Black-Eyed Susans

There is a mangy farm cat that found its way to Bethesda in the undercarriage of a pickup truck.

Having found sufficient sustenance, (scraps thrown out by Pam’s diner in a heap by the backdoor, slow-moving in-town birds that didn’t put up much fight, an occasional tin can from a kind soul), the cat stayed.

On a Sunday morning, the cat is bored with licking its paws.

It moves to a house on top of the hill, the only hill in Bethesda. From the hill you can see the rest of Bethesda, the houses and things, but you can’t see the reason why everybody stayed.

Not even the cat can see it.

This house on top of the hill is great at receiving sunlight, bad at moving it on, and what doesn’t get stolen by shingles is allowed to pass to a garden in the back. The garden is kept lush with little effort from the owners of the yard, sometimes nature having just the right formula for doing exactly what’s necessary and nothing more.

The garden grows many things, all of which are organic and perks the interest of not only the cat, but any other creature that happens to be drifting by. Snakes find great living rooms. Rabbits shop for groceries along the perimeters. And butterflies get their fixes from the tallest, brightest blooms.

In late August, nothing speaks more of itself than the black-eyed susans near the center of the patch. Butterflies, like aspiring models to even amateur photographers, continuously circle those yellow petals given a deeper luster from pilfered sunlight.

The cat, through its one eye not mauled by a wayward strand of baling wire many years ago, eyes the flying fruit with lust. Lust and boredom have brought about nuclear bombs and other achievements. And while the cat doesn’t know this, it does know the principle of wanting to possess beautiful things. So the cat decides that the butterfly will have to be breakfast.

After much scheming with watering tongue, calculations scratched onto the green skins of prematurely fallen walnuts, the cat assures itself that it cannot come down from the leap empty-stomached.

The cat jumps after the planned for time has come. He flies up through the underbrush, shedding stems and sepals. Its eye is filled with a burst of color, a burst of light, and he closes it, brandishing teeth. His chewing gum tongue is brushed by the texture of a trash bag, and so it closes down hard.

When it lands, trampling many susans on the way, it swallows hard as if eating generic dry cat food.

Where there once were three butterflies circling the tallest susan, the cat now counts only two.

It lumbers up to a corner of the deck and deposits itself in a cushioned lawn chair, full of butterfly wings and success.

Two hours later, the cat is dead.

Of the petals of the tallest black eyed susan, two are missing.

By Avery Gregurich

Avery Gregurich is a writer living and working in Marengo, Iowa. He was raised next to the Mississippi River, and has never strayed too far from it.