for Aja, whose music is playing

Alex was walking downhill, toward the water, his ankles and calves sore from holding him upright against the slope of the sidewalk. Roots wound their way under the concrete, bent and broke it. In the half-light he had to keep his eyes on his feet to avoid falling and perhaps that was why he missed seeing the cats for so long. It was never a single cat, always two or three, black or that grey called blue, and all small and trim and tidy. For a time he thought there were only the two, or the three, slipping between the trees when he couldn’t see, toying with him, so alike they were. He stopped to rest, the piers still hidden by the warehouses, and saw four groups at once, all winding their way uphill into the city. In the twilight they looked like fog, or ghosts, and he was afraid.

“Things are strange,” Alex said, and laughed, and kept walking. The hill behind him caught all of the autumn sunlight, but far out to the east the ocean still threw it back at him.

He came to the docks and leaned for a moment against the rusted side of a supertanker. The cats were climbing in twos and threes out of the wide, desert, sunlit sea.