This is something which happened to me last spring. I think it shows a little bit about what life is like in the desert oasis of Phoenix. Also, watch for what I say about Sweet Acacias and notice how I contradict myself (from an earlier blog post) about the stupid things.
I don’t understand at first why I’ve awakened in the dark. The clock is covered with a hand towel so that I can sleep without its fluorescent numbers counting down the night. After patting the blanket, I realize none of my cats are on the bed. That’s when I hear it, the low-pitched alternating whine and drone of an irritated cat guarding the sliding glass door.
Still curled on my side, I will the noise to stop so I can go back to sleep. A thin line of light shining at the edge of the vertical blinds bifurcates the wall from the door. The silhouette of a cat’s nose is pressed to the light. The small, pointed face means it must be Felix. Where are my other cats? How can my husband sleep through this chain saw buzzing the cat is making?
Suddenly, Felix’s temper erupts in growls. I hear him lunge toward the glass and retreat, although all I can see is an image of darkness against darkness. A loud clicking emerges from the growl in his throat.
I throw back the covers and feel my way to the door, pushing the plastic slats aside with my arm and turning on the porch light. I don’t see the feral cat who lives along the wash. Opening the door, I block Felix from getting out and look near the threshold to make sure a snake isn’t draped along the seam before stepping outside. I’m annoyed that this nighttime assault is just one more potential problem to deal with.
The moon is nearly full. If I’d seen it shining through that crack between the blinds and the wall when I went to bed, the light would have kept me up. Now the world is masked by darkness, and only I am visible under the porch light. I think of the expression sitting duck. Do I feel like a target? I reach inside and grab the flashlight, turning off the wall switch.
My anxiety dissipates along with the strong light. A calm wave travels through my body, as I feel connected with what I cannot see. Something rustles in the bushes. I shine the flashlight, searching for what Felix saw, but the light reflects back at me from the glossy leaves. A bird swoops out of a tree, and I don’t realize until it’s past that I’ve witnessed a bat out foraging. Breathing deeply, I smell the Sweet Acacias which flowered two days ago. Their name well describes their scent, which is all light sweetness, like white sugar rather than the concentrated honey and lemon of orange blossoms.
Just then an owl belts out its presence from the neighbor’s gable. I wonder if I am in his territory. A tiny glimmer of thrill runs through me. Then all quiets down except for the faint brushing sound of the breeze against the shrubs and trees. I stand motionless at the edge of the porch, the flashlight turned off, heavy in my hand. I’m glad I took the second to scoop on my slippers because it’s already scorpion season, and they lurk at night. My feet are safe, and the dark envelopes me. I can feel myself drifting off into the obscured distance. Fearing I’ll fall asleep on my feet, I go back inside. Felix and the other two cats sit in a row, waiting until I pick them up and set them on the foot of my bed, one by one.
In the morning I step outside again to see the difference in the early light. Songbirds are carrying on in the branches of the mesquite and Palo Verde trees. A slender miniature of a King Snake rests on the wall amidst the debris of the Sweet Acacias. Their yellow puffballs have crumbled into confetti. A line of baby quail bobble across the wash, headed by the female, and followed by the male whose head swivels, looking for danger.
I turn to enter the house. About a foot from the ground, a clear stain has dried on the glass. I stoop down to examine it and the scent of cat urine assails me like a bucket of ammonia. So it had been the feral cat after all, marking the door to my room.
Here’s a stolen writing prompt: wake up in the middle of the night and describe your world.
7 responses to “Unease in the Desert”
I love this close, fresh description! I will try the prompt some night soon.
Wilma, I would love to read what you write from the prompt!
Well written! Kept me captivated.
Thank you so much, Anneli! I’m so glad you found it had enough tension!
That was a great read and Felix is so handsome!
Haha, he is, isn’t he! He’s such a sweetheart, too, so it’s funny when he acts assertive ;). He’s the most mild-mannered of my four cats.
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