’ house in the dark, rain pouring sheets across the driveway, with a half skinned raccoon and a three quarters done bobcat in plastic bags in each hand. I’d picked them up on the highway in the morning. The bobcat completely unwounded - too good to teach children on, and then the raccoon - found just as I was wishing I had one of those instead. I brought out their paws at lunch to show my tracking students their shape and size, and then hung them for my scout troop to learn how to skin.

Now I find myself with two unfinished animals, in the dark and it’s just begun to rain. I knock, go in, and find no one home. I consider - and then, hoisting both plastic wrapped carcasses, I tiptoe into the house, through the artisan kitchen, past the two grand pianos, up the spotless white carpet covered stairs, turning at the now obscured million dollar view of the sound and Olympic mountains - and into the white bathroom. I empty both corpses into the porcelain bathtub, put on an audiobook and get to work.

Sometime later, I hear a thump from downstairs. I look around at the appearance of a murder scene. I’m working off the bobcat’s ears, fingers slipping beneath the skin, and peeling it towards the nose. Blood has splattered the white porcelain all around me. I get up and carefully wash my hands and feet and make my way downstairs. It’s Hephaestus, my partner’s father.

“Hi,” I say. “I’m . . . ah, skinning a raccoon and bobcat in your bathtub.”

He, pauses a moment, processing this information.

“Oh,” he says. “I . . . ah. . . thought you were just taking a shower,”

“Nope,” I say. “I was in the middle of skinning and it was freezing and wet and dark outside - I . . . ah, hope that’s okay.”

“Oh, ah . . . no problem.” He says.

We stand there a moment.

“ . . . I’m going to get back to it.”

I vanish upstairs.

I try not to do anything that I’m not okay getting caught doing. The house is large enough that I might have been able to slip the bodies down the stairs and out unnoticed, but it seemed wise to confess early instead of having him come up to check on my two-hour shower and find me stealthily skinning. I imagined and accepted the possibility of a bag breaking on the way up and the cleanup or money that might entail. Mostly I imagined the possibility of their anger or discomfort and navigating it - and I accepted that risk too. They’ve always been accommodating - but this accommodating?

When I’m done, and the skins and bodies are back in their bags, the bathroom is washed down and disinfected until it shimmers brighter than before, and I am actually showered - I go downstairs to talk with Hephaestus. We talk about small things, awkwardness not quite gone until he starts talking about my most recent writing. He tells me how he admires the craft of it, meaning minus too many words. We talk about how it’s not easy to write well.

His sincerity and seeing of my art gives me a breath, a loosening of my stomach that lets me ask if I’ve overstepped in the softer way that lets people speak truth instead of reflex. He insists it’s fine - it was just surprising, and we both laugh. Floating between us now is a knowing that he’s read other descriptions of this work. He knows it, and even in the unexpected setting of his bathtub - he has the wisdom to know the rightness of it. Maybe.

Standing on the side of the road cradling the cat, I maybe know the rightness of it too. This animal deserves the same honor as anything wild. Its life was abruptly, meaninglessly, taken just like all the others - and it deserves some meaning. My hands know how to give that meaning, touching with the care and intention owed all life.

My feet begin walking up the driveway adjacent to the killsite and I find myself knocking on the door. There’s nobody home, no car outside, only a short-haired cat who looks up at me through the glass window, unconcerned at the dead cat in my arms. I pause, consider, and set the cat down on the blocks along the driveway. If these are not the owners, they seem the most likely to know them.

I’ve felt the wondering when a cat goes missing, and it’s this human concern that moves me now. There is a human somewhere who hopefully cares for this cat. They will need to know what happened. Grief grows sick with not knowing. But I feel a little sick leaving, not knowing if I’ve actually done the right thing.

Standing at the kitchen window, my cat brings me back to the present. There is something magical after dealing with the dead in the animation of the living. A living cat knows that love is touch - seeks it shamelessly and returns it unabashedly. This cat purrs against my hands, infused with personality, animated by instinct, alive.

I caress her perfect little ears, hands imagining the inside of her, but heart reveling at something else inside. The grey sky has begun to drizzle, the soft patter battering at tin roofs. The silhouettes of hemlock and cedar surround me. I feel the soft glow of Calcifer, my masonry heater, warming my back. The cat jumps down, done with this moment, and my attention too shifts to other things.

© 2021 Silvanus Silvertung

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Interesting read, keep writing more plot oriented short stories, and have attention-grabbers

masonry near me

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Added on November 30, 2021
Last Updated on November 30, 2021


Silvanus Silvertung
Silvanus Silvertung

Port Townsend, WA

I write predominantly about myself. It's what I know best. It's what I can best evoke. So if you want to know who I am read my writing. I grew up off the grid in a tower my father built, on five ac.. more..


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