Early morning. I turn on the porch light to feed stray cats. There’s a puddle of blood. A big one.
I remember the red well. From hunting. From accidents. From intent. Just blood. It’s an alarming sight first thing in the morning. And seeing it there, near the warming house we put out for feral cats in the cold, makes me think of the Momma cat that’s been on and off our porch for weeks. Did birthing not go as planned?
There was a body. I see that. How it laid on the old wooden boards that have felt footsteps of creatures come and go over many years. But there’s no hair as if cats made a kill. No skin or flesh or bits of anything. No trails of blood from newborn kittens seeking warmth. No paw prints.
Back inside, I’m at the sink, filling the coffee pot with hot water. We’ve had opossum on the porch, but they seem to get along with the cats just fine. I’ve seen skunks, too, but rarely and if one was involved, it’s likely they would have run away, spraying their stink. Then, I think of owls. Wide-eyed, majestic predators. It’s possible one could be in town, near us. I’ve heard about more owl sightings in the past year than ever before. But maybe, I’m just listening more. Suddenly, I think of our house as a kitty bait pile. A hungry owl could feast every night by simply sitting on a nearby rooftop and waiting patiently for the right moment. Kittens playing. Cats on the prowl.
On the porch, I pour hot water over the blood. Some seeps through the cracks. Some—bright red globules—float away over the edge. The rest, the kind found by crime scene investigators, bonds to whatever invisible blood bonds to, and waits.
But this isn’t a crime. It’s nature. The evolution of life. There’s a lot happening I don’t see. Outside at night while we sleep. Inside at morning while we wake.
Every day, I stretch and rise slower than I used to. Splash cold water over the lines of my face. Put toothpaste on a brush to run over my teeth. Sometimes twice because I never want to lose them. Once I’m revived and recognize the person in the mirror, I return to bed, but only for a few seconds to hug and kiss my warm wife.
Then it’s down the hallway to stir kids that never want to leave their dreams. I get it. I understand. Most days, I don’t want to leave mine, either. I think of that as I run my aching hand atop the railing and descend the creaky staircase so I can look out the window to get that first glimpse of everything before it changes again.
I take a deep breath in, push a deep breath out, then turn on the light.