down the block

The cold air is bitter and dry. There’s a man crouched down by the church parking lot, where a tribe of cats holds sway, either stalking the open ground, or perched like sentinels near the gate. The man is heavily bundled against the cold, but there’s something off about him, a raggedness. He is unkempt in a way that suggests hard times. He has been still, crouched for a long minute before he reaches his bare fingers under the bottom of the chain link fence. He waits. The cats approach, and seeing he has no food to offer, retreat. He waits. One of them rubs up against the fence and then passes by and licks the man’s fingers, a throwaway gesture as the cat moves on to perch on an old tire. The man turns to me, he has known all along I was watching. “They make me happy,” he says. “You know?”

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