Andrew McCallum Crawford: Yin Eye
Andrew McCallum Crawford
It was freezing. He was sitting on his bed, staring at the space between his feet. The lino was cracked. The landlord had promised him a rug. That was a month ago.
Something thumped the door. He took a step and pressed his ear to the wood. There was no one there – he would have heard them, heard their steps in the snow. He carefully twisted the lock and looked outside. It was that cat again, its shoulders squat, the large paws, and the single eye glaring at him. It raised its tail and shuddered spray against a flower pot. Then it turned and swaggered to the other end of the path, its scrotum jutting like a tennis ball. He noticed that it had eaten the scraps he had left outside.
He closed the door and climbed the steps to the kitchen. He filled the small, long-handled pot and set it on the ring. He would let the water boil for at least three minutes. He was under no delusions regarding hygiene; the boiling process would not render the water free of bacteria – it would render it free of live bacteria. He unwound the teabag from the tap and dropped it into the pot. He couldn’t risk using a cup. He hadn’t worked out how to clean one properly. He squeezed the teabag with the handle of a fork. There wasn’t a teaspoon to be found. The tea looked weak, as well it might – this was the fifth time he’d used it. He retrieved a plastic bag from the collection under the sink and dropped the teabag inside. The bags were a gift from the previous tenant, along with a mound of washing powder next to the fridge, which had set like cement.
He sat on the bed. The handle was awkward, but the steam rising from the pot was warming. The heater had packed in. The landlord had said something about a new one, it sounded like a promise. Things were not good. He looked at the typewriter sitting on the desk, taunting him with its lipless grin. This had been the whole point of coming here, but something had struck him very soon after his arrival – he had nothing to say. He had been carrying this thought around with him like a heavy weight for days. But the poverty! No, that had been done. Maybe he could put a new angle on it. The poet was not in his garret, he was in this basement flat on the side of a hill. Nothing was stopping him.
He woke up during the night. The girl next door was crying. He got out of bed and listened more closely. She sounded inconsolable, as she did every night. He put his hand against the wall. If he knocked it would give her a sign, let her know that she wasn’t on her own, that he was thinking about her. The crying changed to sobbing, which slowly ebbed. Then the only sound was snowflakes crackling against the shutters.
He needed bread. Bread and a tin of something. He opened the door. Something made him look down. It was the cat, lying on its side, he could make out its markings through the covering of snow. The empty socket was filled with white, like a glass eye. It took him a second to realise he was looking at something dead. The bowl with the scraps was empty. He prodded the corpse with his shoe. It moved, rigid, like a large piece of jigsaw. He made a glove out of a plastic bag and lifted it by the tail. There was a skip out on the street. The sun was already over the tops of the flats. Steam was rising from the snow. He walked quickly to the front of the building, the carcass swinging at his side. There were thick footprints on the steps up to the pavement. He felt himself smiling, although he was trying hard not to climb into hopes of a thaw.
Andrew McCallum Crawford is a Scottish writer who lives in Greece. His poetry and short fiction have appeared in Lines Review, The Athens News, Junk Junction, Ink Sweat and Tears and McStorytellers. His first novel, Drive!, was published in 2010.