by Maryanne Stahl

It’s the fourth of July and I’m sitting on the porch swing, a Bounce dryer sheet tucked into my shorts to keep mosquitoes away, waiting for fireworks. The sky keeps changing—blue, grey, silver, yellow rays of sun. Earlier it opened, streamed rain. The movement is making me queasy.

But the cats on my porch are lying still. The black and white kitten snore-purrs against my arm and the warm, vibrating comfort of her makes my eyes wet. I am in need of comfort; my son doesn’t answer his cell phone.

I keep trying to call because there’s something I want to tell him I remember: him, riding his red-white-and-blue–streamered bicycle in a neighborhood parade when he was eight. Even though he would make fun of me, maybe because he would make fun of me, I want him to know I am thinking about that day.

And then, that time-weathered moment in which I am not sticky with sweat, I don’t have my period, I’m not annoyed at his father and one of the other mothers doesn’t seem to be snubbing me, that perfect, shining moment of summer bliss would hang between us, still and sparkling.

The long-haired cat is sprawled across the porch floor on her back, legs splayed. Most cats are graceful, it’s true, but this one is not. She misses when she leaps, as often as she lands. Sometimes I am embarrassed for her.

My son has never met this clumsy cat, nor the charismatic kitten next to me. He is acquainted with only one of the three cats sleeping on the porch of my divorcee’s cottage: the oldest, a dignified striped tabby who mostly keeps to himself (when not pissing on a rug) and who my boyfriend says would vote Republican.

It’s been two years since he went to college and his father and I sold our porchless, white-washed house, and already I have two cats my son knows nothing of. Not that he cares. He pretends to hate cats, but he was jealous of any attention I ever paid them.

Now my son is unreachable, and I have three cats on my porch. Beautiful, composed and ridiculous. I could have a fourth if I wanted, a fifth. But what I want is the sky to slow down.