On those frigid nights, we’d pop up from the subway wind tunnel into the blustery city street, padding past the lamplit haze, chuckling, our blood humming, eager for the ales and the warmth of the table talk.
We’d leave behind a trail of smoky breath, sailing upward and vanishing, vanishing like the breadcrumbs dropped by Hansel and Gretel, vanishing like those theories, those arguments and conjectures, those powerful words and mystical ideas that would soon leap out onto the table before us. So clear, so near, we never thought to try and catch them, to hold and save them. They were there. They would always be there, wouldn’t they?
Inside, the black furnace hummed. Our backs snuggled up against its heat, shivers surging the lengths of our spines. Puff-faced and bleary-eyed, we’d speak loudly, forage each other’s minds for the food of the soul, that naïve socialist optimism, the camaraderie of intellect and spirit so compatible with good bitter ale.
And as the old man swept the sawdust-covered floor, and the plump cat dozed under the table, we’d pack up our reassured faiths, gather our torn coats and years of rich promise, and set ourselves for the long dark cold path to the subway.
How little we understood then of the greyish smoke of our ale-worn words, so easily seized and muted by the cold darkness of the night around us.
Cats of Roma
My most enduring memory of Roma is of an occurrence on a cold November afternoon in the little green park which sits just above and overlooks the Coliseum. A lone woman, looking eighty or more years of age, carried two large shopping bags to a bench. After sitting down, she began to call out something in Italian, which I didn’t understand. The most amazing thing then happened: within seconds, all manner of cats began to appear from all directions. Some come singly, some in groups of two, three, or more. The old woman reached into a bag, and removed five bowls. These she placed in a row on the ground, and filled them with food. Then she sat down to watch.
By now there were at least twenty cats, and more coming. Some crawled through space below a nearby wall, some pranced across the park lawn, and some, I swear, even seemed to climb down from trees. And there they were, this multitude of cats, purring and meowing, and eating their fill. They made quite a lot of noise, as you might expect. It was not a sight I’d expect to see in the middle of one of the world’s great cities, to be sure.
After a while, the woman packed up her things, and went on her way, bidding her charges a fond farewell. The cats gradually dispersed, taking their own good time, as cats do. And before long, it was just another chilly day in another park in Roma.
Raccoons was first published in Every Writer’s Resource, January 12, 2014 & Cats of Roma was first published in Every Writer’s Resource, July 14, 2014.
Published here: 10-15-17
R. Bremner writes of incense, peppermints, and the color of time. His fiction and poetry have found their way into International Poetry Review, Paterson Literary Review, Passaic Review, Poets Online, Journal of Formal Poetry, etc., etc. You’ll find his thirteen eBooks at Amazon, Lulu, BN, and other eBook retailers.