Four winters. That’s how long I was there. I remember each icy blast, each deep snow, and the mice far beneath, tucked into burrows I could not hope to reach. I slept beneath the bramble and awakened with snow perched on branch and fur.
On the days when the creek’s ice cracked along the edges and snow melted in rivulets toward the pond, I knew I would not go hungry.
Four summers. That’s how long I was there. Other cats came and went from this place, and I fought often and hard for hunting rights, for the right to walk this piece of borrowed earth for a time.
You saw me one summer’s day, skirting along the edge of the forest. I saw in your eyes compassion and distress at my gristly body. You turned and disappeared inside, then returned with two small, circular objects, one with silvery water, the other with luscious scents. You placed them at the garden’s edge and spoke softly to me: “This is for you.” I blinked slowly at you, acknowledging.
The scent of food brought back fragments of memory: an old woman, a petting hand, a warm house.
I ate and drank my fill, then slipped off into the forest. You watched.
Four days. That’s how long you fed me. On the fifth day, you placed a steel box on the ground with food and water inside. I walked around it, wary, sniffing. It smelled of other animals, and I sensed that you meant to trap me. What I did not know then was that you would have taken me in and cared for me.
You dreamed about me that night—do you remember? You stood on the back porch as I walked away, leaning into the wind. I turned back toward you, my face round and scarred, my eyes telling you wordlessly: I will not return. Did you remember every detail of the dream as you awoke, as if it were real?
Four days. That’s how long you continued to set the trap with food and water. On the fifth day you peered for a long time at the place where you had seen me in the dream. Then you put away the trap and scattered the food in the forest for other animals to find.